23.01.2019 – The science behind sightings
We enjoyed some interesting encounters during our afternoon tour on the Stenella today. Our spotter guided us to an area where we were flanked by a small group of relatively shy Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) and a large, dispersed and equally timid group of Short-finned pilot whales (Globicephala macrorhynchus). Shortly afterwards, we were informed of a small school of Short-beaked common dolphins (Delphinus delphis) further west off the coast of Paul do Mar and we sped straight to the area of the sighting. The commons were a lot more interactive than the previous species and accompanied our boat for some time, with some of the animals elegantly riding the waves of our bow.
The trip today occurred right after members of our team attended the annual MARCET meeting, a three day event that took place in the Whale Museum in Caniçal. The aim of the MARCET project is to construct a reliable network of information to help monitor the dynamics and health of the cetacean populations that frequent the Macaronesian archipelagos. Amongst the attendees were local scientists from the Whale Museum and the OOM as well as from the University Of Las Palmas in the Canaries and Andalucía, a member from an NGO in Cape Verde as well as a veterinarian who treats stranded cetaceans in Senegal. Of course, representatives from whale-watching companies in Madeira as well as from the Canaries and the Azores also participated.
Building a collaborative network is a complex but absolutely vital process for the effective monitoring of mobile animals such as cetaceans and should help us gain a broader understanding of how to protect them and the ecosystems they thrive in. Cetaceans aren’t the only ones profiting from their conservation; marine mammals are the apex predators of most marine ecosystems, making them important trophic indicators. Our team has enjoyed so many beautiful encounters with these animals; the least we can do is contribute to their protection and the good health of their habitat.
By Paula Thake
Sightings of the day
15:00 Bottlenose dolphins, Short-beaked common dolphins, Short-finned pilot whales