Photo identification of Humpback Whales


Photo identification of humpback whales in Nuup Kangerlua, West Greenland was launched as part of the Greenland Ecosystem Monitoring MarinBasis Program in 2007. Since then, the ID program has been expanded to include all of Greenland and today GCRC manages ID catalogues of humpback whales from both West and East Greenland. GCRC conducts fieldwork in Nuup Kangerlua and in the waters around Tasiilaq, East Greenland, specifically for sampling ID photos. Furthermore, photos from the rest of Greenland are supplied by the whale watching industries, locals and tourists. 

Continuous photo identification provides information on the movements of the whales within Greenlandic waters, both locally and regionally, but also makes it possible to study migrations to and from the breeding grounds and other feeding grounds in the North Atlantic. Combined with satellite tagging and biopsy sampling, photo identification ensures a better understanding of the ecology and dynamics of the humpback whales in Greenland.

You can help by sending us your humpback whale photos

We welcome all photos of humpback whales where tail patterns are showing. We are interested in photos from all of Greenland. Please, send us your photos with information on where and when the photos were taken, as accurate as possible.

Photos can be send to:

Two humpback whales resting at the surface in Nuup Kangerlua, West Greenland. Dorsal fins are also used for identifying individual whales.

A humpback whale showing just enough of the tail to be identified

The matching of ID photos may be challenged by new marks and scars. In Nuup Kangerlua in 2016, individual WG_00038 had no obvious scars on the tail. When it was photographed in Nuup Kangerlua in 2018 the tail had scars from a possible entanglement. Top photo: Tenna Boye. Bottom photo: Julius Nielsen