Tail fluke photos gathered and analyzed from CARIB Tails and sister sanctuary research partners offer new perspectives to the timing and movement patterns of humpback whales from the southeastern Caribbean.


The North Atlantic Humpback Whale Sister Sanctuary Program (NAHW-SSP) research partners have published new data that suggests that West Indies humpback whales comprise more than one breeding population, contrary to our current understanding.  Individuals occurring in the southeast Caribbean comprise a breeding group separate from those found in the northern Caribbean, especially the Dominican Republic, where most previous research has focused.  Further, whales migrating to the southeast Caribbean do so several weeks after those migrating to the Dominican Republic, but at the same time as those migrating to Cape Verdes.  These whales appear to migrate to waters off northern Europe, especially Iceland, Norway, and the Svalbard archipelago.


Thanks to Allied Whale for fluke photo analysis and our CARIB Tails and sister sanctuary research partners’ fluke contributions that made the discovery possible!










Reference: Stevick, P.T., Bouveret, L., Gandilhon, N., Rinaldi, C., Rinaldi, R., Broms, F., Carlson, C., Kennedy, A., Ward, N. and Wenzel, F. 2015. Humpback whales in the southeast Caribbean are behaviorally distinct from those off the Dominican Republic. Paper SC/63a/AWMP2 presented to the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission, San Diego, California, USA. May 2015.


“Joust” Sighting Improves Quality of Humpback Whale Research

CARIB Tails research partner OMMAG provided a new fluke photo that is a match between two sister sanctuaries — Agoa’s Marine Mammal Sanctuary off the Leeward side of Guadeloupe and Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary (SBNMS).


This tail fluke (NA# 9967), compared with the 8,000-plus known individuals in the North Atlantic Humpback Whale Catalog, has been seen on two occasions — in the breeding grounds off Guadeloupe on 5 February 2016 and the feeding grounds of SBNMS/Gulf of Maine in 2008.


Thanks to the photographer, C. Millon and the Observatoire des Mammiferes Marins de l’ Archipel Guadeloupeen (OMMAG) for the Guadeloupe sighting and to R. Etcheberry and researchers from the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies and Allied Whale at the College of the Atlantic for their matching and cataloging efforts.  The French Antilles Agoa Marine Mammal Sanctuary is one of five marine mammal sanctuaries in SBNMS’s Sister Sanctuary Program.


It’s a match!  Joust was recently photographed off the west coast of Guadeloupe on February 5, 2016 and the feeding grounds of SBNMS/Gulf of Maine in 2008.

FOLLOWING FOOTPRINTS: A Whale of a Tail Across the Ocean

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but two pictures taken years apart have given scientists new insight into humpback whale migration patterns from the Gulf of Maine to the Caribbean Sea off Guadeloupe, although positive identification was not confirmed until late 2014. 

“Footprints” resighted in 2011. 
Photo Credit: Association Evasion Tropicale

“Footprints” photographed in 2008.
Photo Credit: Center for Coastal Studies

In 2008, researchers in the Gulf of Maine photographed a humpback whale they named “Footprints” (NA# 8893).  Three years later, a different team of scientists spotted Footprints in the Caribbean Sea off Guadeloupe.


The photo match was the first successful paring of images under a CARIB Tails — a new citizen science humpback whale tracking and identification project, launched in 2014 by Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary.  Sailors and recreational yachters are the key contributors, especially in the remote and under-surveyed areas of the Eastern Caribbean.  Supported by the United Nations Caribbean Environment Programme, CARIB Tails is collaboration between the sanctuary and its Sister Sanctuary Program partners — a network of marine mammal sanctuaries that protect the North Atlantic population of humpback whales.

For more information see: “FOLLOWING FOOTPRINTS” PDF.