Photo Identification Program

To document the population of Humpback whales in our study area we will take photographs of the underside of individual tail flukes . These flukes are like a fingerprint as each tail has different markings, scars, nicks and patterns of white pigmentation that allow us to identify individual whales.

Our goal is to add an acoustic fingerprint to individual humpback whales. This could mean that in the future, just by listening we will determine which humpback whales are present. Since all pictures will be taken digitally, we are able to share our pictures with others researchers via the Internet to compare information on the identification and travel patterns of the whales.

A repertoire of discrete calls that enables us to identify Northern Resident Orcas (fish eaters) does not apply to Transient or Offshore Orcas. We need to identify these 2 populations visually. Orcas are identified by the size and shape of different markings on their dorsal fin and the saddle patch at the base of their fin.

The hydrophone network will alert us to the presence of these populations of Orcas at which point we would travel by boat to collect individual photos of each whale. This is always done from a distance, using a telephoto lens and great respect for these marine mammals.