Southeast Alaska Humpback Whale - Photo by UASWatching Southeast Alaska Humpback whales is a favorite activity of residents and visitors alike. Being such large marine mammals, it’s hard to believe that these giants subsist on the smallest of sea creatures; animals like herring, capelin and krill. Watching a pod of whales using bubble nets or making a dive to capture prey is a memorable event in anyone’s experience.

The University of Alaska Southeast (UAS) has put together an extraordinary website were Humpback watchers can actually identify the individual whales that are being observed. The Humpback Whales of Southeastern Alaska website has a fluke identification catalog composed of nearly 1,900 photos contributed by many individuals and research groups. The underside of each whale’s fluke or its horizontal tail fins is unique and can be used to identify individual whales that have been studied by researchers.

Contribute a Sighting

The Humpback whale site encourages the public to submit sightings and possible identification to it. They stress the need for boaters and whale watchers to heed regulations imposed by the Marine Mammal Protection Act and avoid disturbing the animals. Remaining more than 100 yards away from a whale is a good start.

The fluke identification catalog starts by breaking the collection of photos into groups based on the percentage of white showing on the fluke. The site has an instructional page on how to identify a whale by using the fluke catalog. Researchers ask that each photo be accompanied by this information:

  • Date photo was taken
  • Time of the encounter
  • Location of the sighting
  • Number of whales seen in the group observed

An Excellent Resource on Humpback Whales

The UAS website represents an excellent resource for whale watchers and those interested in learning more about these great creatures. The Humpback Whales of Southeastern Alaska website contains background information about the whales, details some of the research currently being conducted on Humpbacks, the fluke identification catalog, information on how to identify whales and contribute sightings, and a listing of links related to the whales.

Copyright © 2013 by Alan Sorum

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