Capturing whale images is no fluke
WHALE watch tour operators and passengers will have the chance to contribute to a Southern Cross University research project which aims to provide valuable new data on the migration of humpback whales along Australia's east coast.
Peta Beeman, who is completing a Master of Marine Science and Management and is part of the University's Marine Ecology Research Centre, is aiming to bring together photographs of individual whales from Victoria north to the Whitsunday Islands.
Her project aims to provide a better understanding of humpback whale migration timing, travel speed and movement patterns.
Through her project, being undertaken with the support of Whale Watching Byron Bay, she is collecting photos of humpback whales from tourists and tour operators along the Australian east coast, from the Whitsunday Islands to southern Victoria.
"These photos will be used to create a fluke catalogue that will significantly expand the range of individually identified humpback whales along the Australian east coast," Ms Beeman said.
"Each season many encounters with humpbacks will be photographed by operators and tourists and some of these photos can provide potentially useful scientific information. These are an untapped source of valuable data.
"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.
"Each of these photographs will be matched against photographs from other locations and other years. This opportunistic data can prove to be extremely valuable to build information about life histories, movement patterns and the timing of migration."
Ms Beeman said anyone who contributed would receive feedback on the individual whale, such as whether it had been seen previously. A website was also being developed so people could upload their photos of tail flukes.
Anyone interested in more information or contributing photographs can contact Peta at firstname.lastname@example.org