Individual basking sharks can be identified from photographs of their dorsal fins. This technique is called photo-identification and has been used to distinguish individuals of other species, such as humpback whales, right whales and sperm whales.
How does photo-ID for basking sharks work?
- The shape of the dorsal fin, colouration patterns, presence of scars and location of nicks and notches are unique to each basking shark
- Photographs of the dorsal fin are taken each time we spot a shark and entered into a database that includes information such as date, time and location of sighting
- Each photograph of an individual is given an identification number.
- All new photographs can be compared to existing photographs to see if we have a match
Some things we can learn about basking sharks in the Bay of Fundy using photo-ID include:
- With enough photos of individual sharks, we can estimate population size in the Bay of Fundy
- We can determine whether the same sharks return to the Bay of Fundy year after year
- We can examine how individual sharks use the Bay of Fundy within a season; maybe a shark is spotted off Brier, N.S and two weeks later is spotted off Grand Manan, N.B.
We are currently developing our basking shark photo ID catalogue. If you have any photographs of basking sharks, please submit them to our database here. The more photographs we have, the better!!