The Australasian Right Whale Photo-Identification Catalogue (ARWPIC) is an online platform developed to efficiently manage and share images and sighting information of southern right whales. The submitted data provide valuable information about the abundance, status, movements, productivity and longevity of this endangered species. Southern right whales were heavily impacted by whaling in the 19th and 20th centuries; world-wide most populations are now recovering but remain well below their abundance before whaling.

Individual southern right whales can be recognised by the white patterns (callosities) on their heads. This catalogues facilitates the submission and management of images from sighting events so individuals can be identified and tracked through time.

By facilitating data sharing, ARWPIC is a tool that can inform conservation management and improve the status of southern right whales. Sharing data provides more data analysis opportunities and more opportunities to improve our knowledge of the species and their habitat.

The quality and quantity of data available reflects the dedication and commitment of field researchers, wildlife rangers, wildlife managers and the general public.

User levels

All of the images and some of the associated sightings information within ARWPIC are viewable by the public. The public can conduct searches to match their own sightings, browse the catalogue of identified whales, filter information and extract resight histories.

The public can view and search the catalogue and also submit a new sighting to the catalogue via the Australian Marine Mammal Centre’s sightings form: https://data.marinemammals.gov.au/report/sighting

A registered contributor to ARWPIC can upload images of photo-identified whales, assign sighting information (such as date and location), match the uploaded image to other whales in the catalogue using the BigFish CodeCompare computer-assisted matching system, and submit the data to a curator for verification. Once the data are verified, the whale is added to ARWPIC.

Videos available online explain how contributors can upload and manage their data.


Development and management

ARWPIC is managed by a Steering Committee composed of major contributors and representatives from the Australian Marine Mammal Centre and the Department of Environment and Energy. ARWPIC is hosted and maintained by the by the Australian Marine Mammal Centre and Australian Antarctic Data Centre of the Australian Antarctic Division (Department of Environment and Energy).

ARWPIC exists thanks to the collaborative effort of many people and organisations over a number of years:

Group People involved
Systems development and advisory group Will Rayment, Rachael Alderman, Saras Kumar, John, Bannister, Mandy Watson, Rob Harcourt, Alice MacKay, Claire Charlton, Pin Needham, Cath Kemper, Stephen Burnell, Dirk Holman, Mike Double, James Cusick, Kieran Lawton, Rebecca Pirzl
Application development

ARWPIC:  Andy Townsend

BigFish (Access version):  Gillian Murdoch

Project managers Rebecca Pirzl, Mandy Watson, Kieran Lawton
Code-based matching concept and systems development advice Philip Hamilton, New England Aquarium, Boston (ARWPIC is based on DIGITS and NARWC)

Australian Government through grants of the Australian Marine Mammal Centre, Australian Antarctic Division

Tasmanian Department of Primary Industry, Parks, Water and Environment

South Australian Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources

Otago University, New Zealand

Victorian Department Environment, Land, Water and Planning

BigFish funders and supporters

South Australian Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources through grants of the Great Australian Bight Marine Park

Simon Clark, Saras Kumar

ARWPIC is the result of a collaboration of scientists and wildlife managers (see About ARWPIC). The establishment and administration of ARWPIC is supported through funding from the Australian Government's Australian Marine Mammal Centre, Australian Antarctic Division.