25.02.2019 – Life & litter
Weather forcasts for the Southwest waters around Calheta once again encouraged our team to resort to the calmer waters in the Northwest of the island near Porto Moniz. On all three trips our team did their very best to find cetaceans in the deep-blue expanse while our guests could enjoy the lush green coastline of the North framing our search area. On the first trip we got lucky with a small group of Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus), that occasionally lifted their heads to glance at us above the surface as they travelled to the far west of the island. During our afternoon tours the diligent efforts of our team were in vain with both tours unfortunately ending without a sighting.
As we searched for cetaceans our team kept a sharp lookout at the surface for other visitors that roam the waters of the Atlantic and occasionally drop by in the archipelagos waters. Loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta), for instance, are often spotted basking at the surface to rest in between their foraging dives. While we did encounter two rather shy individuals, we ended up coming across a lost bagpack that looked like a turtle from afar. Such misleading encounters with marine litter can certainly be laughed off in that moment but the sad reality is that anthropogenic debris has become the norm at the surface of our oceans nowadays and is a guaranteed sighting during any venture out on the high seas. As many have said before, we live in the era of the anthropocene, an age where human existence shapes the land and seascape and traces of human existence can be found absolutely anywhere. This also means that when we were out on the ocean we can often expect more debris than wild animals.
However also the opposite can be the case. The high winter swell in the Atlantic brings quite a few Portuguese Man O’Wars (Physalia physalis) to the waters of Madeira. These venomous colonies of stinging zooids are completely subject to winds, currents and waves and are therefore often washed ashore in large numbers. Here, they look very similar to plastic litter and have stung many beachgoers, particularly diligent ones who tried to remove rubbish from the shore. This is also why these cnidarians are refered to as “blue bottles” in the U.S and Oceania.
This should in no way discourage anyone from removing plastic litter from the beach just be sure to always wear gloves (garden gloves are usually ideal) and be weary with what you remove. The Lobosonda team will continue to remove rubbish in our oceans and beaches and will fight for the well-being of the inhabitants of the generous Atlantic ocean.
By Paula Thake
Sightings of the day
10:00 Bottlenose dolphins
13:30 No sighting
16:00 No sighting