Once your whale has been identified the new observation is added to the overall sighting history of the whale in our database and helps us understand its movements over time. Each sighting adds to the knowledge on which areas the whales are utilizing as well as providing us with valuable information about their residency time in an area and their site-fidelity (if the same whale returns to the same area each year). In addition to our studies on the local distribution of whales and movements of humpbacks between fjords we wish to uncover the migratory destinations of “our Norwegian” whales on a larger ocean-basin-wide scale. Understanding where the whales are at different times of the year is crucial knowledge in order to be able to protect their habitats in an efficient way.
The NNHWC contains whales photographed mainly from the recent feeding stop-over area off the coast of the three northernmost counties of Norway (Nordland, Troms and Finnmark) as well as from Svalbard waters. Photo-identification as a tool to study the ecology of whales that migrate over enormous distances is only as powerful as the co-operation between different research groups across the species area of distribution and relies on long-term collection of data. We therefore work in close co-operation with other research teams across the Atlantic and after your fluke photos have been matched to the NNHWC, the photos will sent for further image-analysis at the North Atlantic Humpback Whale Catalogue (NA-HWC) at the College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine, USA, which is a massively collaborative venture to understand humpback whale migrations all over the North Atlantic.
The NA-HWC contains more than 8000 individuals with about 32,500 records of whales that have been photographed from all areas of the North Atlantic Ocean and some whales have sightings histories spanning almost 40 years. All the photos in the NNHWC are shared with the NA-HWC to be able to understand the ecology of a species that does not know or care about borders between countries.
Matching of whales that have been photographed in our area to the larger Atlantic catalogue is currently in progress and in October 2014 we were proud to be able to add “whale nr 8000” to the NA-HWC– a whale that has been photographed several times off the coast of Northern Norway as well as by our colleagues working in the West Indies, some 8000 km away. By joining our network of citizen science contributors your photos will help us to uncover new information about the relatively little studied population of Eastern North Atlantic humpback whales!