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Expedition report: Photo-identification and surveys of cetaceans in the central group of the Azores islands (March - April 2018)

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Abstract In 2018 Biosphere Expeditions concluded its fourteenth successful year of cetacean photo-identification and distribution studies in the Azores. The expedition was based in Horta on the island of Faial and work was conducted around the three islands of Faial, Pico and São Jorge. The expedition ran from 8 March to 19 April and concentrated on six main projects. Sightings of all cetacean species were recorded. 111 sightings of eight different species of cetacean and one species of turtle were recorded during the expedition period. Blue whale: The expedition encountered 18 blue whales in 18 encounters in 2018 and has contributed 126 individuals to the East North Atlantic catalogue since 2004. One blue whale sighted in 2018 was seen previously in the Azores in 2014. Within the North Atlantic, where an estimated 2,000 cetaceans live, the rarity of matches between the East and West North Atlantic catalogues suggest that there are two largely discrete populations in the North Atlantic. One population appears to live between West Greenland south along the coast of North America, centred in Eastern Canadian waters. The other extends from the Denmark Strait, Iceland and Jan Mayen, Spitzbergen, to the Barents Sea in the summer, and south to the Northwest African coast in the winter. The 14% yearly re-sighting rate of blue whales from the Azores catalogue suggests that at least some individuals use a route past the Azores on their migration. Elucidating such movements and population locations and boundaries is important, because blue whale populations do not seem to be recovering their numbers at the same rate as other whales, making route determination with a view to establishing effective protected areas doubly important. Fin whale: The expedition saw 18 fin whales in 17 encounters. Preliminary matching of individuals has begun, with the aim to send individual identifications to catalogues around the Atlantic. Humpback whale: The expedition in 2018 encountered five humpback whales in three encounters. The North Atlantic Humpback Whale Catalogue is currently approaching 9,000 individuals and plays an important role in discovering long-range matches. Since 2004 the expedition has contributed 21 ID photos. This year, one of the whales seen was matched to an animal seen in Norway. Data collected during the expedition, as well as outside the expedition and by other researchers, suggest that the humpbacks that are seen in the Azores are part of the endangered Cape Verde population, rather than the Caribbean population. Matching movements and populations is important, because little is known about the movements of the Eastern Atlantic humpback whales. No other baleen whales were observed in 2018. The significance for whale conservation and research of these findings is that the Azores may provide a crucial ‘pit stop’ (between breeding grounds further South, possibly Mauritania and feeding grounds in Norway or Iceland) for some of the migrating animals that have not been feeding for a few months on the breeding grounds. The resources that they find in the Azores could be the difference between survival or death. Having a baseline of information on the number of animals and areas that they are using will also be useful in detecting any early changes in prey abundance due to global warming. Sperm whale: Sperm whale photo-identification that has been ongoing since 1987 in the Azores, continued, with 19 identifiable individuals photographed from 41 encounters, including eleven animals seen in previous years. Matches now indicate that males migrate to Norway and that females spend their whole lives together and undertake at least a limited migration. In addition, sperm whale groups observed in the Azores are more stable and associations of individuals last for a much longer period of time than they do in the Pacific. This is most likely due to food availability in the different areas. Dolphins: Dolphin photo-identification, which began in 1987, continued. Two groups of bottlenose dolphin and two groups of Risso’s dolphin were photographed. Europhlukes: Europhlukes was a Europe-wide project that brought together different researchers from several countries to share data and photo-identification pictures of various species. Sperm whale fluke extractions were made from the photos taken during the expedition and compared with sperm whales sighted in previous years and in other areas of the Atlantic. No matches were found to any other regions. POPA: Data for the Institute of Marine Research/University of the Azores department, for the Azores Fisheries Observer Programme, POPA, was successfully collected for a fifteenth year. The expedition vessel “Physeter” is the only non-fishing vessel collaborating with the programme. Information was collected for random cetacean sightings along transects, as well as designated turtle and bird counts and marine debris sightings. Turtles: Loggerhead turtle data have been collected and animals tagged in the Azores since 1988 for a joint venture between the University of Florida and the University of the Azores. During this expedition 57 loggerhead turtles were seen; none were caught and tagged due to adverse conditions. Sumário A “Biosphere Expeditions 2018” concluiu com sucesso o seu décimo quarto ano de recolha de dados sobre a distribuição de cetáceos nos Açores, com recurso a observações visuais e foto-identificação. A cidade da Horta, na ilha do Faial, foi a base da expedição e o trabalho foi conduzido em redor das três ilhas do Faial, Pico e São Jorge. Esta expedição decorreu entre 9 de Março e 19 de Abril, e concentrou-se em seis projectos principais. Foram registados um total de 111 avistamentos de 8 espécies distintas de cetáceos e 1 espécie de tartaruga. Baleia-azul: A expedição registou 18 baleias-azuis em 18 encontros em 2018 e, desde 2004, contribuiu com 126 indivíduos para o catálogo do Atlântico Nordeste. Uma baleia avistada em 2018 já tinha sido observada em 2014. No Atlântico Norte, onde se estima viverem cerca de 2000 animais, é muito raro observarem-se reavistamentos entre os indivíduos dos catálogos da costa Este e os da costa Oeste, o que sugere existirem 2 populações distintas de baleias-azuis no Atlântico Norte. Uma delas parece viver entre o Sudoeste da Gronelândia e a costa da América do Norte, estando centrada nas águas do leste do Canadá. A outra população ocorre no estreito da Dinamarca, Islândia e “Jan Mayen, Spitzbergen”, e o Mar de Barents no verão, e a sul até à costa Noroeste de África no inverno. A taxa anual de 14% de reavistamentos de baleias-azuis do catálogo dos Açores sugere que, pelo menos alguns indivíduos, usam uma rota que cruza os Açores durante a sua migração. É importante obter informações sobre os movimentos, localização e zonas limite de ocorrência destes animais porque, ao contrário de outras baleias, as populações de baleia-azul não parecem estar a recuperar à mesma velocidade, o que faz com que a delimitação de áreas protegidas efectivas seja ainda mais importante (Richard Sears pers comm.). Baleias-comuns: A expedição registou 18 baleias-comuns em 17 encontros. Iniciou-se uma análise preliminar dos avistamentos e reavistamentos de baleias-comuns, com o propósito de enviar as identificações individuais para os catálogos em redor do Atlântico. Baleias-de-bossa: Em 2018, a expedição registou 5 baleias-de-bossa. O catálogo de baleias-de-bossa do Atlântico Norte está a aproximar-se de 9000 indivíduos e este desempenha um papel importante na detecção de reavistamentos de longo alcance. Desde 2004 que a expedição contribuiu com 21 fotografias identificativas. Neste ano, um dos indivíduos observados tinha sido fotografado anteriormente na Noruega. Os dados recolhidos durante esta expedição, juntamente com dados recolhidos por outros investigadores, sugerem que as baleias-de-bossa observadas nos Açores fazem parte da população ameaçada de Cabo Verde e não da população das Caraíbas. Estes reavistamentos são importantes, porque actualmente existe pouca informação sobre os movimentos das baleias-de-bossa na costa Este do Atlântico. Não foram observadas outras baleias de barbas em 2018. Os esforços desenvolvidos na conservação e investigação de baleias de barbas demonstram que os Açores poderão ser um ponto de paragem/abastecimento (entre as áreas de reprodução a sul e as áreas de alimentação a norte, como Noruega e Islândia) crucial para alguns animais migradores, que não tenham tido a oportunidade de se alimentarem nas áreas de reprodução, durante os últimos meses. Os recursos que eles encontram nos Açores podem significar a diferença entre sobrevivência ou morte. A recolha de informação base, sobre o número de animais e áreas que eles estão a usar, pode ser útil na detecção prévia de mudanças na disponibilidade de presas, devido a alterações climáticas. Cachalote: Desde 1987 que está em curso nos Açores um programa de foto-identificação de cachalotes, com 19 indivíduos identificados e fotografados em 41 encontros, incluindo reavistamentos de 11 animais observados em anos anteriores. Os reavistamentos detectados indicam que os machos migram para as águas da Noruega e as fêmeas passam a sua vida em grupos e efectuam migrações/movimentações mais limitadas. Para além disso, os grupos de cachalotes observados nos Açores são mais estáveis e as associações entre indivíduos permanecem por períodos mais longos do que as que ocorrem no Pacífico. Este facto deve-se, provavelmente, à diferença de disponibilidade de alimento entre ambas as áreas. Golfinhos: A foto-identificação de golfinhos, que iniciou em 1987, tem continuado. Até ao momento conhecem-se 2 grupos de roazes e 2 grupos de grampos. Europhlukes: Europhlukes foi um projecto Europeu que reuniu investigadores de diversos países para compartilhar dados de foto-identificação de várias espécies. As extracções das caudas dos cachalotes fotografados durante a expedição serão comparadas com fotografias obtidas em anos anteriores e noutras áreas do Atlântico. Até ao momento nenhum dos cachalotes fotografados nos Açores foi reavistado noutras áreas. POPA: Pelo décimo quinto ano foram recolhidos dados para o Programa de Observação das Pescas nos Açores (POPA) coordenado pelo Centro do Instituto do Mar da Universidade dos Açores. O “Physeter” é a única embarcação que não se dedica à pesca comercial e que contribui para o POPA. A informação foi recolhida aleatoriamente ao longo de transectos de observação de cetáceos. Foram também efectuadas contagens de tartarugas, aves marinhas e avistamentos de lixo marinho. Tartarugas: As tartarugas Caretta caretta são capturadas e marcadas nos Açores desde 1988, para um projecto conjunto entre a Universidade da Flórida e a Universidade dos Açores. Durante esta expedição, 57 tartarugas-boba foram avistadas, mas nenhuma foi capturada ou marcada.
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EXPEDITION REPORT
Expedition dates:
8 March
19 April 2018
Report published:
March
2019
Photo
identification and surveys of
cetaceans in the central group of the
Azores islands
© Craig Turner
1
© Biosphere Expeditions,
an international not
-
for
-
profit
cons
ervation
organisation registered in England, Germany, France, Australia and the USA
O
fficially accredited member of the United Nations Environment Programme's Governing Council & Global Ministerial Environment Forum
Officially accredited member of the Inte
rnational Union for the Conservation of Nature
EXPEDITION REPORT
Photo
identification and surveys of cetaceans in the
central group of the Azores
islands
Expedition dates:
8
March
19
April 2018
Report published:
March
2019
Authors:
Lisa Steiner
*
Whale Watch A
zores
Miguel Machete
Department of Oceanography and Fisheries of the University of the Azores /
IMAR
Sea Institute
Matthias Hammer (editor)
Biosphere Expeditions
*no part of this report to be published without the main author’s written permission
2
© Biosphere Expeditions,
an international not
-
for
-
profit
cons
ervation
organisation registered in England, Germany, France, Australia and the USA
O
fficially accredited member of the United Nations Environment Programme's Governing Council & Global Ministerial Environment Forum
Officially accredited member of the Inte
rnational Union for the Conservation of Nature
Abs
tract
In 2018 Biosphere Expeditions concluded its fourteenth successful year of cetacean photo
-
identification and distribution
studies in the Azores. The expedition was based in Horta on the island of Faial and work was conducted around the
three islands
of Faial, Pico and São
Jorge. The expedition ran from 8
March to 19 April and concentrated on six main
projects.
Sightings of all cetacean species were recorded. 111 sightings of eight different species of cetacean and one species of
turtle were recorded
during the expedition period.
Blue whale: The expedition encountered 18 blue whales in 18 encounters in 2018 and has contributed 126 individuals to
the East North Atlantic catalogue since 2004. One blue whale sighted in 2018 was seen previously in the Az
ores in 2014.
Within the North Atlantic, where an estimated 2,000
cetaceans
live, the rarity of matches between the East and West
North Atlantic catalogues suggest that there are two largely discrete populations in the North Atlantic. One population
appe
ars to live between West Greenland
s
outh
along the coast of North America, centred in Eastern Canadian waters.
The other extends from the Denmark Strait, Iceland and Jan Mayen, Spitzbergen, to the Barents Sea in the summer, and
south to the
N
orthwest
Afric
an coast in the winter. The 14% yearly re
-
sighting rate of blue whales from the Azores
catalogue suggests that at least some individuals use a route past the Azores on their migration. Elucidating such
movements and population locations and boundaries is i
mportant, because blue whale populations do not seem to be
recovering
their numbers
at the same rate as other whales, making route determination with a view to establishing
effective p
rotected areas doubly important.
Fin w
hale: The expedition saw 18 fin w
hales in 17 encounters. Preliminary matching of individuals has begun, with the
aim
to send individual identifications to catalogues around the Atlantic.
Humpback whale: The
expedition in 2018 encountered five humpback whales in three
encounters. The Nort
h Atlantic
Humpback Whale Catalogue is currently approaching 9,000 individuals and plays an important role in discovering long
-
range matches. Since 2004 the expedition has contributed 21 ID photos. This year, one of the whales seen was matched
to an animal
seen in Norway. Data collected during the expedition
,
as well as outside the expedition and by other
researchers, suggest that the humpbacks that are seen in the Azores are part of the endangered Cape Verde population,
rather than the Caribbean population
. Matching movements and populations is important, because little is known about
the movements of the
astern
Atlantic humpback whales.
No other baleen whales were observed in 2018.
The significance for whale conservation and research of these findings
is that the Azores may provide a crucial ‘pit stop’
(between breeding grounds further South, possibly Mauritania and feeding grounds in Norway or Iceland) for some of the
migrating animals that have not been feeding for a few months on the breeding ground
s. The resources that they find in
the Azores could be the difference between survival or death. Having a baseline of information on the number of animals
and areas that they are using
will
also be useful in detecting any early changes in prey abundance du
e to global
warming.
Sperm whale: Sperm whale photo
-
identification that has been ongoing since 1987 in the Azores, continued, with 19
identifiable individuals photographed from 41 encounters, including
eleven
animals seen in previous years. Matches now
in
dicate that males migrate to Norway and that females spend their whole lives together and undertake at least a limited
migration. In addition, sperm whale groups observed in the Azores are more stable and associations of individuals last
for a much longer
period of time than they do in the Pacific. This is most likely due to food availability in the different
areas.
Dolphins: Dolphin photo
-
identification, which began in 1987
,
continued. Two gr
oups of bottlenose dolphin and two
groups of Risso’s dolphin wer
e photographed.
Europhlukes: Europhlukes was a Europe
-
wide project that brought together different researchers from several countries
to share data and photo
-
identification pictures of various species. Sperm whale fluke extractions were made from the
pho
tos taken during the expedition and compared with sperm whales sighted in previous years and in other areas of the
Atlantic. No matches were found to any other regions.
POPA: Data for the Institute of Marine Research/University of the Azores department, f
or the Azores Fisheries Observer
Programme, POPA, was successfully collec
ted for a fif
teenth year. The expedition vessel “Physeter” is the only non
-
fishing vessel collaborating with the programme. Information was collected for random cetacean sightings alo
ng
transects, as well as designated turtle and bird counts and marine debris sightings.
Turtles: Loggerhead turtle data have been collected and animals tagged in the Azores since 1988 for a joint venture
between the University of Florida and the Universi
ty of the Azores. During this expedition 57 loggerhead turtles were
see
n; none were caught and tagged due to adverse conditions.
3
© Biosphere Expeditions,
an international not
-
for
-
profit
cons
ervation
organisation registered in England, Germany, France, Australia and the USA
O
fficially accredited member of the United Nations Environment Programme's Governing Council & Global Ministerial Environment Forum
Officially accredited member of the Inte
rnational Union for the Conservation of Nature
Sumário
A “Biosphere Expeditions 2018” concluiu com sucesso o seu décimo quarto ano de recolha de dados sobre a distribuição
de
cetáceos nos Açores, com recurso aobservações visuais e foto
-
identificação. A cidade da Horta, na ilha do Faial, foi a base da
expedição e o trabalho foi conduzido em redor das três ilhas do Faial, Pico e São Jorge. Esta expedição decorreu entre 9 de
M
arço e 19 de Abril, e concentrou
-
se em seis projectos principais.
Foram registados um total de 111 avistamentos de 8 espécies distintas de cetáceos e 1 espécie de tartaruga.
Baleia
-
azul: A expedição registou 18 baleias
-
azuis em 18 encontros em 2018 e, d
esde 2004, contribuiu com 126 indivíduos
para o catálogo do Atlântico Nordeste. U
ma baleia avistada em 2018 já tinha sido observada em 2014.
No Atlântico Norte, onde se estima viverem cerca de 2000 animais, é muito raro observarem
-
se reavistamentos entre
os
indivíduos dos catálogos da costa Este e os da costa Oeste, o que sugere existirem 2 populações distintas de baleias
-
azuis no
Atlântico Norte. Uma delas parece viver entre o Sudoeste da Gronelândia e a costa da América do Norte, estando centrada nas
ág
uas do leste do Canadá. A outra população ocorre no estreito da Dinamarca, Islândia e “Jan Mayen, Spitzbergen”, e o Mar
de Barents no verão, e a sul até à costa Noroeste de África no inverno. A taxa anual de 14% de reavistamentos de baleias
-
azuis do catálo
go dos Açores sugere que, pelo menos alguns indivíduos, usam uma rota que cruza os Açores durante a sua
migração. É importante obter informações sobre os movimentos, localização e zonas limite de ocorrência destes animais
porque, ao contrário de outras bal
eias, as populações de baleia
-
azul não parecem estar a recuperar à mesma velocidade, o
que faz com que a delimitação de áreas protegidas efectivas seja ainda mais importante (Richard Sears pers comm.).
Baleias
-
comuns: A expedição registou 18 baleias
-
comun
s em 17 encontros. Iniciou
-
se uma análise preliminar dos avistamentos
e reavistamentos de baleias
-
comuns, com o propósito de enviar as identificações individuais para os catálogos em redor do
Atlântico.
Baleias
-
de
-
bossa: Em 2018, a expedição registou 5 ba
leias
-
de
-
bossa. O catálogo de baleias
-
de
-
bossa do Atlântico Norte está
a aproximar
-
se de 9000 indivíduos e este desempenha um papel importante na detecção de reavistamentos de longo alcance.
Desde 2004 que a expedição contribuiu com 21 fotografias identifi
cativas.
Neste ano, um dos indivíduos observados tinha sido
fotografado anteriormente na Noruega. Os dados recolhidos durante esta expedição,
juntamente com dados recolhidos por
outros investigadores, sugerem que as baleias
-
de
-
bossa observadas nos Açores f
azem parte da população ameaçada de
Cabo Verde e não da população das Caraíbas. Estes reavistamentos são importantes, porque actualmente existe pouca
informação sobre os movimentos das baleias
-
de
-
bossa na costa Este do Atlântico.
Não foram observadas outr
as baleias de barbas em 2018.
Os esforços desenvolvidos na conservação e investigação de baleias de barbas demonstram que os Açores poderão ser um
ponto de paragem/abastecimento (entre as áreas de reprodução a sul e as áreas de alimentação a norte, como
Noruega e
Islândia) crucial para alguns animais migradores, que não tenham tido a oportunidade de se alimentarem nas áreas de
reprodução, durante os últimos meses. Os recursos que eles encontram nos Açores podem significar a diferença entre
sobrevivência o
u morte. A recolha de informação base, sobre o número de animais e áreas que eles estão a usar, pode ser útil
na detecção prévia de mudanças na disponibilidade de presas, devido a alterações climáticas.
Cachalote: Desde 1987 que está em curso nos Açores u
m programa de foto
-
identificação de cachalotes, com 19 indivíduos
identificados e fotografados em 41 encontros, incluindo reavistamentos de 11 animais observados em anos anteriores. Os
reavistamentos detectados indicam que os machos migram para as águas da
Noruega e as fêmeas passam a sua vida em
grupos e efectuam migrações/movimentações mais limitadas. Para além disso, os grupos de cachalotes observados nos
Açores são mais estáveis e as associações entre indivíduos permanecem por períodos mais longos do qu
e as que ocorrem no
Pacífico. Este facto deve
-
se, provavelmente, à diferença de disponibilidade de alimento entre ambas as áreas.
Golfinhos: A foto
-
identificação de golfinhos, que iniciou em 1987, tem continuado. Até ao momento conhecem
-
se 2 grupos de
roa
zes e 2 grupos de grampos.
Europhlukes: Europhlukes foi um projecto Europeu que reuniu investigadores de diversos países para compartilhar dados de
foto
-
identificação de várias espécies. As extracções das caudas dos cachalotes fotografados durante a expe
dição serão
comparadas com fotografias obtidas em anos anteriores e noutras áreas do Atlântico. Até ao momento nenhum dos cachalotes
fotografados nos Açores foi reavistado noutras áreas.
POPA: Pelo décimo quinto ano foram recolhidos dados para o Programa
de Observação das Pescas nos Açores (POPA)
coordenado pelo Centro do Instituto do Mar da Universidade dos Açores. O “Physeter” é a única embarcação que não se
dedica à pesca comercial e que contribui para o POPA. A informação foi recolhida aleatoriamente
ao longo de transectos de
observação de cetáceos. Foram também efectuadas contagens de tartarugas, aves marinhas e avistamentos de lixo marinho.
Tartarugas: As tartarugas
Caretta caretta
são capturadas e marcadas nos Açores desde 1988, para um projecto c
onjunto entre
a Universidade da Flórida e a Universidade dos Açores. Durante esta expedição, 57 tartarugas
-
boba foram avistadas, mas
nenhuma foi capturada ou marcada.
4
© Biosphere Expeditions,
an international not
-
for
-
profit
cons
ervation
organisation registered in England, Germany, France, Australia and the USA
O
fficially accredited member of the United Nations Environment Programme's Governing Council & Global Ministerial Environment Forum
Officially accredited member of the Inte
rnational Union for the Conservation of Nature
Contents
Abstract
2
Sumário
3
Contents
4
1. Expedition review
5
1.1. Backgrou
nd
5
1.2. Research area
6
1.3. Dates
6
1.4. Local conditions & support
7
1.5. Expedition scientist
7
1.6. Expedition leader
s
8
1.7. Expedition team
8
1.8. Partners
9
1.9
. Acknowledgements
9
1.10
. Further information & enquiries
9
1.11
.
Expedition budget
10
2. Whale & dolphin
study
11
2.1. Introduction
11
2.2. Methods
12
2.3. Results
15
2.4. Discussion & conclusions
30
2.5. Literature cited
41
3. Observer Programme for the Fisheries of the Azores (POPA)
42
3
.1. Introdu
ction
42
3
.2. Results
42
3
.3. Discussion
45
3
.4. Literature cited
45
Appendix I: Expedition diary & reports
46
5
© Biosphere Expeditions,
an international not
-
for
-
profit
cons
ervation
organisation registered in England, Germany, France, Australia and the USA
O
fficially accredited member of the United Nations Environment Programme's Governing Council & Global Ministerial Environment Forum
Officially accredited member of the Inte
rnational Union for the Conservation of Nature
Please note: Each expedition report is written as a stand
-
alone document that can be read
without having to refer back to previous
reports. As such, much of this section, which
remains valid and relevant, is a repetition from previous reports, copied here to provide the
reader with an uninterrupted flow of argument and rationale.
1. Expedition review
M. Hammer
(editor
)
Biosphere Ex
peditions
1.1. Background
Biosphere Expeditions runs wildlife conservation research expeditions to all corners of the
Earth. Our projects are not tours, photographic safaris or excursions, but genuine research
expeditions placing ordinary people with no
research experience alongside scientists who
are at the forefront of conservation work. Our expeditions are open to all and there are no
special skills (biological or otherwise) required to join. Our expedition team members are
people from all walks of li
fe, of all ages, looking for an adventure with a conscience and a
sense of purpose. More information about Biosphere Expeditions and its research
expeditions can be found a
t
www.biosphere
-
expeditions.org
.
This expedition report deals with an expedition to
the Azores
that ran from
8 March to 19
April 2018.
The expedition was part of a l
ong
-
term research project
to elucidate the life
histories and migration patterns of whales, dolphins and turtles across t
he oceans and
assist with the formulation of effective conservation strategies.
The Azores Archipelago, which sits near the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, about 1,400
kilometres off the coast of Portugal, is one of the prime whale and dolphin hotspots in t
he
world and around 30% of the world’s known cetacean species have been recorded there.
For management purposes the International Whaling Commission (IWC) has included the
Azores Archipelago in the East Greenland and Iceland stocks, but there is little evi
dence
to support this.
In 2004 the expedition initiated the first long
-
term concerted study on baleen whales in the
Azores. These animals in particular
had
not been studied around the Azores. Accurate
knowledge of the origins of the baleen whales passing
the archipelago on their migration
from March to May will help to determine which stocks they come from and assess more
accurately their true numbers (which are often inflated in efforts to set hunting quotas).
The expedition also continued
with
existing
sperm whale, bottlenose and Risso’s dolphin
studies. The sperm whale study is part of a larger migration and social study, and the
dolphin study is in the early stages of assessing animal numbers and migratory behaviour
around the archipelago. Loggerhead
turtles were also studied and tagged as part of an
international research project studying their life history and migration around the Atlantic.
6
© Biosphere Expeditions,
an international not
-
for
-
profit
cons
ervation
organisation registered in England, Germany, France, Australia and the USA
O
fficially accredited member of the United Nations Environment Programme's Governing Council & Global Ministerial Environment Forum
Officially accredited member of the Inte
rnational Union for the Conservation of Nature
1.2. Research area
The Azores Archipelago, Europe’s westernmost point, is a group of nine distinct islands,
l
ying on the same latitude as New York and Lisbon, around 1,400 kilometres off the coast
of Portugal (of which they are part). Lying on the Mid
-
Atlantic Ridge, the islands display
spectacular volcanic scenery, with large blue
-
green crater lakes, impressive
black lava sea
cliffs, and, towering above them all, the highest mountain in Portugal on Pico.
Figure 1.2a.
Map of the Azores.
An overview of Biosphere Expeditions’ research sites, assembly points,
base camp and office locations is at
Google Maps
.
The Azores were discovered in 1427 by Portuguese explorers and colonised shortly aft
er
by people of mainly Portuguese and Flemish descent. During the 20th century the islands
were an important stopover point for undersea communications cables, transatlantic flights
and yachtsmen. The islands’ main income is from agriculture and fishing; t
ourism has all
but passed by the islands.
1.3. Dates
The expedition ran over
four
ten
-
day groups.
8
-
17 March | 19
-
28 March | 30 March
-
8 April | 10
-
19 April
2018
Team members
could
join for multiple slots (within the periods specified). Dates
w
ere
chosen to coincide with the migration of baleen whales past the archipelago.
7
© Biosphere Expeditions,
an international not
-
for
-
profit
cons
ervation
organisation registered in England, Germany, France, Australia and the USA
O
fficially accredited member of the United Nations Environment Programme's Governing Council & Global Ministerial Environment Forum
Officially accredited member of the Inte
rnational Union for the Conservation of Nature
1.4. Local conditions & support
Expedition base
The expedition team
was
based on the island of Faial
,
near the harbour in a guesth
ouse
consisting of modern twin
and double
rooms. Dinner
was
eaten at local bistros/restaurants
or the expedition base
, a
breakfast
buffet was served by participants on
a rota
and each
participant prepared a lunch pack from the buffet.
Vegetarians and some special diets
were
catered for
. Accommodat
ion was on a twin
-
share basis.
Weather
The climate is mild maritime Mediterranean with
daytime
temperatures during the
expedition months from
10° to 24
°C. Extremes are usually buffered by the Gulf Stream
passing by, but it
could
get quite cold, especiall
y on the boat, with the wind chill factor.
Field communications
The boat carried
two radios for communication with other boats. M
obile phones did
work
on the island and within a few kilometres out at sea.
There was
also
(limited)
wireless
internet access
at base
via a public server
.
The expedition leader posted a
diary with
multimedia content on Wordpress
an
d
excerpts of this were mirrored
o
n
Biosphere
Expeditions’ social media sites
.
Transport, vehicles & research vessel
Team members made their own way to the Horta assembly point. From there onwards and
back to the assembly point all transport, vehicles and boats were provided fo
r the
expedition team
for expedition
support and emergency evacuations.
Our research vessel, the
Physeter
(after the Latin name for sperm whale), was a modern
offshore motor catamaran with large fore and aft decks and equipped with life raft,
lifejackets,
emergency beacon, two radios, radar, fish finder and other safety features.
Medical support & insurance
The expedition leader was a trained first aider, and the expedition carried a
comprehensive medical kit. The standard of medical care in the Azores
is high and further
medical support was available at a hospital in town. All team members were required to
carry adequate travel insurance covering
emergency medical evacuation and repatriation.
Emergency procedures were in place, but did not have to be in
voked as there were no
medical or other emergencies.
1.5. Expedition scientist
Biosphere Expeditions
works on this project with
Lisa Steiner of Whale Watch Azores
.
Lisa
graduated in Marine Science in 1988 at the University of Miami and joined the IFAW
(I
nternational Fund for Animal Welfare) cetacean research vessel “Song of the Whale” two
weeks later, which at the time was based in the Azores. Since then Lisa has spent all her
summers working on cetaceans around the Azores and at other times has also stud
ied
them in Alabama, Hawaii, Cape Verdes, Bermuda, Scotland and Madeira. She has
published numerous research papers on cetaceans.
8
© Biosphere Expeditions,
an international not
-
for
-
profit
cons
ervation
organisation registered in England, Germany, France, Australia and the USA
O
fficially accredited member of the United Nations Environment Programme's Governing Council & Global Ministerial Environment Forum
Officially accredited member of the Inte
rnational Union for the Conservation of Nature
1.6. Expedition leader
s
Catherine Edsell
led the first group. Catherine
was born in the UK into a family of
mountaineers, ski
ers and adventurers. With wanderlust in her blood she left England in
1997 and set off to the jungles of Central America and Indonesia, lived in the Himalaya
s
with locals, trekked through the Namib desert in search of elusive elephants and dived the
oceans
surveying coral reefs. Her passion for conservation grew as she sought out and
trained with expedition organisations that echoed her ecological beliefs, and for seven
years straight, her feet barely touched British soil as she lived the expedition life in
all
manner of terrains. In 2014 Catherine was awarded a fellowship of the Royal
Geographical Society for her continued contribution to conservation through expedition
work. She is also a mountain leader, PADI Divemaster, coral reef ecologist and Reef
Chec
k trainer, and has led
expeditions
in the Azores, the Maldives and Musandam for
Biosphere Expeditions. When not on expedition, Catherine teaches yoga, rock
-
climbs and
dabbles in the flying trapeze.
Craig Turner
led the other three groups. Craig
was born i
n Oxford, England. He studied
biology, ecology and environmental management at Southampton, Aberdeen and London
universities. Soon after graduating from his first degree, he left the UK for expedition life in
Tanzania. Since then, he has continued to combi
ne his interest in travel and passion for
conservation, working with a wide range of organisations on projects and expedition sites
in the Americas, Africa, Asia and the Pacific. He has managed expedition programmes for
the Zoological Society of London, an
d is a frequent contributor to the ‘Explore’ conference
held by the Royal Geographical Society (RGS). He is a Fellow of the RGS and the
Linnean Society. Having visited and/or worked in more countries than years have passed,
he now runs a small environmenta
l consultancy with his partner, based in Scotland, where
he splits his wildlife interests and work between the UK and overseas. He also crews for
the RNLI and is casualty care trained. He is ever keen to share his exploits, writing for
several magazines, a
nd is a published photographer.
1.7. Expedition team
The expedition team was recruited by Biosphere Expeditions and consisted of a mixture of
all ages, nationalities and backgrounds. They were (with country of residence):
8
17 March 2018
Rebecca Band
(UK, press), Jasmin Benz (Germany), Donna Hensel (USA), Georg Keller
(Switzerland), Anke Moellenkamp (Germany), Carla Olvido van Barneveld Pérez
*
(Spain,
placement), Petra Paul (Germany, press), Silvia Pisci (Italy, press).
19
28 March 2018
Cecilia Ce
cchi (Italy), Corinna Bischoff (Germany), Astrid Därr (Germany, press), Lara
Marowsky (Germany), Silke Mohl (Germany), Katharina Sollinger (Germany), Veronika
Sollinger (Germany), Andrea Wieland (Germany), Thomas Wieland
(Germany),
Andreas
Zemann (Germany)
.
9
© Biosphere Expeditions,
an international not
-
for
-
profit
cons
ervation
organisation registered in England, Germany, France, Australia and the USA
O
fficially accredited member of the United Nations Environment Programme's Governing Council & Global Ministerial Environment Forum
Officially accredited member of the Inte
rnational Union for the Conservation of Nature
30 March
8 April 2019
Mariluz Coello (Ireland), Carsten Hauck (Germany),
Thomas Klaus (Germany), Michael
Lindemann (Germany),
Sabine Nerge (Germany),
Stephan Nerge (Germany), Hanna
-
Ma
ri
Pekkarinen Rieppo (Sweden),
Sofia Refsnes (Sweden), Claire Wall
ace (UK), Philip
Wallace (UK).
10
19 April 2019
Jenan Anwar Alasfoor (Oman), Julia Balasch (Austria), An Bollen (Belgium, assistant
expedition leader),
Winfried Diehm (Germany),
Annabel Marriott (UK), Christine Marshall
(UK), Aurelia Perrio (UK
), Amy D
anute Perrio (UK), Anne
Schroedter (Germany), Siân
Smith (UK).
*
P
lacement kindly supported by the
Friends of Biosphere Expeditions
and a GlobalGiving
crowdfunding campaign
.
The
Biosphere Expeditions placement programme
seeks to
indentify, train and encourage the next generation of local conservationists.
1.8.
P
artners
Our main partner on this project is Whale Watch Azores, a whal
e watching and research
group founded by our local scientists and operating from Faial Island. Other partners
include Europhlukes (a European cetacean photo
-
ID system and research database), the
University of the Azores, POPA (the Observer Programme for th
e Fisheries of the Azores),
the University of Florida (for research into turtles)
,
as well as the local community of whale
spotters (vigias).
1.
9
. Acknowledgements
This study was conducted by Biosphere Expeditions which runs wildlife conservation
expedi
tions all over the globe. Without our expedition team members (listed above) who
provided an expedition contribution and gave up their spare time to work as research
assistants, none of this research would have been possible. The support team and staff
(al
so mentioned above) were central to making it all work on the ground. Thank you to all
of you and the ones we have not managed to mention by name (you know who you are)
for making it all happen. Biosphere Expeditions would also like to thank the Friends of
Biosphere Expeditions for their sponsorship and/or in
-
kind support.
We would also like to thank our partners Europhlukes, the University of the Azores, POPA,
the University of Florida, and the local community of whale spotters (
vigias). A final thanks
go
es to
skipper
s Gyro &
Nuno
, as well as James Rosa and
Claudia Steube
, our
excellent
hosts at Banana Manor
.
1.1
0
. Further
i
nformation &
e
nquiries
More background information on Biosphere Expeditions in general and on this expedition
in particular includi
ng pictures, diary excerpts and a copy of this report can be found on the
Biosphere Expeditions website
www.biosphere
-
expeditions.org
.
Enquires should be addressed to Biosphere Expeditions at
info@biosphere
-
expeditions.org
.
10
© Biosphere Expeditions,
an international not
-
for
-
profit
cons
ervation
organisation registered in England, Germany, France, Australia and the USA
O
fficially accredited member of the United Nations Environment Programme's Governing Council & Global Ministerial Environment Forum
Officially accredited member of the Inte
rnational Union for the Conservation of Nature
1.11
. Expedition
b
udget
Each team member paid towards expedition costs
a
contribution of
1,74
0 per
person per
10
-
day slot. The contribution covered accommodation and meals, supe
rvision and
induction, special non
-
personal equipment,
and
all transport from and to the team
assembly point. It did not cover excess luggage charges, travel insurance, personal
expenses such as telephone bills, souvenirs etc.,
or
visa and other travel exp
enses to and
from the assembly point (e.g. international flights). Details on how this contribution was
spent are given below.
Income
Expedition contributions
55,525
Expenditure
Base camp and food
includes all board & lodging, base camp equipment
11,572
Research vessel & transport
includes fuel, oils, wear & tear for research vessel, taxis on land
8,062
Equipment and hardwa
re
includes research materials & gear, etc.
635
Staff
includes local and Biosphere Expeditions staff & expenses
11,964
Administration
includes registration fees, sundries, etc.
488
Team recruitment Azores
as estimated % of PR costs for Biosphere Expedi
tions
8,676
Income
Expenditure
13,855
Total percentage spent directly on project
75
%
11
© Biosphere Expeditions,
an international not
-
for
-
profit
cons
ervation
organisation registered in England, Germany, France, Australia and the USA
O
fficially accredited member of the United Nations Environment Programme's Governing Council & Global Ministerial Environment Forum
Officially accredited member of the Inte
rnational Union for the Conservation of Nature
P
lease note: Each expedition report is written as a stand
-
alone document that can be read
without having to refer back to previous reports. As such, much of
this section, which
remains valid and relevant, is a repetition from previous reports, copied here to provide the
reader with an uninterrupted flow of argument and rationale.
2. Whale & dolphin study
Lisa Steiner*
Whale Watch Azores
*no part of this re
port to be published without the main author’s written permission
2.1
.
Introduction
The
Azores is a group of nine
islands located about 900
nautical miles
off the coast of
Portugal
.
2
8
species of cetacean have been seen
around
the islands over the last
3
0
years. Sperm whales were commercially hunted
t
here until 1985. With the cessation of
whaling, whale watching was a natural successor, but did not begin
in earnest until the late
1990
s. Little
research
has been done around the a
rchipelago
earlier in the y
ear than
June,
which is why the expedition
usually
takes place in April and May.
In 2018, the expedition
started earlier than before, in March, to try and take advantage of some of the early
migrating whales.
Baleen whales have been seen fairly regularly
migrating past the islands
from March to
June
over the last several years
, but it is unknown where they have come from or where
they are migrating
to
. It is thought that they
are
travelling north to feed in the waters
around Iceland, Greenland, Norway or e
ven Nova Scotia for the summer. Photo
-
identification of the animals passing the Azores enables us to match photos with photos
taken elsewhere to hopefully determin
e
some of these migration routes.
So far, there have
been several matches between blue whales
to other areas: several of the animals sighted
in Spitzbergen, Norway have also been seen in the Azores. There are two matches
between the Azores and Iceland and probably the most interesting match to date is from
2014: a blue whale that had been seen in
the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Canada in 1984 was
seen off the South coast of Pico, 30 years later! There are now additional matches of blue
whales to Northern Spain and Ireland. In addition several blue whales have now been
seen in multiple years in the Azores
. Twelve humpback whales have been observed in
both the Azores and the Cape Verde Islands and
t
en have also been re
-
sighted in Norway.
Two individuals have been seen in all
three
places. A new match of a humpback has also
been made to Newfoundland! There a
re still no matches to the Caribbean.
Although sperm whales were caught in the Azores all year round, it has been thought that
there are not many female sperm whales and calves around during the winter months.
Working
earlier in the year, March and
April
,
has given us the opportunity to see that
females and calves are present at this time of year
as well as
in
the summer months
. In
the
future, we would like to expand the effort to include the winter months to see if some
females
and calves are present in t
he a
rchipelago all year round.
Photo
-
identification of sperm whales began in the Azores in 1987 and
over 3000
individuals have been identified since then. The Europhlukes
matching program makes
matching individuals much faster than it was manually.
12
© Biosphere Expeditions,
an international not
-
for
-
profit
cons
ervation
organisation registered in England, Germany, France, Australia and the USA
O
fficially accredited member of the United Nations Environment Programme's Governing Council & Global Ministerial Environment Forum
Officially accredited member of the Inte
rnational Union for the Conservation of Nature
So
me bottlenose and Risso’s dolphin are resident in the islands year round. By
photographing individuals we can start to see patterns of habitat use by different groups of
dolphin at differe
nt times of year and compare
ID
photos to existing catalogues to
det
ermine what home ranges might exist for these resident individuals. This requires a lot
of time spent matching
ID
photos on the computer to identify individuals and their groups.
Most of this work will be done in the future by MSc or PhD students.
2.2. Me
thods
Physeter (Latin for sperm whale), a 12
m motor catamaran, was used to go to sea on days
when weather conditions permitted
this
. Vigias, local lookouts, were located on the cliffs
about 150
m above sea level. They would begin to look for whales at
ar
ound 0
7:30 to be
able to direct the boat on departure at
0
9
:00
. If the lookouts did not sight any whales, the
boat was equipped with a towed hydrophone to locate sperm whales acoustically. The
boat also had up to
four
additional lookouts onboard,
three
on
the bow and
one
in the
stern searching for cetaceans. Two expedition members were
usually
dedicated to filling in
POPA forms (transects and bird
,
turtle and
trash
surveys)
(
Figure
2.2a)
. Other crew were
on camera duty
(
Figure
2.2b)
,
completing
data sheets,
hydrophone monitoring
(
Figure
2.2c)
, filling in the log or collecting water temperatures when required
. On occasion crew
members may have had to do more than one job.
Figure
2.2a.
POPA sheet duty.
Figure
2.2
b
.
Camera duty.
13
© Biosphere Expeditions,
an international not
-
for
-
profit
cons
ervation
organisation registered in England, Germany, France, Australia and the USA
O
fficially accredited member of the United Nations Environment Programme's Governing Council & Global Ministerial Environment Forum
Officially accredited member of the Inte
rnational Union for the Conservation of Nature
Fig
ure
2.2
c.
H
ydrophone deployment and listening.
Sperm whales were approached from behind in order to obtain fluke photographs.
The
baleen
whales were also approached from behind but moving further forward to obtain
photographs of dorsal fins
as well as ch
evron (fin whale) and mottling (blue whale)
patterns
.
Bottlenose and Risso’s dolphin
were
approached alongside
in order to obtain
dorsal fin photographs for identification of individuals. Two cameras were used to obtain
the
ID
photographs: a Canon
7
D
MK II
with a
Canon 100
-
400
mm
lens and a Nikon F70
with a 70
300
mm lens.
Other dolphin sighted would be approached for species identification and then the boat
would usually move on to look for other animals if they were not one of the main target
species.
Data collected for non
-
sperm whale sightings included: start and end time of the
encounter, position of the sighting as well as number of animals, presence or absence of
calve
s and general behavioural state (
milling, f
eeding, bowriding or travelling)
.
On
ly
four
categories of behaviours were differentiated because generally not enough time
was spent with the an
imals to break them down further.
If the animals were travelling, a
direction of travel was noted. In addition, environmental information was also r
ecorded,
including: water temperature, wind speed and direction, sea state (Beaufort scale), and
visibility. The number and behaviour of birds associating with the dolphins or whales was
also recorded as was the presence of other wh
ale watching vessels.
Data collected for sperm whale sightings incl
uded: date, start and end time,
number of
whales, number of calves (the calves also count in the whale column),
if the calf was
suckling,
whale sex (ascertained by a
visible callous
:
a growth on the top of the d
orsal fin
which indicates the whale is female)
, posit
ion, fluke heading, defecation
and the presence
of other whale watching
boats
.
14
© Biosphere Expeditions,
an international not
-
for
-
profit
cons
ervation
organisation registered in England, Germany, France, Australia and the USA
O
fficially accredited member of the United Nations Environment Programme's Governing Council & Global Ministerial Environment Forum
Officially accredited member of the Inte
rnational Union for the Conservation of Nature
When
loggerhead turtles were sighted their position was recorded on the POPA forms
.
If
the animal was caught, then it wou
ld be measured and tagged
f
or the University of
Florida/University of the Azores turtle tagging programme, as well as positional data being
recorded
.
When the boat returned to port, there was a debrief on board to show where the boat had
been during the d
ay (Fig
ure
2.2d) and sperm whale photos could be
later
matched to the
catalogue (Fig
ure
2.2e).
Figure
2.2
d.
Daily d
ebrief
.
Figure
2.2
e.
Matching flukes & fins.
Results were analysed using EXCEL data analysis tools: summary statistics to obtain
average
group sizes and ranges
.
15
© Biosphere Expeditions,
an international not
-
for
-
profit
cons
ervation
organisation registered in England, Germany, France, Australia and the USA
O
fficially accredited member of the United Nations Environment Programme's Governing Council & Global Ministerial Environment Forum
Officially accredited member of the Inte
rnational Union for the Conservation of Nature
2.3. Results
2.3.1. Effort
Physeter normally
left
the harbour around
09:00
and return
ed
around
16:00
,
weather
permitting. The boat went to sea
22
days during the expedition and spent between
1.75
and
8.25
h
ours (hr)
per
day on the water, with an average
of 5.5 hr. A total of 120.5 hr
with
sea cond
itions
below
sea state 5 were recorded
.
In 2018, this included
18.5
hr with a sea
state of 4, only a fraction
below
sea state 5.
A comparison of the yearly effort
since 2004 is
presented in Fig
ure
2
.3a (next page)
.
It should be noted that prior to 2009
,
expedition slots
were 13 days and have since been reduced to 10 days
in order to make the expedition
accessible to a wider audience
. Also note that in 2009, 2011, 2013 and 2015 th
ere were
no
groups
in May. There was no expedition in 2017 and in 2018 the expedition began in
March for the first time with no
groups
in May.
2.3.2. Encounters
During the expedition
70
groups of non
-
sperm whales and
41
sperm whale
groups were
encountere
d (Table 2.3a.
).
Table 2.3a.
Species encountered
(number of encounters)
.
COMMON DOLPHIN,
Delphinus delphis
2
6
BOTTLENOSE DOLPHIN,
Tursiops truncatus
2
RISSO’S DOLPHIN,
Grampus griseus
2
STRIPED DOLPHIN,
Stenella coeruleoalba
2
BLUE WHALE,
Ba
laenoptera musculus
18
FIN WHALE,
Balaenoptera physalus
17
HUMPBACK WHALE,
Megaptera novaeangliae
3
SPERM
WHALE
,
Physeter macrocehpalus
41
These encounters resulted in a relative sightings frequency as shown in
Figure
2.
3
b
.
Sperm whales were the spec
ies encountered most
at 37%,
followed by
common dolphin
(23
%
) followed by blue whales (16
%
) and fin whales (15
%
). These four species accounted
for over 90% of all sightings.
16
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an international not
-
for
-
profit
cons
ervation
organisation registered in England, Germany, France, Australia and the USA
O
fficially accredited member of the United Nations Environment Programme's Governing Council & Global Ministerial Environment Forum
Officially accredited member of the Inte
rnational Union for the Conservation of Nature
Figure
2.3a.
Yearly e
ffort
(in sea time hours)
.
17
© Biosphere Expeditions,
an international not
-
for
-
profit
cons
ervation
organisation registered in England, Germany, France, Australia and the USA
O
fficially accredited member of the United Nations Environment Programme's Governing Council & Global Ministerial Environment Forum
Officially accredited member of the Inte
rnational Union for the Conservation of Nature
Figure
2.3b.
Species sightings frequency.
18
© Biosphere Expeditions,
an international not
-
for
-
profit
cons
ervation
organisation registered in England, Germany, France, Australia and the USA
O
fficially accredited member of the United Nations Environment Programme's Governing Council & Global Ministerial Environment Forum
Officially accredited member of the Inte
rnational Union for the Conservation of Nature
2.3.3.
Species sightings
Common d
olphin
This species was encountered
26
times
. The group size ranged from 2
-
80
and the
av
erage group s
ize was 27 (
Figure
. 2.3c
). This group size is
consistent with
the average
group size
from
existing data f
or
June
-
September
. Calves were first observed on 22 March
2018
and seen
eight
times in total during the expedition.
There was a significant difference
in group size when calves were seen in the group: an average of 53 versus 15 when no
calves were present in the group (t
-
test t<.05)
.
This is what is generally thought, that
calves are present in larger groups, which provide more protection for the youngst
ers.
Figure
2.3c.
Common dolphin
relative
group size.
The most common behaviour observed by common dolphin was
bowriding
,
followed
by
milling then travelling
. They w
ere seen feeding on four
occasions (Fig
ure
2.3d
).
Figure
2.3d.
Common dolphin behaviour.
19
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an international not
-
for
-
profit
cons
ervation
organisation registered in England, Germany, France, Australia and the USA
O
fficially accredited member of the United Nations Environment Programme's Governing Council & Global Ministerial Environment Forum
Officially accredited member of the Inte
rnational Union for the Conservation of Nature
Bottlenose d
olphin
This species was observed
twice
in March
. The group size
s were 30 and 150.
C
alves
were seen
on both occasions.
The
dolphins were
milling during both encounters and bowrid
ing occurred with the larger
group, which appeared to be socialising with quite a few leaps seen during the encounter.
Photo identification pictures were taken
during the encounters and some of the resident
animals were seen (
Figure
2.3e)
.
P
hotos will be
analysed in more detail at a later date
.
Figure
2.3
e
.
Bottlenose dolphin photo ID
.
Risso’s d
olphin
Two small groups of Risso’s do
lphins were seen, one group of three and another of four
.
The group of four
comprised two mother/
calf pai
rs. Photographs were taken of dorsal fins
of both groups (
Figure
2.3f). One individual “Resa”
,
seen in both groups, has been
encountered since 2006 and now has her third
calf (Karin Hartman pers. comm.).
Figure
2.3
f
.
Ris
so’s dolphin dorsal fin photo
ID (
more below
).
20
© Biosphere Expeditions,
an international not
-
for
-
profit
cons
ervation
organisation registered in England, Germany, France, Australia and the USA
O
fficially accredited member of the United Nations Environment Programme's Governing Council & Global Ministerial Environment Forum
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rnational Union for the Conservation of Nature
Figure
2.3
f
.
Ris
so’s dolphin dorsal fin photo
ID
(continued)
.
Striped d
olphin
Striped dolphins were also seen twice
: o
ne group of five
including a couple of calves and
another group of 30. The small group was milling, while the l
arger group was travelling.
Striped dolphins do not bowride often in the Azores.
Blue whale
Blue whales were observed on 18 occasions, all single individuals. During most of the
encounters the animals
were milling (13)
,
in the other five
sightings, they
were travelling.
No surface feeding was observed, but the animals may have been feeding at depth while
milling. Several individuals showed the
ir
fluke when diving.
Identification photos
of
mottling patterns around the blowhole or dorsal fin as well as
the
occasional fluke (
Figure
2.3g) were taken of all the animals and sent to Richard Sears for
matching to the Atlantic catalogue. A blue whale seen in April had previously been seen in
the Azores in 2014. There were no long distance matches to blue whales se
en during the
expedition.
Figure
2.3
g
.
Blue whale photo ID (
more below
)
.
21
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-
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ervation
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fficially accredited member of the United Nations Environment Programme's Governing Council & Global Ministerial Environment Forum
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rnational Union for the Conservation of Nature
Figure
2.3
g
.
Blue whale
photo ID
(continued)
.
22
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-
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ervation
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Fi
n whale
Fin whales were seen 17 times during the expedition
: o
ne pair of whales and the rest
single individuals. Th
e behaviour of the animals was split fairly evenly between travelling
and milling. There was one recorded instance of feeding, although they may have been
feeding at depth while milling during other encounters.
Photo identification pictures of the chevro
ns and dorsal fins were obtained (Fig
ure
2.3h)
and these photos were sent to the College of the Atlantic for matching to their Atlantic
catalogue. No matches
have been
found so far.
Figure
2.3
h
.
Fin whale
photo
ID.
23
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-
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Humpback whale
Humpback w
hales were recorded
three
times during the expedition
: o
ne group of
three
individuals and two
other single individuals. I
D
photos were taken of the flukes and sent to
the North Atlantic Humpback Whale Catalogue. Three different individuals were identified
with fluke photos over the expedition. One of the whales seen on the 22 March
2018
was
seen in Northern Norway in 2014, 2015 and close to Russia in 2016 (
Figure
2.3i).
Fig
ure
2.3
i
.
Humpback whale
photo
ID
.
24
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-
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fficially accredited member of the United Nations Environment Programme's Governing Council & Global Ministerial Environment Forum
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Sperm whale
Sperm whales
were
one of t
he
main
target species of the expedition. They were
encountered
41
times
, comprising 72 animals (not all different individuals)
. The average
group size was
1.75
, ranging from
1
4
, which is similar to that encountered during other
parts of the summer.
Two
different large males were seen and females with c
alves
were
observed 15
times
.
Photographs were taken of all whales
that
fluked up. Individuals can
be recognised by the nicks and scallops formed on the trailing edge of the tail due mainly
to wear and tea
r as the flukes beat through the water
(
Figure
2.3j)
.
19
individuals were
identified
in total.
Eight
new animals and
eleven
re
-
sighted from previous years were seen.
Figure 2.3
j
.
Sperm whale
photo ID
.
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-
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Miscellaneous sightings
Loggerhead
turtles were observed 57 times during the expedition, none were caught for
tagging (
Figure
2.3k). These turtles feed mainly on jellyfish.
Figure
2.3
k
.
Loggerhead turtle
.
Sighting
location
s during the expedition
Fig
ure
s 2.3l
-
o
show locations of speci
es sightings in relation to the islands of Pico, Faial
and S
ã
o Miguel, and over the
four
expedition
groups
.
26
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-
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rnational Union for the Conservation of Nature
Figure 2.3
l
.
Sightings during
group 1 (
8
-
17
March 2018).
27
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-
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Figure 2.
3m
.
Sightings during
group 2 (19
-
28 March 2018).
28
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-
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Figure 2.
3n
.
Sig
htings during
group
3 (30 March
8 April 2018).
29
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-
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Figure 2.3o.
Sightings during group
4
(10
19
April 2018).
30
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-
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2.4. Discussion & c
onclusions
March,
April
and May
are
a productive time in the Azores
, often with large patches of krill
sighted.
Biosphere E
xpeditions
continues to play
an important role in collecting vital
information at a time of year when little or no
research
work has been done
before
Biosphere Expeditions arrived
. Many species of c
etacean can be observed in the
a
rchipelago. In fact, the v
ariety of cetaceans is
usually
greater at this time of year than any
other time of the summer.
S
ightings of baleen whales are unpredictable,
but
the use of
lookouts
(vigias)
on the cliffs greatly enhances the chance of sighting them.
The weather in 2018 w
as not favourable for our surveys. While we did manage to get out
to sea
for
over 120 hours, we were often limited where we could be working and also
working in difficult conditions. When the sea state is over 3, it becomes very di
fficult to
spot dolphins,
which
account
s for a lack of sightings in this category.
Group
1 was
adversely
affected by the weather
for most of the time
, affecting the number
of sightings. We did hear sper
m whales on the hydrophone on two
different days, but were
unable to locate th
em in the time available.
Blue whales
The expedition encountered 18 blue whales in 18 encounters in 2018 and has contributed
126 individuals to the East North Atlantic catalogue since 2004. One of the individuals
identified had been seen previously in th
e Azores in 2014. No matches were found to
other areas of the North Atlantic.
The Azores blue whale catalogue now contains
roughly 450
individuals
(
not all the
author’s photos)
, making up the majority of the North East Atlantic Blue Whale Catalogue
(
700
)
out of an estimated 2,000 animals in the North Atlantic.
Within the North Atlantic, t
he
rarity
of matches
(only two to date)
between the East and
West North Atlantic catalogues, suggest that there are two largely discrete populations in
the North Atlanti
c. One population
appears to live between
West Greenland
s
outh
along
the coast of North America, centred in Eastern Canadian waters
. T
he other extends from
the Denmark Strait, Iceland and Jan Mayen, Spitzbergen, to the Barents Sea in the
summer,
and s
outh
to the
N
orthwest
African
coast in the winter (
Figure
2.4a
).
This is also
supported by the genetic structure of blue whales across the Atlantic
(
Oosting et al
.
2014
in Sears et al
. 2015).
Tags put on blue
(
and fin
)
whales by the University of the Azores
sho
w northerly movement
of blue whales
from the Azores
(
Figure
2.4b), corroborating
evidence for
blue whale northward routes from the Azores that stay within the East North
Atlantic population/catalogue.
One of the trans
-
Atlantic matches occurred in 2014. A
fter the expedition, a blue whale was
seen on the south coast of Pico that had previously been seen in the Gulf of St. Lawrence,
Canada in 1984, 30 years
previously
. Its whereabouts over the last 30 years remain a
mystery, demonstrating
(1) that there may
be limited mixing between
East and West North
Atlantic
populations/catalogues, and (2)
the need for continuous photo ID collection
to
elucidate whale movements and population boundaries.
Elucidating such movements and
population locations and boundaries is
important, because blue whale populations do not
seem to be recovering
from population crashes
at the same rate as other whales, making
route determination with a view to establishing effective protected areas doubly important.
31
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Figure 2.4a.
Blue whale
movements in the North Atlantic (from Sears et al. 2015). Matches discussed above in turquoise.
32
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-
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Figure 2.4b.
Movement of
blue and fin
whales
tagged in the Azores (Silva et al. 2013).
33
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-
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Further evidence of a distinct East North Atlantic blue whale population
comes from
other
long distance matches from the Azores
:
two to Iceland and five to Spitzbergen (although
not
all
the auth
or’s photos)
(Richard Sears, pers comm.)
.
In addition,
in 2016 a
blue
whale
was seen in the Bay of Biscay
(Northern Spain)
that had been previously seen in the
Azores
earlier in 2016
(
Richard Sears pers comm.)
.
There is also a match from the Azores
to Irel
and.
There are also inter
-
island Azores photos,
Sao Miguel
Faial/Pico,
as well as
the matches between years. There is a 14% yearly re
-
sighting rate of blue whales from the
Azores catalogue
(
Richard Sears, pers comm.)
, indicating that at least some indivi
duals
use the same route
, past the Azores,
on their migration.
Some individuals spend up to two
weeks in the area, feeding, before moving northwards. The amount of time whales spend
“snacking” depends on the abundance of “snacks”. If there are no krill pre
sent, then the
animals just pass through. When krill is abundant, they stop off to feed for a while. If the
krill is present offshore, there are fewer sightings of animals close to the coast, where we
can observe them.
Fin w
hales
Fin whales were encounte
red 17 times in 2018. 16 individuals and one pair of whales
were
recorded. These whales
were
on their northward migration; exactly where they end up is
still a mystery. During the e
xpedition, some initial photo ID
matching began with photos
taken previousl
y in the Azores and
photos of
the individuals will be forwarded to a few
interested groups in the US and Canada to see if matches can be made
,
as well as the
College of the Atlantic, which currently overseas the humpback whale catalogue. Hopefully
some mat
ches will be found. As far as we know, from tags placed on fin whales by the
University of the Azores (
Figure
2.4b), their general movement is northwards, but the tags
stopped working or
fell
off, before the
whales
reach
ed
the main feeding grounds
.
Knowl
edge of fin whale movements and identification is i
mportant, because in the last two
years,
one
Iceland
-
based company
has begun hunting fin whales in order to export the
meat to Japan. So it is possible that animals from the Azores migrating to Iceland
may
face an extra threat i
n one of their possible feeding grounds.
Humpback whales
The
expedition in 2018 encountered five
humpback whales. In wider research, outside the
expedition, on this species, t
here have been several humpback whales sighted in the
Az
ores that have also been seen in the Cape Verde Islands (Wenzel et al. 2009).
One
humpback whale sighted during the expedition matched to a whale previously seen in
Northern Norway (
in
2014/2015) and close to the Russian border (2016).
There has been
a new
match found from the Azores (not the author’s photo) to Newfoundland, which is the
first trans
-
Atlantic match. So
it may just be a matter of time
before a match is found to the
Caribbean population as well. Two animals tagged in Norway
a few years ago
cam
e close
to Faial on their way to the Caribbean, just not close enough to be identified. A new match
has also been made recently from the Azores catalogue to Iceland.
Although feeding was not recorded, any feeding at depth would be undetected by us at the
surface. After the expedition
finished
,
a few more humpbacks were photographed that
matched to Norway.
In 2018, there were no matches made to whales that had been seen
in the Cape Verde Islands.
34
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-
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fficially accredited member of the United Nations Environment Programme's Governing Council & Global Ministerial Environment Forum
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Figure
2.4c
.
Movement
of h
umpback whales in the North Atlantic
(from Wenzel et al. 2009).
Azores matches in green.
The North Atlantic Humpback Whale Catalogue is currently approaching 9,000 individ
uals
on record and although the Azores photos are a very small part of this catalogue, they play
an important role in discovering some long
-
range matches.
Since 2004 the expedition has
contributed 21 ID photos and had one match to the Cape Verde Islands in
2010 and now
one to Norway in 2018.
The Cape Verde match made by the expedition
,
as well as data collected outside the
expedition and by other researchers, suggest
that the humpbacks that are seen in the
Azores are part of the endangered Cape Verde popul
ation, rather than the Caribbean
population, which was taken off the endangered list in 2016 (
Figure
2.4c
).
Matching
movements and populations is important, because little is known about the movements of
the eastern Atlantic humpback whales and as an endan
gered population
,
it is good to
Azores
35
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keep an eye on its recovery or decline. Some animals appear to stop in the Azores for a
snack on their way to the feeding grounds, as well as on their way back to the breeding
grounds and the expedition has made a contributi
on to this important work. With the match
made to Norway, adding to existing matches there, it would appear that many of the Cape
Verde animals make their way to Norway as a preferred feeding area.
Most researchers will not risk coming to the Azores to fi
nd baleen whales, because their
migration patterns are just too unpredictable as seen by the expedition’s very variable
success in finding them. Researchers could come to the islands for a couple of months
and not find a single baleen whale. The expedition
has the luxury of already being in place
and with the vigia (lookout) network, if the animals are present, can take advantage of any
opportu
nities that present themselves.
Researchers responsible for the baleen whale
catalogues are always thankful for the
expedition’s data and continue to tell the author
what an important contribution the expedition’s baleen whale photos are, since the Azores
may be a route marker for animals travelling north (Richard Sears, Peter Stevick
,
pers
comm.).
Two collaborative
projects are currently underway with the University of the Azores looking
at the sightings of (non
-
baleen) sperm whales (Boys et al. 2016), as well as the baleen
whales
,
with respect to environmental data collected by the university (depth, slope and
tide
as a few examples). One poste
r on baleen whales, using photo
ID from 1998
-
2015
,
was presented at the 2016 European Cetacean Society conference in Madeira (Chevallard
et al. 2016). This corroborated the results mentioned above, i.e. that some blue whales
ha
ve been seen in multiple years, fin whales have not, and only one
Sei
whale has been
seen in multiple years. Some individual blue and fin whales remain in the Archipelego for a
few weeks, while the
Sei
whales do not.
The significance for whale conservati
on and research of these findings is that the Azores
may provide a crucial ‘pit stop’ (be
tween breeding grounds further s
outh, possibly
Mauritania and feeding grounds in Iceland and Norway) for some of the migrating animals
that have not been feeding for a
few months on the breeding grounds. The resources that
they find in the Azores could
make
the difference between survival or death. Having a
baseline of information on the number of animals and areas that they are using
is
also
useful in detecting any ear
ly changes in prey abundance due to global warming.
Dolphin species
Overall dolphin sightings were down on previous years. This
was most likely
due to the
adverse
weather conditions
the expedition was
operating under
in 2018,
or possibly a lack
of food.
The expedition saw resident individuals of both bottlenose and
Risso’s dolphin although
only two
groups of each were s
een. One of the Risso’s dolphin,
a well known
individual
called
Resa”,
was
seen
during
both
encounters
. She has been s
een since 2006 and
now
has her third
calf (K. Hartman pers.comm.). All of the ID photos of the Risso’s were
forwarded to a biologist who wrote her PhD (Hartman 2014) on Risso’s around Pico, for
future analysis.
2
6 groups of common dolphin and two
of striped dolphin were a
lso seen. These dolp
hin
are not part of the photo ID
project, since group sizes can often be quite large.
36
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-
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-
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Sperm whales
The 2016 expedition had a total of 41 encounters of 72 sp
erm whales, including females
with suckling calves
,
as has been observed
durin
g
previous expeditions
, as well as a few
big males
.
Before Biosphere Expeditions began
working in the Azores
, the expectation was that it
will
be mainly large males that
will
be encountered in this early part of the summer, but this
has proven not to be
the case, although we do tend to see more males in the spring than
the rest of the summer.
Two
different males were seen during this expedition. This year,
as usual,
they
were sighted alone. It is normal for very large males to become more
solitary, the ol
der they get, but while they are
adolescent
they usually associate with other
male
adolescents
in bachelor groups.
Re
-
sightings of male sperm whales are rare
, because they move around looking for
female groups to breed with when they are not in their fee
ding areas, which tend to be
further north than the Azores. There have only been a few re
-
sighted over 30 years.
Recently a match was made of a sperm whale seen in the Gulf of Mexico (2002). It was
re
-
sighted in the Azores in 2017. This is the first cross
-
Atlantic match of a sperm whale.
In October 2009, the author presented a poster on the movements of male sperm whales
around the Atlantic, at the Marine Mammal Conference in Quebec (with assistance from
the Friends of Biosphere
Expeditions
) (Steiner et al
. 2012). Three males seen in the
Azores were matched to animals re
-
sighted in Norway in 2007 and 2008 (
Figure
2.4d).
This gave researchers the first indication of where the males observed by the expedition
may go when they are not in the Azores. The collab
oration with biologists working in
Norway is continuing, but none of the males from this year’s expedition matched to
Norway. Th
e movement of males
has now been published (Steiner et al. 2012). Since then
another nine males have now been matched from Norwa
y to the
Azores.
T
he last
match
made was a male
seen on 9 August 2016
,
having been seen previously in Norway in
1993, 23 years ago.
Data collected at this time of year are valuable to elucidate if some of the same individual
sperm whales remain in the arc
hipelago for long periods of time. There is some indication
that more ‘unknown’ individuals are present in the early part of the season
,
with the
‘known’ animals arriving later. It would be very interesting to see which individuals are
present in the archi
pelago over the winter. Maybe some groups prefer summer in the
Azores and others prefer winter. The weather in the winter
, as well as the difficulty of
recruiting citizen scientists for this harsh and challenging time of year,
are
the main
obstacle
to inv
estigating this theory.
Seeing re
-
sighted animals this early in the season shows that some of the sperm whales
that return to the area do not have a seasonal preference and can be seen in all months or
they possibly move around the archipelago all year ro
und.
Identification photographs
confirm that female sperm whales spend their whole lives together; it is the juvenile males
that leave the group. Some of the animals observed in previous years have been seen
together for 27 years. Usually when one animal f
rom a group has been seen before, the
rest of the animals in the group have also been seen. Sometimes it is not possible to
identify all the animals of a group on a given day, but repeated sightings of the same
group over time give more chances to catalogu
e all of the individuals from that group.
Sperm whales live for around 60
-
70 years, so some of these animals re
-
sighted in the
Azores have been recorded for almost half of their lives.
37
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-
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-
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fficially accredited member of the United Nations Environment Programme's Governing Council & Global Ministerial Environment Forum
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Figure 2.
4d.
Movements of male sperm whales in the Atlantic (f
rom Steiner et al 2012).
Azores matches in green.
38
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-
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-
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cons
ervation
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fficially accredited member of the United Nations Environment Programme's Governing Council & Global Ministerial Environment Forum
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Figure 2.4e.
Movements of female sperm whales in the North Atlantic (from Steiner et al. 2015
)
.
39
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-
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-
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We have been collaborating with two whale watching companies that operate out of São
Miguel, as well as on
e of the companies from the south of Pico
,
for the last couple of
years. Several matches exist between the catalogues from the other whale watching
companies, indicating that there is some movement of the animals around the archipelago,
although most anima
ls have been observed in only one area. The two groups of islands
are only 125
nautical miles
apart, so it is not surprising that there is movement between
the two areas.
In 2011 a collaboration commenced with SECAC (
Sociedade para el Estudio de los
Cetac
eos en el Archipelago Canario,
www.cetaceos.org
)
, a research organisation in the
Canary Islands. This collaboration has already provided 13 matches for females between
the areas. A few of these animals have been sig
hted in the Azores, seen in the Canary
Islands and returned to the Azores. This shows that some female sperm whales undertake
at least a limited migration. One of those individuals, “1019”, a whale identified in 1988
,
was first observed with a calf in 2010
. She was photographed in the Canaries with the calf
in the winter of 2010/2011 and returned to the Azores with the calf in the summer of 2011.
She was again seen in the Canaries winter of 2011/2012 and in 2012 she was back in the
Azores, with her calf, wh
ich was starting to make independent dives on its own.
A
s of 2013, the calf, no
w a juvenile, has not been seen,
suggesting that it has not survi
ved
independently. The movement
of these female sperm whales was presented at the
Society for Marine Mammalogy
Conference in San Francisco in December 2015, with help
from the Friends of B
iosphere Expeditions (
Figure
2.4e
).
An interesting development is that some DNA samples that have been taken from
sperm
whales in the three
archipelagos show distinct difference
s, indicating that the populations
are separate
(Monica Silva
,
pers comm.)
. Collaboration will continue with other
researchers to try and solve this conundrum. It may just come down to sample size. There
are not that many groups that have moved between the
archipelagos. So it is possible that
there are some groups that tend to “roam” around the mid
-
Atlantic looking for food, while
others are more resident in a particular archipelago.
In 2009 a PhD by Ricardo Antunes (Antunes 2009) was completed at St. Andr
ews
University, using the Azores
photo
ID database of individuals from 1987 to 2007. This was
used to analyse the social structure of sperm whale groups found in the Azores, looking at
long
-
term relationships between individuals and patterns of residency a
round the
archipelago. He showed that there are differences between the groups of sperm whales
observed here to those in the Pacific. The groups of animals we observe in the Azores are
more stable and associations
between
individuals last for a much longer
period of time
than they do in the Pacific. This is most likely due to food availability in the different areas.
In addition, information on the difference in group sizes between the Atlantic
(Azores/Caribbean) and the Pacific
populations
has been linked
to a lack of orca predation
in the Atlantic. The larger groups in the Pacific provide protection to individuals from orca
attacks (Whitehead et al. 2011).
40
© Biosphere Expeditions,
an international not
-
for
-
profit
conservation
organisation registered in England, Germany, France, Australia and the USA
O
fficially accredited memb
er of the United Nations Environment Programme's Governing Council & Global Ministerial Environment Forum
Officially accredited member of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature
Conclusion and outlook
The expedition and its annual reports since 2004 (see
www.biosphere
-
expeditions.org/reports
) show the value of long
-
term studies on cetaceans. There should
be some new publications arising from the author’s work on sperm whales in the next year
or so
(a pilot whale stu
dy with the author of this report as co
-
author was published in 2019
Alves et al. 2019)
. Initial work
(with a paper now under review)
has started on using the
matching information between islands to work out how often groups of sperm whales
move between
the central and eastern groups of islands.
In conclusion, this expedition was a success for the
fourteenth
year. Sightings
were good
and encounters with baleen and sperm whales kept us occupied
with
collecting data. More
sperm whales than baleen whales we
re observed and there were not many dolphin
sightings. The weather conditions during this year’s expedition were poor for a couple of
the slots making sightings difficult.
Re
-
sighting individual sperm whales from previous
years
continues to show
the value
of the Europhlukes
matching
program
me alongside
digital cameras
.
We are able to identify individuals sighted on the day they are seen,
rather than waiting until the end of the summer to do the matching manually. This is also a
very satisfying way to end a
day’s work of observations!
The 2019 e
xpedition should:
continue the photo
ID work on the various species
.
continue matching fin whales to confirm if the fin whales visit in multiple years and
send to other catalogues around the Atlantic.
start matchin
g S
ei whales to confirm if they are visiting repeatedly
,
as well as
sending images to other catalogues around the Atlantic.
put more effort into the trash survey, as part of the POPA programme, which began
in 2016. Marine litter is already a huge problem,
with micro plastics finding their way
into the fish we eat. Maybe even have a dedicated beach clean during the
expedition.
Thank you to all expedition members for your assistance.
41
© Biosphere Expeditions,
an international not
-
for
-
profit
conservation
organisation registered in England, Germany, France, Australia and the USA
O
fficially accredited memb
er of the United Nations Environment Programme's Governing Council & Global Ministerial Environment Forum
Officially accredited member of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature
2.5. Literature cited
Alves, F.,
Alessandrini
A.
, Servidio, A.
,
Mend
onça,
A
.
,
Hartman,
K.,
Prieto,
R.,
Berrow
, S.
Magalhães,
S.
Steiner,
L.,
Santos,
R.,
Ferreira,
R.,
Pérez,
J.,
Ritter,
F.,
Dinis,
S.,
Martín,
S.,
Silva,
M.,
Aguilar
de
Soto
, N.
(2019) Complex biogeographical patterns support an ecological
connectivity netw
ork of a large marine predator in the north
-
east Atlantic. Diversity and
Distributions 25: 269
284.
Antunes, R. (2009) Variation in sperm whale (
Physeter macrocephalus
) coda vocalizations and
social structure in the North Atlantic Ocean. PhD thesis, Scho
ol of Biology, University of St.
Andrews, Scotland.
Boys, R., Oliveira, C., Prieto, R., Steiner, L., Silva, M.A. (2016) Challenges in the application of
mark
-
recapture (MR) methods to estimate population parameters of sperm whales in the Azores.
Poster pr
esented at the European Cetacean Society Conference, Madeira, March, 2016.
Chevallard, P., Prieto, R., Steiner, L., Hartman, K., Silva, M. (2016) Differences in Azorean habitat
use by three migrating mysticete species:a photo
-
ID study. Poster presented a
t the European
Cetacean Society Conference, Madeira, March, 2016.
Hartman, K. (2014). Patterns of social ecology of Risso’s dolphins, (
Grampus griseus
) off Pico
Island, Azores. PhD thesis Department of Biology, Universityof the Azores.
Oosting, T., Beru
be, M., Sears, R., Ramp, C., Vikingsson, G., Larsen, F., Tison, J
-
L., Palsboll,
P.J.
(2013)
Low current effective population sizes in the critically endangered North Atlantic blue
whale,
Baleanoptera musculus .
Abstract 2013 SMM Conference Dunedin, New
Zealand.
Sears, R., Ramp, C., Santos, R., Silva, M., Steiner, L., Vikingsno, G.A. (2015) Comparison of the
Northwest Atlantic
-
NWA and Northeast Atlantic
-
NEA Blue whale (
Balaenoptera
musculus
) photo
-
identification catalogues. Poster presented at the Societ
y for Marine Mammalogy Conference, San
Francisco, December 2015.
Silva, M. A., Prieto, R., Cascão, I., Oliveira, C., Vaz, J., Pizzani, A., Lammers, M., Jonsen, I.,
Baumgartner, M. & Santos R. S. 2011.
Fin whale migration in the North Atlantic: placing the
Azores into the big picture. Presentation at the 19
th
Biennal Conference on the Biology of Marine
Mammals, Tampa, Florida, USA, 27 November
2 December.
Steiner, L., Lamoni, L., Acosta
-
Plata, M., Jensen, S
-
K., Lettevall, E., Gordon, J.
(2012)
A link
be
tween male sperm whales,
Physeter macrocephalus
, of the Azores and Norway. Journal of the
Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, 92 (8): 1751
-
1756.
Steiner, L., Perez, M., van der Linde, M., Freitas, L., Peres dos Santos, R., Martins, V., Go
rdon, J.
(2015) Movements of female/immature sperm whales in the North Atlantic.
Poster presented at the
Society for Marine Mammalogy Conference, San Francisco, December 2015.
Wenzel, F., Allen, J., Berrow, S., Hazevoet, C.J., Jann, B., Seton, R.E., Stein
er, L., Stevick, P.,
Suarez, P.L., Whooley, P. (2009) Current knowledge on the distribution and relative abundance of
humpback whales (
Megaptera novaeangliae
) off the Cape Verde Islands, Eastern North Atlantic.
Aquatic Mammals 35: 502
-
510.
Whitehead, H.,
Antunes, R., Gero, S., Wong, S.N.P., Englehaupt, D., Rendall, L.
Multilevel
Societies of Female Sperm Whales (
Physeter macrocephalus
) in the Atlantic and Pacific:Why Are
They So Different?
International Journal of Primatoly 33 (5): 1142
-
1164.
42
© Biosphere Expeditions,
an international not
-
for
-
profit
conservation
organisation registered in England, Germany, France, Australia and the USA
O
fficially accredited memb
er of the United Nations Environment Programme's Governing Council & Global Ministerial Environment Forum
Officially accredited member of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature
3. O
bserve
r Programme for the Fisheries
of the Azores (POPA)
Miguel Machete
Department of Oceanography and Fisheries of the University of the Azores / IMAR
Sea Institute
3.1.
Introduction
The Biosphere Expeditions research project
took place between 8 March an
d 19 April
2018
in Faial Island (Azores, Portugal). Onboard of the ve
ssel Physeter, citizen scientists
had the opportunity to collect information on
the
marine life of the Azores. During the
expedition period,
they
recorded the occurrence of several marine
species such baleen
and toothed whales, dolphins and se
veral species of seabirds (see F
igures below).
Sightings on surface marine debris were also performed.
The information recorded during
the expedition will be processed and included in the
POPA
databas
e (
Programa de
Observação para as Pescas dos Açores
= Azores Fisheries Observer Program
).
POPA was launched in 1998 with the main goal of certifying the tuna caught around the
Azores as a “
dolphin s
afe
” product. This label is attributed by the NGO
Earth
Island
Institute
to catches made without mortality of cetaceans
. POPA has built an extensive
database with information collected by the observers on board the tuna fishing vessels.
This database includes information on tuna fisheries (
e.g.
location of fish
ing events,
catche
s
and fishing effort), weather conditions (e.g. SST, wind and visibility), live bait
fisheries (e.g. location of fishing events, catches, gears used), cetaceans (e.g.
occurrences, interaction with fishing events and association with other
species), birds and
sea turtles (e.g. occurrences)
. Since 2015 the programme observers also collect
information on marine debris
. POPA is also responsible for
the
“Friend of the
Sea” tuna
fishery certification and since 2016 and is coordinating the Azores
nucleus of the ICCAT
Atlantic Ocean Tropical Tuna Tagging Programme.
3.2.
Results
Figure 3.2a
.
Trip coverage during the 2004
-
2018 period (there was no expedition in 2017)
.
43
© Biosphere Expeditions,
an international not
-
for
-
profit
conservation
organisation registered in England, Germany, France, Australia and the USA
O
fficially accredited memb
er of the United Nations Environment Programme's Governing Council & Global Ministerial Environment Forum
Officially accredited member of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature
Figure 3.2b
.
Species of seabirds observed
in 2018
.
Figure 3.2c.
Species
of
cetaceans
observed
in 2018
.
44
© Biosphere Expeditions,
an international not
-
for
-
profit
conservation
organisation registered in England, Germany, France, Australia and the USA
O
fficially accredited memb
er of the United Nations Environment Programme's Governing Council & Global Ministerial Environment Forum
Officially accredited member of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature
Figure 3.2d.
Loggerhead turtles
observed
in 2018
.
Figure 3.2e.
Debris items (5
-
30 cm)
observed
in 2018
.
45
© Biosphere Expeditions,
an international not
-
for
-
profit
conservation
organisation registered in England, Germany, France, Australia and the USA
O
fficially accredited memb
er of the United Nations Environment Programme's Governing Council & Global Ministerial Environment Forum
Officially accredited member of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature
3.3. Discussion
POPA has proved that accidental capture of cetaceans in the tuna fishery in the Azores is
non
-
existent
with
no records of mortality of cetaceans ever reported (Silva
et al
.
2002
,
Cruz et al. 2016
).
But the programme has a much wider significance than just the “dolphin
safe” topic.
In recent years
the
POPA dataset
(which includes
data collected by
Biosphere
Expeditions)
has been frequently requested for several research projects regarding the
ecology, biology and fisheries of tar
get and associated species
.
Examples are the
inclusion of POPA data
in the OBIS
-
SEAMAP and EMODnet map databases and the
p
apers published regarding information on
cetacean
interaction with pole and line tune
fishery
and s
patial
/
temporal distribution
and richness
of cetaceans in the mid
-
Atlantic
waters around the Azores
(
Cruz et al. 2018, Silva et al. 2013, Tobeña et al. 2016
)
.
More
recently papers on the distribution of marine litter in the ocean were also produced
(Chambault 2018).
Besides the scientific outputs, the data collected by POPA observers
are also available for NGO
s, government and to the fishery industry.
We thank
the
Biosphere Expeditions citizen scientists for their contribution to this important database.
3.4. Literature cited
Chambault P, Vandeperre F., Machete M, Lagoa J., Pham C. 2018.
Distribution and
composition of floating macro litter off the Azores arc
hipelago and Madeira (NE Atlantic)
using opportunistic surveys.
Marine environment research.
Vol 141
, 225
-
232 pp
Cruz MJ, M
achete M, Menezes G, Rogan E, Silva MA. 2018.
Estimating common dolphin
bycatch in the pole
-
and
-
line tuna fishery in the Azores.
PeerJ 6: e4285; DOI
10.7717/peerj.4285
Cruz MJ, Menezes G, Machete M, Silva MA. 2016.
Predicting Interactions between
Common D
olphins and the Pole
-
and
-
Line Tuna Fishery in the Azores.
PLoS ONE
11(11):e0164107. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0164107
Silva, M.A, Prieto, R, Cascão,I., Seabra,M.I., Machete,M., Baumgartner, M.F., & Santos,
R.S. 2013.
Spatial and temporal distribution of ce
taceans in the mid
-
Atlantic waters around
the Azores
, Marine Biology Research, 10(2):
123
-
137
.
Silva, M.A, Prieto, R, Magalhães,S., Seabra,M.I., Machete,M and.Hammond,P.
2012.
Incorporating information on bottlenose dolphin distribution into marine prote
cted area
design.
Aquatic Conserv: Mar. Freshw.
Ecosyst. 22: 122
133.
Silva, M.A., Feio, R., Prieto, R., Gonçalves, J.M. & Santos, R.S. 2002.
Interactions
between cetaceans and the tuna fishery in the Azores. Marine Mammal Science, 18(4):
893
901.
Tobeña
M, Prieto R, Machete M and Silva MA. 2016.
Modeling the Potential Distribution
and Richness of Cetaceans in the Azores from Fisheries Observer Program Data. Front.
Mar. Sci. 3:202. doi: 10.3389/fmars.2016.00202
46
© Biosphere Expeditions,
an international not
-
for
-
profit
conservation
organisation registered in England, Germany, France, Australia and the USA
O
fficially accredited memb
er of the United Nations Environment Programme's Governing Council & Global Ministerial Environment Forum
Officially accredited member of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature
Appendix I:
Expedition diary
& reports
A multimedia expedition diary is available
at
https://blog.biosphere
-
e
xpeditions.org/category/expedition
-
blogs/azores
-
2018/
.
All expedition reports, including this and previous Azores expedition
reports, are available at
www.biosphere
-
expeditions.org/report
s
.
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Article
Full-text available
Aim The knowledge of a species biogeographical patterns greatly enhances our understanding of geographical ecology, which can improve identifying key conservation needs. Yet, this knowledge is still scarce for many marine top predators. Here, we aim to analyse movement patterns and spatial structuring of a large predator, the short‐finned pilot whale Globicephala macrorhynchus, over a wide geographical area. Location North‐east Atlantic, in Macaronesian archipelagos (Azores, Madeira and Canaries) and Iberian Peninsula (Sagres). Methods We used likelihood techniques to estimate residency times and transition probabilities and carried out social analysis from individual photographic identification data, and analysed year‐round distribution from effort‐related sightings, collated between 1999 and 2015. Results The best‐fitting models included emigration and reimmigration and showed different residency times within each archipelago. A total of 26 individual movements from 21 individuals (from a sample of >2,300 individuals) were recorded between Madeira and the neighbouring archipelagos, and heterogeneous transition probabilities were estimated within and between areas. A social network diagram showed associations from animals with distinct residency patterns. Higher significant sighting rates were recorded during autumn in the Azores and Madeira. Main conclusions The variation in site fidelity and year‐round occupancy among areas of the Macaronesia is consistent with some degree of population structuring, which combined with a connectivity network and seasonal inflows from animals inhabiting offshore waters, support the development of a complex social and geographical ecology in short‐finned pilot whales. The combination of techniques applied in this study was an effective way to estimate parameters of movement, which could be a good practice to be used for other scenarios and species.
Article
Full-text available
Small-scale artisanal fisheries can have a significant negative impact in cetacean populations. Cetacean bycatch has been documented in the pole-and-line tuna fishery in the Azores with common dolphins being the species more frequently taken. Based on data collected by observers on ∼50% of vessels operating from 1998 to 2012, we investigate the influence of various environmental and fisheries-related factors in common dolphin bycatch and calculate fleet-wide estimates of total bycatch using design-based and model-based methods. Over the 15-year study dolphin bycatch occurred in less than 0.4% of the observed fishing events. Generalized additive modelling results suggest a significant relationship between common dolphin bycatch and duration of fishing events, sea surface temperature and location. Total bycatch calculated from the traditional stratified ratio estimation approach was 196 (95% CI: 186–205), while the negative binomial GAM estimated 262 (95% CI: 249–274) dolphins. Bycatch estimates of common dolphin were similar using statistical approaches suggesting that either of these methods may be used in future bycatch assessments for this fishery. Our work shows that rates of common dolphin bycatch in the pole-and-line tuna fishery in the Azores are low, despite considerable variations between years. Dolphins caught were released alive although the fate of these individuals is unknown. Continued monitoring will provide a better understanding of dolphin bycatch and more accurate estimates essential in the development of potential mitigation measures.
Article
Full-text available
Common dolphins (Delphinus delphis) are responsible for the large majority of interactions with the pole-and-line tuna fishery in the Azores but the underlying drivers remain poorly understood. In this study we investigate the influence of various environmental and fisheries-related factors in promoting the interaction of common dolphins with this fishery and estimate the resultant catch losses. We analysed 15 years of fishery and cetacean interaction data (1998–2012) collected by observers placed aboard tuna fishing vessels. Dolphins interacted in less than 3% of the fishing events observed during the study period. The probability of dolphin interaction varied significantly between years with no evident trend over time. Generalized additive modeling results suggest that fishing duration, sea surface temperature and prey abundance in the region were the most important factors explaining common dolphin interaction. Dolphin interaction had no impact on the catches of albacore, skipjack and yellowfin tuna but resulted in significantly lower catches of bigeye tuna, with a predicted median annual loss of 13.5% in the number of fish captured. However, impact on bigeye catches varied considerably both by year and fishing area. Our work shows that rates of common dolphin interaction with the pole-and-line tuna fishery in the Azores are low and showed no signs of increase over the study period. Although overall economic impact was low, the interaction may lead to significant losses in some years. These findings emphasize the need for continued monitoring and for further research into the consequences and economic viability of potential mitigation measures.
Article
Full-text available
Marine spatial planning and ecological research call for high-resolution species distribution data. However, those data are still not available for most marine large vertebrates. The dynamic nature of oceanographic processes and the wide-ranging behavior of many marine vertebrates create further difficulties, as distribution data must incorporate both the spatial and temporal dimensions. Cetaceans play an essential role in structuring and maintaining marine ecosystems and face increasing threats from human activities. The Azores holds a high diversity of cetaceans but the information about spatial and temporal patterns of distribution for this marine megafauna group in the region is still very limited. To tackle this issue, we created monthly predictive cetacean distribution maps for spring and summer months, using data collected by the Azores Fisheries Observer Programme between 2004 and 2009. We then combined the individual predictive maps to obtain species richness maps for the same period. Our results reflect a great heterogeneity in distribution among species and within species among different months. This heterogeneity reflects a contrasting influence of oceanographic processes on the distribution of cetacean species. However, some persistent areas of increased species richness could also be identified from our results. We argue that policies aimed at effectively protecting cetaceans and their habitats must include the principle of dynamic ocean management coupled with other area-based management such as marine spatial planning.
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Recent satellite telemetry studies revealed different behaviours for migrating blue (Balaenoptera musculus), fin (B.physalus) and sei (B.borealis) whales off the Azores (mid-North Atlantic). Blue and fin whales remained weeks to a few months in the region, and movements were indicative of foraging behaviour, suggesting the Azores may be an important mid-latitude foraging habitat for these species. In contrast, sei whales transited rapidly through the region. We investigated individual residence time and inter-annual site fidelity using photo-identification data, to elucidate differences in habitat utilization among these species. Photo-identification data were collected between 2000 and 2015 during research surveys and whale-watching operations. A total of 123 blue whales, 203 fin whales and 109 sei whales were identified. Re-sighting rates were 17.1% for blue whale, 15.8% for fin whale and 6.4% for sei whale. Minimum residence time within a year varied between 1 and 45 days (median=6, n=11) for blue whales and, 1 and 46 days (median=2, n=32) for fin whales. Sei whales remained 1-2 days (median=1, n=7) in the study area. Twelve blue whales were sighted in different years, with a maximum interval of 8 years. Only one inter-annual match was obtained for sei whales, while none were observed in fin whales. These results confirm previous satellite telemetry studies: blue and fin whales can stay in Azores for a few weeks, while sei whales do not seem to interrupt the migration in the vicinity of the islands. However, only a small number of blue and fin whales were re-sighted each year, suggesting short residence times for most individuals, or insufficient sampling effort. Blue whale data suggests some degree of inter-annual site fidelity. This may reflect greater consistency in habitat use by blue whales, or higher recapture probabilities due to a smaller population, longer residence times and the presence of easily recognisable marks.
Article
Full-text available
Little is known about the movements of male sperm whales, Physeter macrocephalus, in the North Atlantic. Recoveries of traditional harpoons and tags during commercial whaling indicated movements from Nova Scotia to Spain and from the Azores to Iceland and Spain. We compared collections of photo-identification images from different areas using the North Atlantic and Mediterranean Sperm Whale Catalogue and the Eurphlukes Phlex/Match programs. The largest collections of identified males (number of individuals, start and end date for data collection shown in parentheses) are for the Azores (297, 1987–2008), Andenes (375, 1988–1996 and 2008), Tromsø (84, 2005–2008). There were six matches between Andenes and Tromsø (~25 nm), with three of these re-sighted in multiple years and three photo-identification matches from the Azores to Norway (~2400 nm). In all cases individuals first photographed in the Azores (in 1993, 1999 and 2003) were matched to images collected later in Tromsø (in 2007 and 2008). In 1997 a photo-identification image from Andenes matched a male stranded on the west coast of Ireland. No matches were made to images in smaller collections from Iceland, Nova Scotia, Greenland, Dominica, Guadeloupe, Gulf of Mexico and the Mediterranean. These findings show the value of data collected from whale watching vessels and the importance of collaboration between groups to allow investigation on an ocean basin scale. It is hoped that with the coordinated collection of more images from around the Atlantic, further insight might be gained into the movements of these widely ranging animals.
Article
Full-text available
Cetaceans living in offshore waters are under increasing pressure from anthropogenic activities. Yet, due to the lack of survey effort, relatively little is known about the demography or ecology of these populations. Spatial and temporal distribution of cetaceans in mid-Atlantic waters were investigated using a long term dataset collected from boat surveys and land-based observations around the Azores. From 1999 to 2009, 7307 cetacean schools were sighted during 271,717 km of survey effort. In 4944 h of land-based observations, 2,968 cetacean groups were detected. Twenty-four species were recorded: seven baleen whales, six beaked whales, eight dolphin species, Physeter macrocephalus, Kogia breviceps and Kogia sima. Overall, Delphinus delphis was the most frequently sighted species but its encounter rate decreased in June�November, coinciding with the presence of Stenella frontalis in the region. Tursiops truncatus, P. macrocephalus and Grampus griseus were frequently encountered year-round, whereas large baleen whales showed a distinct peak in encounter rates in March/�May. Mesoplodonts were fairly common and appear to be present throughout the year. These findings fill in a significant gap in the knowledge of cetaceans occurring in a poorly studied region of the North Atlantic, providing much needed data to inform management initiatives.
Article
Full-text available
During the winter/spring months from 1990 to 2009, 13 cetacean surveys were conducted around the Cape Verde Islands off West Africa. The main target species was the humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae). Study periods varied from 14 to 90 d in duration. Study platforms included a 5-m inflatable boat, a 12-m catamaran, and/or 15-m sailing or motor vessels. Collectively, we obtained 88 individual humpback fluke photo-graphs from this region. These fluke photographs have been compared to over 6,500 individual fluke photographs maintained in the North Atlantic Humpback Whale Catalogue. Based on photo-identification, humpbacks in the Cape Verde Islands have a relatively high interannual resight rate (> 22%) compared to other studied breeding locations in the West Indies. While this is partly due to increased probability of detection in a small population, this result nonetheless suggests strong site fidelity to this breeding ground. Three photo-identified individuals from the Cape Verde Islands had been previously photo-graphed on high-latitude feeding grounds off Bear Island, Norway, and Iceland. One Cape Verdean humpback was resighted in the Azores, possibly en route to the northern feeding grounds. These findings are consistent with the belief that the Cape Verde Islands represent a breeding ground for northeastern Atlantic humpback whales. Tourism activities in the Cape Verde Islands are rapidly increasing. A balance is needed whereby conservation, whale watching guidelines, habitat preservation, and enforcement are fully enacted in order to provide protection to both this species and its habitat. In addition, further research is required to clarify the importance of this small population and its breeding ground.
Article
The distribution and composition of macro litter floating around oceanic islands is poorly known, especially in the North Atlantic. Due to its isolated location at the fringe of the North Atlantic subtropical gyre, the Azores archipelago has recently been proposed as a potential retention zone for floating litter. To further investigate this assumption, opportunistic surveys from pole-and-line tuna fishing boats were performed from 2015 to 2017 to document (1) the distribution and (2) the composition of the floating macro litter present off the Azores and Madeira islands. Among the 2406 visual transects, 482 floating debris were recorded and were mainly composed of general plastic user items (48%), plastic packaging (21%) and derelict fishing gears (18%). Average number of debris per transect was 0.19 ± 0.5, with a total number ranging between 0 and 5 items per transect. For the majority of transects (84%), no debris was observed, 13% of the transects contained a single item, and only 3% contained more than one item. Although debris between 2.5 and 5 cm were recorded, 93% of the debris were larger than 5 cm. The GLMs showed strong effect of the observer (p < 0.001) and the standardized densities accounting for the observer bias were higher (1.39 ± 0.14 items.km-2) than the observed densities (0.78 ± 0.07 items.km-2). Debris densities were however relatively low and tended to aggregate around the Central group of the Azores (standardized mean: 0.90 ± 0.20 items.km-2). Our findings therefore suggest that most of the debris might originate from far away land-based sources and from fishing activities. This study highlights the potential of fisheries observer programs to obtain cost-effective information on floating macro debris that are essential to support the implementation of the European Marine Strategy Framework Directive.