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Photo-identification of Antarctic Fin Whales

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Paula A. Olson, Christopher D. Jones

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International Whaling Commission


A photo-identification catalogue of Antarctic fin whales was compiled using photographs from IWC SOWER cruises 2004-2008, and from a CCMLR research survey in January 2018 under the auspices of CCAMLR on the South Orkney Islands shelf. Directed fin whale research conducted during two SOWER field seasons yielded the majority of identification photographs. Overall, 30 individual whales were catalogued, represented by 15 left sides and 19 right sides. The suitability of Antarctic fin whale as subjects for photo-ID studies was assessed by scoring photographs of individuals for the prevalence of unique markings such as dorsal fin nicks, scars, and the brightness of chevron and blaze pigmentation. Results confirmed Antarctic whales to be well marked: 97% of identifiable whales exhibited three or more unique markings (match points). 70% had dorsal fin nicks or prominent scars, including 27% with healed killer whale rake marks. 90% carried ovoid scars, most likely from cookie cutter shark bites. Moderately visible or highly visible chevron patterns appeared on 75% of scored whales. The formation of a catalogue serves as a foundation for future studies. Photo-identification data of Antarctic fin whales can be used to determine residency and movement patterns of this poorly understood population of whales.

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