top of page

Collecting Dolphin Identification Photos


Like many other cetacean species, dolphins can be identified as an individual. Natural markings (nicks and scars) and variance in dorsal fin shape act as a unique identifier for each dolphin, just like a finger print! In some cases the differences are very obvious, in others they are very subtle.

Photographs of dorsal fins taken during encounters enable us to identify individual dolphins living within Port Stephens and to track their movements within the Port. Tracking dolphins using these photos can provide valuable insights into population size,  key habitat areas within the Bay, social relationships, life histories of individuals and longevity. 

Using profile (side) shots of an individuals dorsal fin, we can clearly see the various markings which are unique to that individual. 

Damage to the leading (front) or trailing (back) edge of a fin allows us to differentiate between individuals.

What Makes A Good Identification Photo?

Photo must be taken side on to the animal so that fin shape and damage to fin edges can be clearly seen.

The photo should be close enough, with sharp enough focus and contrast that any markings and damage to edges of fin can be clearly seen.

The entire trailing edge should be visible above the waterline.


Photos should be high resolution, saved as digital files (eg. .jpeg or .tiff files)

To participate in the 2016 Port Stephens Dolphin Census and contribute photos click here.

If you have large numbers of photos that you would like to contribute please send an email to to discuss the best method for submission.


Contributed photos will be used for research only. Copyright of the photos remains with the contributor and all contributions will be acknowledged.

bottom of page