North Atlantic Fin Whale Catalogue

Arrowhead, Catalog #0132 Elvis, Catalog #0111

Quartz, Catalog #0210 Shark, Catalog #0045

In 1981, biologists from Allied Whale began a project to identify individual finback whales photographically. This technique enables scientists to follow an individual anywhere it may travel throughout its life by comparing fin shapes, natural color patterns, and any acquired scars that appear in photographs. Finbacks are more difficult to photo-ID than many cetacean species. To accurately identify an individual finback, researchers must take a series of photographs that include the dorsal fin and the right side of the animal. Finbacks are asymmetrically colored. The right side of the jaw is white with a brush of light color extending up toward the back. Finbacks also have V-shaped white markings extending from the blowholes, called chevrons. Unless the finback has noticeable scars and nicks that make it easily identifiable, researchers must have photographs showing all of these areas of the whale in order to make a positive identification.

Allied Whale works with other research groups conducting similar research throughout the North Atlantic. In 1986, the North Atlantic Marine Mammal Association, a group comprising over 100 marine mammal researchers from the United States, Canada, and Western Europe, selected Allied Whale to organize the collection of photographs of finback whales from the North Atlantic. The North Atlantic Finback Whale Catalogue is now housed in our laboratory in Bar Harbor and contains photographs of over 800 individuals sighted in the Gulf of Maine, off New York, and off Nova Scotia and the Gulf of St. Lawrence. This photographic-identification research enabled researchers to determine a calving interval for finbacks of 2 years, and to determine that finbacks are site tenacious; they return to the same area every summer.

Research efforts for the North Atlantic Finback Catalogue are funded exclusively by private donations. You can support our research by participating in our Adopt-a-Whale Program or by purchasing an Allied Whale product.

Donations can be made to:
Allied Whale
105 Eden St.
Bar Harbor, ME 04609

For Marine Mammal Strandings Call:
Office # (207) 288-5644
Cell # (207) 266-1326
Pager # 818-3852

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