By Marie Hill and Amanda Bradford
When we last checked in, our team of scientists was waiting for the weather in Saipan to clear up so we could get back on the water to look for more endangered western North Pacific humpback whales. Well, we are still waiting! While the wind and swell conditions have kept us landlocked, the team has been cataloging and identifying the humpback whale photos we took during our first two days on the water. We collected full fluke images from 10 of the 11 humpbacks we encountered and their fluke markings allow us to identify different individuals—like a whale’s fingerprint. Most of the whales have primarily dark flukes with some white markings. We compared the fluke images to our existing catalog of identified individuals and found no matches. However, we are interested to know if these whales have been seen in any other parts of the western North Pacific—for example, off Japan, Philippines, or Russia. If you have humpback whale fluke photos from these or other areas, please let us know if you have also seen these whales!
All photos taken with research permit (NMFS and CNMI DFW). Funding was provided by U.S. Navy Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet and PIFSC.