Your photographs can assist with whale research!

Each season many encounters with humpback whales 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.

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.

Fluke 1 Fluke 2
Fluke 3 Fluke 4

The images above show the unique pigmentation patterns under the tail fluke

Learn more about what makes a scientifically useful fluke photo.

The photos will be analysed by Happywhale, an extremely fast and accurate pattern matching algorithm. Happywhale has a global database of over 60,000 individual humpback whales contributed by researchers and citizen scientists, and now includes the East Coast Whale Watch Catalogue. The algorithm has identified hundreds of whales that have been photographed on their annual migration along the eastern Australian coastline and is helping researchers understand more about the whales and their movements.

In the words of Happywhale founder, Ted Cheeseman…

"This big catalog is a huge step towards what we are here for: conservation science and education that makes the world's oceans safer and healthier for whales through understanding and awareness. We are not here just to collect photos, we are here to put this knowledge to good use for the whales and the seas and all of humanity."

To submit photos

To submit a photo, follow this link to Happywhale and the instructions at the "Submit images" tab. The instructions are clear and the good news is that you will soon find out if your whale has been seen before – or is new to science.

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