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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...
Minke whale © Ursula Tscherter - ORES

The whale trappers are back with their cruel experiment

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Boto © Fernando Trujillo

Meet the legendary pink river dolphins

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Risso's dolphin entangled in fishing line and plastic bags - Andrew Sutton

The ocean is awash with plastic – can we ever clean it up?

You've seen pictures of plastic litter accumulating on beaches or marine wildlife swimming through floating...
Fin whale

Is this the beginning of the end for whaling off Iceland?

I'm feeling cautiously optimistic after Iceland's Fisheries Minister Svandís Svavarsdóttir wrote that there is little...
Mykines Lighthouse, Faroe Islands

Understanding whale and dolphin hunts in the Faroe Islands – why change is not easy

Most people in my home country of the Faroe Islands would like to see an...

Dolphin scientists look like you and me – citizen science in action

Our amazing volunteers have looked out for dolphins from the shores of Scotland more than...
Atlantic white-sided dolphins

The Faroes dolphin slaughter that sparked an outcry now brings hope

Since the slaughter of at least 1,423 Atlantic white-sided dolphins at Skálafjørður in my home...

Whale have you been?

Back in 2007 a humpback whale photographed close to Texel Island in the Wadden Sea, Netherlands was positively matched to a humpback whale photographed off Toe Head, County Cork, Ireland several months later. Several weeks after frequenting Irish waters, the same individual was re-sighted just 60km south of where it was initially recorded off the Netherlands. During the six months between sightings, this individual completed at least a 2,500km round trip, traversing through some of the busiest (and therefore dangerous for a young whale) waters in the world – the English Channel.

Comparisons with existing photo-identification catalogues determined that the whale was previously unrecorded from any other part of the North Atlantic. In itself this was an important discovery as this represented the first match of a humpback whale within Northeast European continental shelf waters and the first ever, international match of a humpback whale from either Ireland or the Netherlands. However the story doesn’t end there …

Back in 2010, Fredrik Broms set up the North Norwegian Humpback Whale Catalogue (NNHWC) after an unprecedented numbers of humpback whales arrived in his local area of Tromso, something that hadn’t happened since the 1920’s. From his catalogue of individually identified humpback whales (already over the 200 mark and could reach 300 recognisable individuals by the time he has analysed all of this seasons) he has already made eight matches with individuals sighted in the Cape Verde Islands and several matches with whales catalogued in the Azores. I think by now you can see where this is going … he recently confirmed a match between the humpback whale noted above, spotted off the coast of Ireland and the Netherlands, and a whale spotted five years later and several hundred kilometres inside the Arctic Circle. 

Although this doesn’t tell the full story, the whale’s journey from Ireland to Norway by way of the Netherlands is an interesting piece of the puzzling answer to the question, “What are the migratory pathways of the humpback whales seen in north-western Europe?”

Not only does this discovery remind us how little we know about some of the great whales, importantly it also highlights the need to remember that migratory whales have no nationality, belong to no-one and deserve protective measures at an international level. 

You can also help our work by adopting a humpback whale.