Orca ID Catalogue
Download the latest version here: ORCA ID CATALOGUE 2ND EDITION
Our director Marie has published two orca ID catalogues for the years 2015 and 2016. An ID catalogue is an amazing tool for non-invasive research, as we do not need to do harm to the bodies of the orcas, or even anything disturbing their natural behavior to find out about them. We simply observe and take pictures of the fin and the saddle patch (grey spot behind the fin). Every fin has a different shape, and often has significant nicks and scratches. Also the saddle patch has scars, scratches and dots, and all this together makes a unique pattern which is like the fingerprint of the orca (or, to put it differently, it’s like looking a human into the face). Both sides of the animal are photographed and catalogued.
Through this work we can find out about:
- How many orcas appear around Snæfellsnes, and which ones of them visit the area on a regular basis
- Their seasonal distribution (which groups roam our shores during which time of year)
- Their travel patterns (the catalogue can be compared with catalogues in other places and countries)
- How many orcas are in a core group (when they are seen in the same constellation many times throughout the years)
- Their genders (different fin sizes or young orca observed belly up and afterwards the fin is photographed)
- Their feeding habits (the same individual might be photographed feeding on different prey)
- Their individual behavior and character (individuals react differently in the same situation)
We collect both pictures from land and boat sightings. Onboard Láki Tours we follow strict rules of approach and monitor the behavior of the animals closely to see if they show signs of stress from the boat approach (and if they do, we leave them alone). The Láki captains are extremely conscious of having as little impact as possible, and the fact that orcas are resting next to the boat over a longer period of time on a regular basis shows how great their maneuvering really is. We are currently also starting a study on surface-active behavior to confirm that the approach with the Láki boat has no impact on the orca’s natural behavior (something we already know, but want to also prove scientifically).
The catalogue is updated annually. The Second Edition (version 2016) of the catalogue comprised all sightings from January 2014 to November 2015, with a total of 192 individuals, whereas the First Edition (version 2015) featured 100 individuals for a start.
We hope that this will help us track migration patterns of “our” killer whales. If you see killer whales in other parts of Iceland we would be very happy to hear about it – let us know on Facebook or via e-mail here!