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Marine Ecology Research Centre

East Coast Whale Watch Catalogue

East Coast Whales logoThis project is supported by Whale Watching Byron Bay

Your photos could assist with whale research!

Each season many encounters with humpbacks will be photographed by whale watch tour operators and their passengers. Some of these photos can provide useful scientific information and currently represent an untapped source of important data.

This study involves the development of a catalogue of humpback whale tail fluke photographs that have been collected aboard Australian east coast whale watch tour vessels. The catalogue of fluke photos will be analysed using Fluke Matcher, the computerised matching system developed by SCU and University of Newcastle (Go to Fluke Matcher website for more information).

Why photograph whales?

Every humpback whale has a unique pattern of pigmentation on the underside of its tail fluke.

Photographs of flukes enable researchers to identify individual whales - repeated sightings of individuals from year to year or along a migration path can reveal valuable information about life histories, population size, migration timing, travel speeds, movement and association patterns.

What makes a good fluke photo?

  • Photo must show the underside surface of fluke.
  • Focus and contrast should be sharp enough that the markings and trailing edge can be clearly seen.
  • The angle of the fluke should not be so sharp that the markings are obscured.
  • At least 50% of the fluke should be showing above the waterline.
  • Photos should be high resolution, saved as digital files (e.g .JPG or .TIFF files).

Good fluke image - markings clearly visible
Good fluke image - markings clearly visible

Not useful for research - oblique angle, low contrast
Not useful for research - oblique angle, low contrast

Not useful - over 50% of fluke submerged
Not useful - over 50% of fluke submerged

Updated: 23 February 2016