Photo the Institute of Natural Resources

Humpback Whales can be identified on the tail which is like a unique fingerprint

By greenland today
06 JULY 2012
Greenland Institute of Natural Resources estimates that there are approx. 3,000 humpback whales at Greenland’s west coast. They are also frequently seen along the East Coast, but are not as well explored. A recent estimate for the East Coast’s are 350 humpback whales.
They can be seen all along the coast and in fjords and bays. In areas along the Greenlandic coast where there are large concentrations of Krill, there can be observed large numbers of whales with several humpback whales together.
Season and spread
Humpback whales are mainly in Greenland from May to October, and only a few individuals stays during winter.
Humpback whales have in recent years been seen further north than usual, but this is not necessarily due to climate change, but might as well be due to the increasing number of whales, according to Greenlands Institute of Natural Resources.
pukkelhval-12 pukkelhval-13
Photo Anne Mette Christiansen                                              Photo Klaus Egede
Humpback whales migrate between areas where they feed during the summer to areas where they mate and give birth to their cubs during the winter.
They have some very specific areas, they migrate to. Humpback whales in Greenland migrate to the Caribbean in winter (Silver bank), where they meet with the humpback whales that have been feeding on the Gulf of Maine, along the Canadian coast, Iceland and the Barents Sea. Some migrate to Cape Verde, but it is unclear how many and where they come from.
Humpback Whales in the North Atlantic Ocean do not meet with humpback whales in the South Atlantic or other oceans, as humpback whales in theese waters also have definitely migration patterns.
Photo the Institute of Natural Resources
Advisory and ID
Greenland Institute of Natural Resources Department for mammals and birds have several projects with humpback whales.
One project is collecting »ID pictures« of humpback whale-tails, because tails are as unique as  humans fingerprints and can be used to identify the whales.
The images are used to investigate how much individuals are returning to the same areas in Greenland year after year.
Photo Klaus Eugenius
The Institute also collects biopsies of whales. They are used for paternity tests and to see what the whales eat and how accurate they are placed in the food chain.
There is also behavioral studies and physiological studies, both by observing the whales from boats and land, and by tagging them with radio transmitters. There is also a cooperation with the hunters who take different samples of the humpback whales caught annually, or whales who otherwise end their lives in West Greenland.
Photo Klaus Eugenius
Humpback registration
The Greenland Institute of Natural Resources are very interested in receiving photos from everyone who has photographed a humpback, where you can clearly see the tail pattern. Write where and when the picture was taken and send it to:
If you want to try whether you can recognize the whales, download a humpback ID catalog <here> or from the Institutes website.
Project Scientist at the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources Tenna Kragh Boye
Read another story from greenland today about Humpback Whales <here>
Latin name: Megaptera Novaeangliae
Size: 11-15 metres; Newborns, average about 4.3 metres
Weight: Adults up to 30 tons. A newborn humpback whale calf weights up to 2 tons
Length of flippers: 5 metres (Largest flippers in the animal world. Megaptera means »long wings«)
Food: Small shoal fish, krill and plankton.