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We need whale poo 📷 WDC NA

Whales are our climate allies – meet the scientists busy proving it

At Whale and Dolphin Conservation, we're working hard to bring whales and the ocean into...
Humpback whale underwater

Climate giants – how whales can help save the world

We know that whales, dolphins and porpoises are amazing beings with complex social and family...
Black Sea common dolphins © Elena Gladilina

The dolphin and porpoise casualties of the war in Ukraine

Rare, threatened subspecies of dolphins and porpoises live in the Black Sea along Ukraine's coast....
WDC's Ed Fox, Chris Butler-Stroud and Carla Boreham take a message from the ocean to parliament

Taking a message from the ocean to parliament

It's a sad fact that whales and dolphins don't vote in human elections, but I...
Minke whale © Ursula Tscherter - ORES

The whale trappers are back with their cruel experiment

Anyone walking past my window might have heard my groan of disbelief at the news...
Boto © Fernando Trujillo

Meet the legendary pink river dolphins

Botos don't look or live like other dolphins. Flamingo-pink all over with super-skinny snouts and...
Tokitae in captivity

Talking to TUI – will they stop supporting whale and dolphin captivity?

Last Thursday I travelled to Berlin for a long-anticipated meeting with TUI senior executives. I...

Earth Day Q&A with Waipapa Bay Wines’ marketing director, Fran Draper

We've been partnered with Waipapa Bay Wines since 2019 so for this year's Earth Day,...

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.