News and Updates

10th October 2014

Resighted whale news update

There are over 900 photos in the catalogue now and they are all undergoing analysis using the matching software “Fluke Matcher”. This means that each photo that is entered into the Fluke Matcher database is compared to all the others to find out if it has been photographed before.

To date, a total of 14 whales have been resighted; 11 whales were seen at the same location in different years and three whales were seen in the same season at different points along the migration path. This is valuable information and will help us understand more about the whales migration patterns – including their travel speed.

Thanks again to all the whale watching citizen scientists who have contributed photos to the East Coast Whale Watch Catalogue!

16th September 2014

Heading south

Its mid September and most of the Australian east coast humpbacks are heading south to Antarctica. Last week in Byron Bay, we saw a mother and calf travelling south through the bay. Mothers with their newborn calves are usually the last of the whales to leave the warm waters of the Great Barrier Reef breeding grounds. This is because the newborn calves need time to fatten up and build their strength before the long trip to the Antarctic.

The East Coast Whale Watch Catalogue is growing steadily - thanks to all the great fluke photos sent in by citizen scientists all along the coast. Again - a big thank you!


7th July 2014

Keep the ID photos coming in!

Contributions from citizen scientists on the Australian east coast have now bought the East Coast Whale Watch Catalogue to over 850 individually identified whales. Again, a big thank you to all those who have contributed!

So far, 12 whales have been seen on more than one occasion. Interestingly, several of those identified whales have been tracked along their migration path in the one season. For example, one whale was photographed at Byron Bay then again at Ballina three days later as it travelled south. Three days to cover around 30 kilometres seems a bit slow! An explanation for this travel speed may be found in recent research that suggests some whales (most likely adult males) may circle back north searching for increased mating opportunities (Burns et al 2014).

Burns, D, Brooks, L, Harrison, P, Franklin, T, Franklin, W, Paton, D & Clapham, P 2014, 'Migratory Movements of Individual Humpback Whales Photographed Off the Eastern Coast of Australia', Marine Mammal Science, vol. 30, no. 2, pp. 562-578.


4th April 2014

Fluke matching news….

The East Coast Whale Watch Catalogue now consists of over 780 photos of individually identified whales! That is a fantastic result –and is due to the generous contributions of many enthusiastic whale watchers on the east Australian coast.

The initial matching process with around 600 flukes has revealed 10 whales that have been seen more than once….. One of the resighted whales was photographed first in early August 2008 at the Gold Coast, then again at Ballina in June 2010. On each occasion it was travelling north to the breeding grounds in the central Great Barrier Reef.

Individual humpback whales tend to travel at approximately the same time each year, depending on their age and reproductive status. For example, pregnant females leave the Antarctic feeding grounds much later than the other whales. This is because they continue feeding as long as possible in order to build up their energy reserves for the birth and the demands of feeding their calves. This whale may fit that pattern as it was travelling north in August when first sighted, but two years later went north in June.

Again…. thanks to everyone who has contributed photos to the catalogue.


5th December 2013

A big thank-you!

In Queensland and northern NSW, the 2013 whale watching season is over for another year. Most of the east coast humpbacks will now be back in their Antarctic feeding grounds, eating like crazy - building up their energy reserves for next season’s migration.

A big thank you to all the whale watching citizen scientists who contributed their fluke photos to the East Coast Whale Watch Catalogue. The photos are currently being sorted and catalogued ready for the matching process.

Meanwhile……there are some well known whales that don’t need a fluke photo for identification. One of these was spotted last October near Eden. Known as Bladerunner, this whale has been sighted regularly on the east coast since 2001, when it recovered from horrific injuries after being struck by a ship’s propeller. Bladerunner is an amazing survivor but not all whales are so lucky.

This sighting serves as a reminder to all skippers to be alert for whales during the migration and to observe the approach distance guidelines.

Bladerunner (Special thanks to Peter Whiter for the sighting confirmation and photos of Bladerunner)
















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