Skip to content
All news
  • All news
  • About whales & dolphins
  • Corporates
  • Create healthy seas
  • End captivity
  • Green Whale
  • Prevent bycatch
  • Prevent deaths in nets
  • Science
  • Scottish Dolphin Centre
  • Stop whaling
  • Stranding
WDC2023-007 NMLC Release (16)

Seal Rescued in Marshfield Released Back Into The Wild

For Immediate Release, May 31, 2023 PLYMOUTH, MA - A young male grey seal that...

Norway ups whale kill numbers and removes whale welfare protections

The whaling season in Norway has begun on the back of disturbing announcements from the...
Image taken from an unmanned hexacopter at >100ft during a research collaboration between NOAA/SWFSC, SR3 and the Coastal Ocean Research Institute. Research authorized by NMFS permit #19091.

Southern Resident orca petition to list them under Oregon Endangered Species Act advanced

The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission voted today to advance a petition seeking to protect...
Hysazu Photography

WDC and Conservation Partners Continue to Seek Oregon Endangered Species Protection for Southern Resident Orcas

On Friday, April 21st, the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission will determine whether the petition...

Researchers announce 2021 class of named North Atlantic right whales

“Spindle” is named for the long symmetrical mark on her head that resembles a banister post. CREDIT: New England Aquarium, under NOAA Research Permit #655-1652-01
“Spindle” is named for the long symmetrical mark on her head that resembles a banister post. CREDIT: New England Aquarium, under NOAA Research Permit #655-1652-01

BOSTON, MASS. (Dec. 7, 2021) – Another class of 18 North Atlantic right whales have been named for 2021, helping researchers more easily recognize individual whales spotted by boat and plane.

Every right whale is assigned a four-digit number in the North Atlantic Right Whale Catalog, a photo identification database developed by the New England Aquarium for the North Atlantic Right Whale Consortium. Once a year, whales that have particularly distinct features or a compelling story are nominated to receive names. The names are voted upon by more than 30 field researchers in the Consortium.

A North Atlantic right whale lifts its fluke out of the water

Right whales are amazing and so are you.


“Many of us who study right whales have come to look forward to the annual naming effort. This enthusiasm is reflected in the over 280 creative nominations for 18 whales!” said Philip Hamilton, a senior scientist at the New England Aquarium who manages the North Atlantic Right Whale Catalog. “These names not only help us recognize individual whales in the field, but also help the general public connect more to this beleaguered species.”

The New England Aquarium and Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) once again collaborated to create yearbook-style bios for the whales, after the 2021 class was unveiled at the North Atlantic Right Whale Consortium’s annual meeting in October.

Among the newly named whales is “Spindle” (Catalog #1204), a 39-year-old female who has a natural marking on her head that looks like a banister post. Appropriately, her bio lists “Stairway to Heaven” by Led Zeppelin as her favorite song.

“Twister” (Catalog #3510), a 16-year-old male who spends much of his time in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and waters of New England, is named for a scar near his tail that looks like a tornado.

One of this year’s more creatives names is “Musketeer” (Catalog #4360). This 8-year-old whale, whose sex is unknown, has three fused markings on its head representing the Three Musketeers, with a scar behind its blowholes that looks like the feather on a Musketeer hat.

“WDC is proud to partner with the New England Aquarium in our joint efforts to research and raise awareness of North Atlantic right whales. Using familiar analogies to identify right whales not only helps the research and conservation communities but also makes meaningful connections to these whales for the public, who play a critical role in supporting our efforts,” said Monica Pepe, Conservation and Education Policy Manager at Whale and Dolphin Conservation.

North Atlantic right whales are a critically endangered species with an estimated population of just 336 individuals. Giving the whales names based on their markings allows researchers to recognize them in real-time while conducting field work.

The New England Aquarium’s Right Whale Research Program has extensively studied this critically endangered species for more than 40 years. Scientists focus on solutions-based work, collaborating with fishermen on new techniques to reduce deadly entanglements in fishing gear, facilitating communication across the maritime industry to reduce vessel strikes, and working with lawmakers locally, nationally, and internationally to develop science-based protections for the whales.

Another way to help is by sharing this on social media!

Leave a Comment