Here’s the kind of thing that makes Humpback researchers’ hearts go pitter pat and AGAIN makes the point of how many humans it takes to study giants.
We think you’ll love the story of “Max” too.
Max is a Humpback Whale first documented by Alexandra Morton around NE Vancouver Island in 1987, then already at least a juvenile. Alex is the one who so diligently began documenting Humpbacks around NE Vancouver Island and whose data we inherited. We learned that Alex only got one chance to photograph this whale and nicknamed him/her in honour of fellow Echo Bay resident, Yvonne Maximchuk who was caring for her son during the sighting.
Max was assigned the Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) catalogue number BCX0929. Sightings of Max were reported to DFO for 2003, 2005, 2006, and 2007. All known sightings were for the area around Prince Rupert. (Note DFO cataloguing of Humpbacks off the coast of BC ended in 2010 and has continued through the efforts of not-for-profits).
THEN, thanks to the research of Pacific Whale Foundation, Max was documented near Maui in 2019!
These puzzle pieces came together because of our collective contribution and collaboration with Happywhale to document Humpback Whales across the North Pacific.
What can be learned by studying Humpbacks as individuals in this way includes: migration range for individuals, , site fidelity / habitat use, life history (e.g. age of calving and life expectancy), associations between individuals, etc!
What can also be gained for conservation? By sharing the stories of whales like Max, we strive for a greater appreciation that the whales are individuals and for a greater understanding of their importance as ambassadors of ocean health. We believe such stories provide insight into how much we humans have to learn even about the biggest animals in the ocean and what the reveals about the need for humility and precaution. But, ultimately, we hope for greater connection and action for the ocean upon which all our lives depend. 💙
Note: We (all scientists involved) have not confirmed Max is male but s/he has never been documented with a calf.