The What, Why, and How of Humpback Whale Photo Identification

Humpback whales have a unique pigmentation pattern on the underside of their tail (flukes) much like a "thumbprint" that allows us to identify individual animals. Beth, who has been doing humpback whale photo-ID for over 30 years as part of Eye Of The Whale, has created an interactive catalog where she and others can post and try to match their fluke photo IDs as well as their "Best Of" pictures of humpbacks whales seen along the Kohala Coast (primarily between Blacks Point and Anaehoomalu Bay out to ~3nm). These pictures are not under permit or scientifically recorded as they are taken strictly "opportunistically" when whales have approached a vessel close enough or with the use of telephoto lenses, as these days with digital photography and image stabilizing telephoto lenses, much can be done to provide a somewhat identifiable fluke photo. All pictures are copyrighted by the author, please contact flukes@jupiterfoundation.org for use request.

Note: Unless under Federal Permit, Please follow NOAA whale watching regulations.

The University of Alaska Fairbanks and NOAA, Alaska Fisheries Science Center have created an educational website that explains the value of photo ID, how to take the pictures and what to look for when matching flukes. Instead of recreating all this information for our site, we ask you to please refer to their site as it will make using our catalog much more enjoyable.

You can submit your Photo ID to Jupiter's site at flukes@jupiterfoundation.org; include your name, email, date, time and location of whale ID, if a cow with a calf, if any match and what % with which category you think your ID corresponds. Save your original; if anyone wants to contact you directly, we will provide them your information.

Only ID quality photos will be posted:
Save your original
Crop a copy at 600-800 pixels using whatever photo editing program you like: (free editing programs Windows Paint, Microsoft Office 2010 photo viewer, GIMP, iPhoto)
Edit with Gamma and contrast only, not brightness
Sharp focus and properly exposed to see trailing edge and pigmentation markings
Flukes need to fill at least 50% of frame and at least 50% of fluke shown
Flukes need to be as near perpendicular to the water as possible and ventral side for ID
Photo ID Links:
afsc.noaa.gov/NMMLDigitalPhotoProtocol.pdf (ACDSEE is not free)
http://www.whaleresearch.org/

Hawaiian Island Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary Boundary: To the 100-fathom (183 meter) isobath from Upolu Point southward to Keahole Point, Hawaii. Blue elliptical approx area for most fluke ID photos in this catalog.

Hawaiian Island Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary Boundary: To the 100-fathom (183 meter) isobath from Upolu Point southward to Keahole Point, Hawaii. Blue elliptical approx area for most fluke ID photos in this catalog.