Skip to content
All articles
  • All articles
  • About whales & dolphins
  • Create healthy seas
  • End captivity
  • Fundraising
  • Green Whale
  • Kids blogs
  • Prevent deaths in nets
  • Scottish Dolphin Centre
  • Stop whaling
Risso's dolphin at surface

My lucky number – 13 years studying amazing Risso’s dolphins

Everything we learn about the Risso's dolphins off the coast of Scotland amazes us and...
Dead sperm whale in The Wash, East Anglia, England. © CSIP-ZSL.

What have dead whales ever done for us?

When dead whales wash up on dry land they provide a vital food source for...
Risso's dolphin © Andy Knight

We’re getting to know Risso’s dolphins in Scotland so we can protect them

Citizen scientists in Scotland are helping us better understand Risso's dolphins by sending us their...
Pilot whales pooing © Christopher Swann

Talking crap and carcasses to protect our planet

We know we need to save the whale to save the world because they are...
Fin whale (balaenoptera physalus) Three fin whales Gulf of California.

Speaking truth to power – my week giving whales a voice

The International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting is where governments come together to make decisions about whaling...

Why do whales and dolphins strand on beaches?

People often ask me 'why' whales and dolphins do one thing or another.  I'm a...
A spinner dolphin leaping © Andrew Sutton/Eco2

Head in a spin – my incredible spinner dolphin encounter

Sri Lanka is home to at least 30 species of whales and dolphins, from the...
Orca (ID171) breaches off the coast of Scotland © Steve Truluck.

Watching whales and dolphins in the wild can be life changing

Whales and dolphins are too intelligent, too large and too mobile to ever thrive in...

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.