[MARMAM] New publication: A Novel Technique for Photo-Identification of the Fin Whale, Balaenoptera physalus, as Determined by Drone Aerial Images

Eduard Degollada edmaktub at edmaktub.org
Fri Mar 24 03:07:54 PDT 2023

Dear Marmam Community,

My co-authors and I are pleased to share our new paper:

Degollada, E.; Amigó, N.; O’Callaghan, S.A.; Varola, M.; Ruggero, K.; 
Tort, B. A Novel Technique for Photo-Identification of the Fin Whale, 
/Balaenoptera physalus/, as Determined by Drone Aerial Images. /Drones/ 
*2023*, /7/, 220.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.3390/drones7030220

Abstract: Drones have become a crucial research tool across marine 
environments over the past decade, being specifically useful in marine 
mammal research. Fin whales (Balaenoptera physalus) have been monitored 
feeding along the Catalan coast, Spain (NW Mediterranean), since 2014. 
To overcome issues such as the distance between a whale and a research 
vessel or the lack of distinctive dorsal fin features, an aerial 
identification technique was developed. It uses the fin whales’ 
characteristic central chevron pattern (CCP) and blaze, which are 
clearly visible from an overhead position. A total of 237 individual 
whales were identified between 2015–2022 in this study area, of which 
there were 35 interannual recaptures. While the dorsal fin may undergo 
modifications over time, the CCP and blaze patterns did not naturally 
alter over the years, with one whale displaying the same characteristics 
8 years apart between the first and the most recent sightings. As such, 
this coloration pattern provides a reliable identification feature to be 
used for the interannual identification and population monitoring of fin 
whales using drones. This novel technique aims to improve and unify this 
species cataloguing overseas by using the CCP and blaze obtained from 
UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) zenithal videos as a robust identification 

Best regards

Eduard Degollada


Eduard Degollada Bastos DVM PhD

President Associació EDMAKTUB

www.edmaktub.org <http://www.edmaktub.org>

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