Comprehensive photo-identification matching of Antarctic Area V humpback whales

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Constantine, R, Allen, J, Beeman, P, Burns, D, Charrassin, J-B, Childerhouse, S, Double, MC, Ensor, P, Franklin, T, Franklin, W, Gales, N, Garrigue, C, Gates, E, Gibbs, N, Hutsel, A, Jenner, C, Jenner, M, Kaufman, G, Macie, A, Mattila, DK, Oosterman, A, Paton, D, Robbins, J, Schmitt, N, Stevick, P, Tagarino, A & Thompson, K 2011, 'Comprehensive photo-identification matching of Antarctic Area V humpback whales', report to the International Whaling Commission, Scientific Committee, SC/63/SH16, (unpublished report).


This paper reports on a comprehensive matching of humpback whale fluke photographs from Antarctic Area V to the migratory corridors and breeding grounds from Western Australia in the west to American Samoa, South Pacific in the east, and to the other Antarctic regions. A total of 61 unique whales were identified in Antarctic Area V during January 2010 by the French CETA project (n = 2) and February – March 2010 by the Antarctic Whale Expedition (n = 59), a joint research effort by Australia and New Zealand. These images were placed on an open access web-site and researchers compared their existing catalogues to the AWE dataset. These images were matched against a total of 17,243 fluke identification images (including an unknown number of duplicates) collected from 1984 – 2010; west Australia (n = 1,664), east Australia (n = 9,994 images), Norfolk Island (n = 6); New Zealand (n = 100); west Oceania (n = 1,806); Breeding stocks A – G (n = 2,403) and Antarctica Peninsula, Chile and feeding areas II – VI (n = 1,270). Forty-one percent (n = 25) of the 2010 Antarctic images matched to existing catalogues; 24 matched to east Australia and 1 matched to New Caledonia. The majority of the 2010 whales were photographed in the vicinity of the Balleny Islands, which adds support to previous opportunistic studies linking individuals in this region of Area V to east Australia but not to west Australia or Oceania. Similar results have been reported with molecular data from tissue samples collected during the same 2010 surveys (Steel et al. 2011). These data clearly show that the Balleny Islands are an important feeding ground for east Australian humpback whales but that the feeding grounds for the west Australia and endangered Oceania whales remain poorly described and understood.