Hawaiian Humpback Whale Catalog

Project Name:

Hawaiian Humpback Whale Catalog

Study System:

North Pacific humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) – Endangered

Motivation and Goals:

Although North Pacific humpback whales are an iconic species in Maui waters, there is still a lot to learn about their life history, behavior, and migration patterns.  Through this catalog, we aim to advance our understanding of humpback whale biology and population status to help further conservation and management efforts. 

Methods:

To build a catalog of unique individuals, we are using identification photos (i.e., fluke photos) from multiple sources, including line transects and platforms of opportunity.  Each photo is assessed in terms of image quality and then matched to the existing catalog based on unique fluke features such as the shape of the fluke’s trailing edge and the pattern of black and white pigment.  

Results to Date:

The department is currently in the process of digitizing the entire catalog, as previous methods involved matching and cataloging using physical photos and binders. Photo-ID and sighting data range from 1981 – 2015.

The catalog is also used to update and maintain a history of sightings for all of our humpback whales available for adoption. 

Next Steps:

As this is a new digital catalog, we will continue adding to the existing database with fluke photos from other research projects (e.g., Surprise Encounters with Humpback Whales) along with photo donations. 

With the help of vessel staff encouraging donations from passengers, we can build the catalog and continue to expand on the knowledge of the life history, behavior, and population status of our humpback whales.