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  • Writer's pictureGrupo de trabajo Orcas

GTOA catalogue of photo identification of Iberian orcas

The Atlantic Orca-GTOA Working Group publishes the photo identification catalogue of Iberian orcas, within the scope of the FRIENDSHIP-ORCA project, a material awaited with great craving for all members, after more than two years of development.

Source artwork

This catalogue presents the orcas recorded in the waters of the Iberian Peninsula in recent years. The photographs were collected and donated by more than 29 entities, including find whale watching companies in the Strait of Gibraltar and Algarve, as well as images from CEMMA scientific campaigns and contributions from more than 27 individuals both from the Strait area and from opportunistic sightings in other areas.

Base information

21,000 images were analyzed, of which 231 were selected, which form the central part of this catalog and which define a total of 66 individuals divided into 6 communities, of which at most 49 can be said to be still alive. Although there are some individuals, without an assigned community, that surely are transients on the peninsula, and therefore should not be counted as belonging to the subpopulation of Iberian orcas. Therefore, the current census in 2023 of this subpopulation consists of at least 37 individuals, of which only 18 are considered adults. In general, the communities are observed along the entire Iberian Atlantic coast, although some communities are only seen in the Strait and in the south. From Portugal.

Identification and classification

For the identification of each individual, all its characteristic parts have been used. Normally the easiest parts to photograph are the dorsal fin and the pattern located behind the dorsal fin, called the “saddle patch”, since these are the parts that stay out of the water the longest. In addition, the eye patch has been used, as well as other distinctive elements such as the scratches present on the sides and back, which are caused by the teeth of other orcas, called dental rakes. Each individual has been assigned a unique identification number (ID) made up of their community letter (based on known genealogical relationships, or animals seen together for several years) followed by three digits.

Legal consideration

The work was centralized and developed by Dr. Ruth Esteban, a specialist in the species. The copyright, intellectual property and authorship of the images in this catalog belong to their authors, so they cannot be used individually without their express authorization. The catalog as a whole, its reference and its plates are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. It can be consulted and downloaded at: Selecting CATALOG FOTOID2023, available in languages: Spanish, English and Galician, it will soon be included in Portuguese and French.


This catalogue has been developed thanks to the FRIENDSHIP-ORCA project, a project developed by CEMMA-GTOA and financed by Fundación Banco Santander, with the aim of contributing to the information and social projection of orcas and their problems.

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