SCU researchers want your whale fluke photos to track the migration patterns of individual whales.
SCU researchers want your whale fluke photos to track the migration patterns of individual whales.

Flukey shots tracking whales

WHALE watch operators and tourists are helping to track whales on the northern migration. 

Photographs of whale flukes are being put under the microscope to pin point the journeys of individual mammals already listed in the Whale Watch Catalogue.

"These photos are being used to create a fluke catalogue that will significantly expand the range of individually identified humpback whales along the Australian east coast," Southern Cross University Masters student Peta Beeman said.

"The photos I am particularly interested in show the unique pigmentation pattern on the ventral surface (underside) of the tail fluke that enables individual whales to be identified.

"One of the humpback whales was photographed off Byron Bay and it was matched with a whale sighted in New Caledonia and we have also matched whales sighted off the Gold Coast with whales photographed in the Antarctic.

"Over time we will be able to build up detailed information on where and when these individual whales are sighted and provide that information back to the people who contribute their photos," she said.

The East Coast Whale Watch Catalogue run by Professor Peter Harrison of SCU's Marine Ecology Research Centre has been assisted by funding through the Australian Government initiative - Inspiring Australia.

Professor Harrison said the university is calling on tour and charter operators from North Queensland to Tasmania to share their photographs, as an estimated 17,000 whales navigate the East Coast between now and November.  

"We have had a really positive response from whale watch tour operators and charter boat operators," Professor Harrison said.

 "An added benefit of this project is that it enables the tourism operators and other members of the community to play an active role in whale conservation and marine research," he said.  

To contribute to the project go to