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tins of whale meat

How Japan’s whaling industry is trying to convince people to eat whales

Japan's hunters kill hundreds of whales every year despite the fact that hardly anyone in...
Common dolphins © Christopher Swann

Did you know dolphins have personalities?

Kidzone - quick links Fun Facts Our Goals Curious kids Kids blogs Fantastic fundraisers Gallery...
Microplastics on beach

Blue whales and the menace of microplastics – how we’ll solve this problem

Our love affair with plastic began in the 1950s when it revolutionised manufacturing. But what...
A dolphin called Arnie with his shell.

Dolphins catch fish using giant shell tools

In Shark Bay, Australia, two groups of dolphins have figured out how to use tools...
Common dolphins at surface

Did you know that dolphins have unique personalities?

We all have personalities, and between the work Christmas party and your family get-together, perhaps...
Leaping harbour porpoise

The power of harbour porpoise poo

We know we need to save the whale to save the world. Now we are...
Holly. Image: Miray Campbell

Meet Holly, she’s an incredible orca leader

Let me tell you the story of an awe-inspiring orca with a fascinating family story...
The Last Whale

The Last Whale – your chance to win a copy of new book

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Unlocking the secrets of whale and dolphin societies

Arguably more than anything else, photo-identification, or “photo-ID,” opened the door to our appreciation of whales and dolphins as individuals. WDC researchers and close collaborators have had a key role in the development and use of photo-ID, and it’s still the fundamental tool that we use in our work with North Atlantic right whales off Massachusetts, USA; Risso’s dolphins in Scotland; orcas in Kamchatka, Baird’s beaked whales in the Commander Islands, both in Russia; bottlenose dolphins in Scotland and in South Australia; and humpback whales in various studies in the Atlantic and the Pacific.

Recently I was asked by Hakai Magazine, a new online magazine, to write a story about a legendary conference that helped launch whale photo-ID as the primary tool of whale research, some 40 years ago, and “where we have got to” since then.

Where we have got to is that our studies of individual whales and whale families and pods have led now to a consideration of culture and the rights of whales — work that is central to what WDC is all about.

I loved researching and writing this story, and it forms part of the background for a new book I’m writing on what we’ve learned from field studies of whales and dolphins.

If you like the story, please share it, and we welcome your comments.

Humpback whale tail flukes showing individual identification. Humpback whale fluke © FEROP

About Erich Hoyt

Erich is a Research Fellow at WDC and Co-chair of the IUCN Marine Mammal Protected Areas Task Force. He is a director of the Far East Russian Orca Project (FEROP). View references to Erich's published material on Google Scholar. Follow Erich on Twitter.