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Expedition report: Photo-identification and surveys of cetaceans in the central group of the Azores islands (March - April 2019)

Authors:

Abstract and Figures

Abstract In 2019 Biosphere Expeditions concluded its 15th 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 29 March to 18 April and concentrated on six main projects. Sightings of all cetacean species were recorded. 26 sightings of five different species of cetacean and one species of turtle were recorded during the expedition period. In 2019 a beta version of a data collection app was trialled. Baleen whales: Fin whale: The expedition saw 3 fin whales in 1 encounter. Preliminary matching of individuals has begun, and photos have been sent to catalogues in Spain, Iceland and the US. Humpback whale: There were no humpback whales observed during the expedition, although one was seen just before the expedition started. A humpback whale was heard singing on the hydrophone on one occasion. The North Atlantic Humpback Whale Catalogue is currently approaching 11,000 individuals and plays an important role in discovering long-range matches. Since 2004 the expedition has contributed 21 ID photos. 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 to populations is important, because little is known about the movements of the eastern Atlantic humpback whales. No other baleen whales were observed in 2019. The most likely reason for the lack of baleen whales is that the level of primary (nutrient) productivity has not been very high for the last few years. This meant that there was no food around to bring the migrating whales closer to the coast. Sperm whale: Sperm whale photo-identification, ongoing since 1987 in the Azores, continued, with 4 identifiable individuals photographed from 15 encounters, including 3 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 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. Dolphins: Dolphin photo-identification, which began in 1987, also continued. One group of Risso’s dolphin and a group of orcas were recorded. The Risso’s dolphins seen are a known group of females with a few males mixed in, but the orcas had not previously been photographed in the Azores. Europhlukes: Europhlukes was a European-wide project (funded 2002-2005) that brought together different researchers from several countries to share data and photo-identification pictures of various species. Sperm whale fluke shape extractions were made from the photos taken during the expedition and compared with those of sperm whales sighted in previous years and in other areas of the Atlantic. No matches were found to any other regions. POPA: Data collection for the Department of Oceanography and Fisheries (DOP) of the University of the Azores, for the Tuna Boat Observer programme, POPA, was successfully collected for a sixteenth year. The expedition vessel “Physeter” is the only non-fishing vessel in the programme. Information was collected for random cetacean sightings along transects, as well as designated turtle and bird count attempts 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 7 loggerhead turtles were seen; none were caught and tagged. Sumário A “Biosphere Expeditions 2019” concluiu o seu décimo quinto 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 29 de Março e 18 de Abril, e concentrou-se em seis projectos principais. Avistamentos de todas as espécies de cetáceos foram registrados. Foram registados um total de 26 avistamentos de 5 espécies distintas de cetáceos e 1 espécie de tartaruga. Em 2019, uma versão beta de um app de coleta de dados foi testada. Baleias de barbas: Baleias-comuns: A expedição registou 3 baleias-comuns num encontro. Iniciou-se uma análise preliminar dos avistamentos e reavistamentos de baleias-comuns, com o propósito de enviar as identificações para catálogos em Espanha, Islândia e EUA. Baleias-de-bossa: Nesta expedição não foram registados avistamentos de baleias-de-bossa, embora um indivíduo tenha sido observado mesmo antes do início da expedição. O catálogo de baleias-de-bossa do Atlântico Norte está a aproximar-se de 11,000 indivíduos e este desempenha um papel importante na detecção de reavistamentos de longo alcance. Desde 2004 que a expedição contribuiu com 21 fotografias identificativas. 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 2019. A razão mais provável para a falta de baleias é que o nível de produtividade não tem sido muito alto nos últimos anos. Isso significava que não havia comida por perto para aproximar as baleias migratórias da costa. Cachalote: Desde 1987 que está em curso nos Açores um programa de foto-identificação de cachalotes, com 4 indivíduos identificados e fotografados em 15 encontros, incluindo reavistamentos de 3 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. Foram observados um grupo de grampos e um grupo de orcas. Os grampos que foram observados são um grupo de fêmeas bem conhecido com alguns machos misturados já fotografadas anteriormente, mas o grupo de orcas nunca tinha sido fotografado nos Açores. Europhlukes: Europhlukes foi um projecto Europeu (2002-2005) 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. Nenhum dos cachalotes fotografados nos Açores foi reavistado noutras áreas. POPA: Pelo décimo sexto 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 tentativas para contagem 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, 7 tartarugas-boba foram avistadas, mas nenhuma foi capturada ou marcada.
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EXPEDITION REPORT
Expedition dates:
29 March
18 April 2019
Report published:
March
2020
Photo
identification and surveys of
cetaceans in the central group of the
Azores islands
© Craig Turner
1
EXPEDITION REPORT
Photo
identification and surveys of cetaceans in the
central group of the Azores
islands
Expedition dates:
29 March
18
April 2019
Report published:
March
2020
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 Expedition
s
*no part of this report to be published without the main author’s written permission
2
Abs
tract
In 2019 Biosphere Expeditions concluded its 15
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 an
d São Jorge. The expedition ran from 29 March to
18 April and concentrated on
six
main projects.
Sightings of all cetacean species were recorded. 26 sightings of five different species of cetacean and
one species of turtle were recorded during the expedit
ion period. In 2019 a beta version of a data
collection app was trialled.
Baleen w
hales
:
Fin
w
hale: The expedition saw 3 fin whales in 1 encounter. Preliminary matching of
individuals has begun, and photos have been sent to catalogues in Spain, Iceland an
d the US.
Humpback whale:
There were no humpback whales observed during the expedition, although one
was seen just before the expedition started. A humpback whale was heard singing on the hydrophone
on one occasion. The North Atlantic Humpback Whale Catal
ogue is currently approaching
11
,000
individuals and plays an important role in discovering long
-
range matches. Since 2004 the expedition
has contributed 21 ID photos. Data collected during the expedition
,
as well as outside the expedition
and by other res
earchers, 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
to
populations is important, because little is known about the movements of the east
ern Atlantic
humpback whales.
No other baleen whales were observed in 2019.
The most likely reason for the lack of baleen whales is that the level of
primary
(nutrient)
productivity
has not been very high for the last few years. This meant that there w
as no food around to bring the
migrating whales closer to the coast.
Sperm whale
:
Sperm whale photo
-
identification
,
ongoing since 1987 in the Azores, continued, with 4
identifiable individuals photographed from 15 encounters, including 3 animals seen in p
revious 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
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.
Dolphins:
Dolphin photo
-
identification, which began in 1987
,
also continued. One group of Risso’s
dolphin a
nd a group of orcas were recorded. The Risso’s
dolph
i
ns
seen are a known group of females
with a few males mixed in, but the orcas had not previously been photographed in the Azores.
Europhlukes:
Europhlukes was a European
-
wide project
(funded 2002
-
2005)
that brought together
different researchers from several countries to share data and photo
-
identification pictures of various
species. Sperm whale fluke
shape
extractions were made from the photos taken during the expedition
and compared with
those of
sper
m whales sighted in previous years and in other areas of the Atlantic.
No matches
were found to any other regions
.
POPA:
Data collection for the Department of Oceanography and Fisheries (DOP) of the University of
the Azores, for the Tuna Boat Observer pro
gram
me
, POPA, was successfully collected for a
sixteenth
year. The expedition vessel “Physeter” is the only non
-
fishing vessel in the programme.
Information
was collected for random cetacean sightings along transects, as well as designated turtle and bird
count attempts 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 7
l
oggerhead turtles were seen; none were caught and tagged.
3
Sumário
A “Biosphere Expeditions 2019” concluiu o seu décimo quinto 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 29 de Março e 18 de Abril, e concentrou
-
se em seis projectos
principais.
Avistamentos d
e todas as espécies de cetáceos foram registrados.
Foram registados um total de 26
avistamentos de 5 espécies distintas de cetáceos e 1 espécie de tartaruga.
Em 2019, uma versão beta de
um app de coleta de dados foi testada.
Baleias de barbas:
Baleias
-
com
uns: A expedição registou 3 baleias
-
comuns num encontro. Iniciou
-
se uma
análise preliminar dos avistamentos e reavistamentos de baleias
-
comuns, com o propósito de enviar as
identificações para catálogos em Espanha, Islândia e EUA.
Baleias
-
de
-
bossa: Nesta
expedição não foram registados avistamentos de baleias
-
de
-
bossa, embora um
indivíduo tenha sido observado mesmo antes do início da expedição. O catálogo de baleias
-
de
-
bossa do
Atlântico Norte está a aproximar
-
se de
11,000
indivíduos e este desempenha um pa
pel importante na
detecção de reavistamentos de longo alcance.
Desde 2004 que a expedição contribuiu com 21 fotografias
identificativas. Os dados recolhidos durante esta expedição,
juntamente com dados recolhidos por outros
investigadores, sugerem que as b
aleias
-
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 d
o
Atlântico.
Não foram observadas outras baleias de barbas em 2019.
A razão mais provável para a falta de baleias é que o nível de produtividade não tem sido muito alto nos
últimos anos. Isso significava que não havia comida porperto para aproximar as
baleias migratórias da
costa.
Cachalote:
Desde 1987 que está em curso nos Açores um programa de foto
-
identificação de cachalotes,
com 4 indivíduos identificados e fotografados em 15 encontros, incluindo reavistamentos de 3 animais
observados em anos anter
iores. 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 est
áveis 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. Foram observados um
grupo de grampos e um grupo de orcas. Os grampos que foram observados são um grupo de fêmeas bem
conhecido
com alguns machos misturados
já fotografadas anteriormente, mas o grupo de orcas nunca
tin
ha sido fotografado nos Açores.
Europhlukes:
Europhlukes foi um projecto Europeu
(2002
-
2005)
que reuniu investigadores de diversos
países para compartilhar dados de foto
-
identificação de várias espécies. As extracções das caudas dos
cachalotes fotografad
os durante a expedição serão comparadas com fotografias obtidas em anos anteriores
e noutras áreas do Atlântico. Nenhum dos cachalotes fotografados nos Açores foi reavistado noutras áreas.
POPA:
Pelo décimo sexto ano foram recolhidos dados para o Program
a 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
aleatoriament
e ao longo de transectos de observação de cetáceos. Foram também efectuadas tentativas
para contagem de tartarugas, aves marinhas e avistamentos de lixo marinho.
Tartarugas:
As tartarugas
Caretta caretta
são capturadas e marcadas nos Açores desde 1988, p
ara um projecto
conjunto entre a Universidade da Flórida e a Universidade dos Açores. Durante esta expedição, 7
tartarugas
-
boba foram
avistadas, mas nenhuma foi capturada ou marcada.
4
Contents
Abstract
2
Sumário
3
Contents
4
1. Expedition review
5
1.1. Background
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
8
1.7. Expedition team
8
1.8. Partners
8
1.9
. Further information & enquiries
9
1.10
. Expedition bu
dget
9
1.11. Acknowledgements
10
2. Whale & dolphin study
11
2.1. Introduction
11
2.2. Summary of expedition work and results 2004
-
2019
12
2.3
. Methods
18
2.4
. Results
22
2.5
. Discussion & conclusions
39
2.6
. Literature cited
50
3. Observer Programme for the Fisheries of the Azores (POPA)
5
2
3.1. Introduction
5
2
3.2. Results
5
2
3.3. Discussion
54
3.4. Literature cited
54
Appendix I: Expedition diary & reports
55
5
Please note: Each expedition report is writt
en 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 Expeditions
1.1. Background
Biosphere Expeditions runs wildlife conservation research expeditions to all corners of the
Earth. Our projects are not tours, photographic s
afaris 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 ot
herwise) required to join. Our expedition team members are
people from all walks of life, 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
29 March to 18
April 2019
.
The expedition was part of a l
ong
-
term research project
to eluci
date the life
histories and migration patterns of whales, dolphins and turtles across the 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
ki
lometres off the coast of Portugal, is one of the prime whale and dolphin hotspots in the
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 t
he
Azores Archipelago in the East Greenland and Iceland stocks, but there is little evidence
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 st
udied 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 i
nflated 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
1.2. Research area
The
Azores Archipelago, Europe’s westernmost point, is a group of nine distinct islands,
lying 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 island
s 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 after
by people of mainly Portuguese and Flemish descent. During the 20th century the islands
were an important stopover point for undersea communications cables, transatla
ntic flights
and yachtsmen. The islands’ main income is from agriculture and fishing; tourism has all
but passed by the islands.
1.3. Dates
The expedition ran over
two
ten
-
day groups.
29 March
-
7 April | 9
-
18
April
2019
Team members
could
join for
multiple slots (within the periods specified). Dates
were
chosen to coincide with the migration of baleen whales past the archipelago.
7
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.
Vegetaria
ns and some special diets
were
catered for
. Accommodation 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 Str
eam
passing by, but it
could
get quite cold, especially 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 po
int all transport, vehicles and boats were provided for 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 a
nd 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 me
dical 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.
Emergen
cy procedures were in place, but did not have to be invoked 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
(International 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 cetace
ans around the Azores and at other times has also studied
them in Alabama, Hawaii, Cape Verdes, Bermuda, Scotland and Madeira. She has
published numerous research papers on cetaceans.
8
1.6. Expedition leader
Craig
Turner
was born in Oxford, England. He st
udied biology, ecology and environmental
management at Southampton, Aberdeen and London universities. Soon after graduating,
he left the UK for expedition life in Tanzania. Since then, he has continued to combine his
interest in travel and passion for cons
ervation, 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, and is a frequent
contributor to the ‘Explore’ c
onference 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 environmental consultancy with
his partner, based in Scotl
and, where he splits his wildlife interests and work between the
UK and overseas. He also crews for the
Royal National Lifeboat Institution
and is casualty
care trained. He is ever keen to share his exploits, writing for several magazines, and is a
publish
ed photographer.
1.7. Expedition team
The expedition team was recruited by Biosphere Expeditions and consisted of a mixture of
ages, nationalities and backgrounds. They were (with country of residence):
29
March
7 April 2019
Neil Goodall (UK), Ashley
Halligan* (USA), Joeanne Jackson (UK), Kathleen Livingstone*
(USA), Carsten Riedl* (Germany), Stefanie Riemer (Germany), Florentine Schwabbauer
(Germany), Hans
-
Juergen Voss (Germany), Shantala Wentink (the Netherlands), Stefan
Windhorst (Germany)
.
9
18
April 2019
Julia Burucker (Germany), Martin Etter (Switzerland), Jasmin Huether (Germany), Cris
Marshall (UK), Peter Pilbeam (UK), Yvonne Raap (Switzerland), SuEllen Stirling (USA),
Mary Storkan (USA), Gerhard Strauhs (Austria), Lisa Wallis (UK).
*blogg
ers / members of the media.
Carsten Riedl delivered exposure as detailed on the
Azores
expedition
page
. Both Ashley Halligan and Kathleen Livingstone failed to deliver
any significant exposure and have been banned from taking part in any further
expeditions.
1.8.
P
artners
Our main partner on this project is Whale Watch Azores, a whale watching and research
group founded by our local scientists and operating from Faia
l Island. Other partners
include Europhlukes (a European cetacean photo
-
ID system and research database), the
University of the Azores, POPA (the Observer Programme for the Fisheries of the Azores),
the University of Florida (for research into turtles)
,
as
well as the local community of whale
spotters (vigias).
9
1.9
. Further
i
nformation &
e
nquiries
More background information on Biosphere Expeditions in general and on this expedition
in particular including pictures, diary excerpts and a copy of this rep
ort can be found on the
Biosphere Expeditions website
www.biosphere
-
expeditions.org
.
Enquires should be addressed to Biosphere Expeditions at
info@b
iosphere
-
expeditions.org
.
1.10
. Expedition
b
udget
Each team member paid towards expedition costs
a
contribution of
1,79
0 per
person per
10
-
day slot. The contribution covered accommodation and meals, supervision 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 expenses to and
from the assembly point (e.g. international flights). Details on how this contribution was
spent are given below.
Income
Expedition contributions
29,8
46
Expenditure
Base camp and food
includes all board & lodging, base camp equipment
5,243
Research vessel & transport
includes fuel, oils, wear & tear for research vessel, taxis on land
5,131
Equipment and hardware
includes research materials &
gear, etc.
456
Staff
includes local and Biosphere Expeditions staff & expenses
4,132
Administration
includes registration fees, sundries, etc.
35
Team recruitment Azores
as estimated % of PR costs for Biosphere Expeditions
4,981
Income
Expenditur
e
9,868
Total percentage spent directly on project
67
%
10
1.
11
. Acknowledgements
This study was conducted by Biosphere Expeditions which runs wildlife conservation
expeditions 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
(also 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 a
lso 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
goes to
skipper
s Gyro &
Nuno
, as well as James Rosa and
Claudia Steube
, our
excell
ent
hosts at Banana Manor
.
11
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 report to be published without the main author’s written permission
2.
1
.
Introduction
The
Azores
are
a group of nine
islands located about 900
nautical miles
off the coast of
Portugal
.
2
8
species of cetacean have been seen in the islands over the last
30
years.
Sperm whales were commercially hunted
t
here until 1985. With th
e cessation of whaling,
whale watching was a natural successor, but did not begin
in earnest until the late 1990
s.
Little
work has been done around the a
rchipelago before 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 and in
2019 the expedition began on 29 March.
Baleen whales have been seen fairly regularly migrating past the islands
from March to
June
ove
r the last decade
, 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 even 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
Spitz
bergen, 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
t
he 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 th
e
Azores and the Cape Verde Islands
and ten
have also been re
-
sighted in Norway. Two
ind
ividuals have been seen in all three
places. A new match of a humpback has also been
made to Newfoundland
(not by the expedition).
There are still no matches
with indiv
iduals
sighted in
the Caribbean, despite some satellite tracking showing some movement in this
direction.
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 dur
ing the winter months.
Working
earlier in the year
in
March and
April has given us the opportunity to see that
females and calves are present at this time of year
as well as
during
the summer months
.
In future, we would like to expand the effort to include
the winter months
,
to see if some
females
and calves are present in the a
rchipelago all year round.
12
Photo
-
identification of sperm whales began in the Azores in 1987 and
over 3
,
000
individuals have been identified since then
(just over 500 of them by th
e expedition)
. The
Europhlukes matching program makes matching individuals much faster than
when done
manually.
Work by other researchers has shown that s
ome bottlenose and Risso’s dolphin
are resident in the islands year round
and there are some transient
groups, just passing
through
.
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 determine what home ranges might exist for
these resident individuals. This requires a
lot of time spent matching
ID
photos
to identify individuals and their groups.
Most of this
work will be done in the future by MSc or PhD students.
Not much is known about the orcas that are occasionally observ
ed around the islands. To
date, all the orcas have been seen eating fish, rather than marine mammals. One group of
individuals has been matched between the central and eastern groups of islands. They
were seen in Sao Miguel in 2013 (I.
Korpöga Eriksson
pers. comm.) and seen again off
Faial in 2016.
2.2. Summary of expedition work and results
2004
-
2019
Over the past 15 years (2004
-
2019,
with the exception of
2017
, when no exp
edition took
place
), the expedition has
spent 1
,
52
9
hours at sea looking for cetaceans: 75 hours in
March, 97
1
in April and 483 in May.
During that time the expedition has registered a
very
large
number of animals
(Fig.
2.2a
, which
shows the number of sigh
ting
s
for the main
species that we see, adjusted for effort
)
.
Highlights of the expeditions were:
520
new
sperm whales
were identified
,
including
178
re
-
sighted animals.
During the
2007 expedition,
a record
167 sperm whale
s were
encounter
ed
, with another
four
expeditions
yielding
over 100 sightings each.
125 separate blue whale sightings
were made,
with
3
individual
blue whales
being
identified
in different years. To date, no blue whale identified during an expedition has
been
identified
elsewhere.
41 f
in whale encounters were recorded
in 2016
and 35 in 2006
. So far, no fin whales
identified during the expedition have been
identified
elsewhere
.
27 humpback whale
ightings
were made
, with
2
re
-
seen in the Cape Verde Islands
a
nd
1
over a
two
-
month
period
in 2016
.
No other
humpbacks
sighted during an expedition
have
been
matched to other areas of the Atlantic.
Thousands of dolphins have been recorded
,
and the expedition has been fortunate to
observe some
rare sightings
, such as pygmy sperm whales, false ki
ller whales
, orcas
and a couple of beaked whales.
Several loggerhead turtles have been caught during the expedition
s
, but none of them
have been recaptured elsewhere.
13
Since the expedition
s
began in 2004, t
he lead
author
has
given
multiple presentations.
An
oral presentation at the
European Cetacean Society (
ECS
) conference
in
Kolmarden
was given
in 2004 on site fidelity of sperm whales. She has also
been
first
author on
posters
at three
conferences
and co
-
author on several others
:
In 2009 the poster was
on male sperm whale matches from the Azores to Norway
(
Steiner et al. 2009
)
, which
has since been published
(
Steiner et al
.
2012
)
. In 2015,
the topic
s were
movements of
female sperm whales
between the Azores, Madeira and the Canaries
(
Steiner et al.
2015
)
, the first blue whale matches from the Azores to Newfoundland and Norway
(
Sears et
al. 2015
) and humpback whales using the Azores as a stopover feeding point
(
Cucuzza et al. 2015
). In 2016, a poster was presented in Madeira on habitat
use of
species of baleen whale in the Azores (
Chevallard et al. 2016
). I
n 2019
, the poster
was
about
false killer whales in the Azores
(
Steiner et al. 2019
)
.
Other
papers
published
since the start of the expedition
s and
co
-
authored
by
Lisa
Steiner have
dealt with humpback whale sightings a
round the Cape Verde and North
Atlantic
(Wenz
e
l et al
.
2009)
.
Other publications comprise a
paper on True’s beaked
whales around the North Atlantic
(A
guil
ar
de Soto
et al
.
2017)
, movements of pilot
whales between the Azores
(
Alves et al
.
2019)
, Madeira and
the Canaries and a paper
on abundance of sperm whales in the Azores
(Boys et al
.
2019)
. Most of these
publications
mainly use
d
data
not collected during the expedition.
Lisa Steiner
is
currently working on a paper about blue/fin whale hybrids with colleag
ues from Iceland,
the
Azores and Ireland
(
Iverson et al.
in preparation)
and a note about a match of a
sperm whale between the Gulf of Mexico and the Azores
.
For the lead author it continues to be a source of great motivation and inspiration
to
watch expe
dition
participants
arrive with little or no experience and gel into a team that
gets the work done, sometimes in very challenging conditions.
These
highlights
show how important
the
work
of
Biosphere Expeditions
is
to
gathering
information
on
the
cetacea
ns
around
the
Azores.
Considering
the
short
duration
of
the
expedition in any given year,
the fact
that we have
collect
ed
as
many
data as we have is
an incredible achievement.
Bottlenose dolphin
0
2
4
6
8
10
12
14
16
18
20
2004
2005
2006
2007
2008
2009
2010
2011
2012
2013
2014
2015
2016
2018
2019
Figure
2.2a
(part 1)
.
Species sightings 2004
-
2019
adjusted for effort
.
14
Common dolphin
0
10
20
30
40
50
60
70
2004
2005
2006
2007
2008
2009
2010
2011
2012
2013
2014
2015
2016
2018
2019
Figure
2.2a
(
part 2
)
.
Species sightings 2004
-
2019 adjusted for effort.
15
Blue whale
0
2
4
6
8
10
12
14
16
18
20
2004
2005
2006
2007
2008
2009
2010
2011
2012
2013
2014
2015
2016
2018
2019
Figure
2.2a
(
part 3
)
.
Species sightings
2004
-
2019 adjusted for effort
.
16
Fin whale
0
5
10
15
20
25
30
35
40
2004
2005
2006
2007
2008
2009
2010
2011
2012
2013
2014
2015
2016
2018
2019
Figure
2.2a
(
part 4
)
.
Species sightings
2004
-
2019 adjusted for effort
.
17
Sperm whale
0
20
40
60
80
100
120
140
160
2004
2005
2006
2007
2008
2009
2010
2011
2012
2013
2014
2015
2016
2018
2019
Figure
2.2a
(
part 5
)
.
Species sightings
2004
-
2019 adjusted for effort
.
18
2.3
. Methods
Physeter (Latin for sperm whale), a 12
m motor catamar
an, 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, where they bega
n to look for whales at
around 0
7:30 to be
able to direct the boat
,
on
its
departure at
0
9
:00
. If the lookouts did not sight any whales,
the boat was equipped with a towed hydrophone to
attempt to
locate sperm whales
acoustically. The boat also had up to
three
additional lookouts onboard,
two
on the bow
(Fig. 2.3
a)
and
one
looking aft (behin
d the boat)
searching for cetaceans.
Figure 2.3
a.
Observers on the bow.
Two
citizen scientists
were
tasked
with
fill
ing
in POPA forms (transects and bird
,
turtle and
trash
surveys)
(Fig.
2.3
b)
. Other
citizen scientists
were on camera duty
,
data sheet
s,
hydrophone monitoring
(Fig. 2.
3c
)
, filling in the log or collecting water temperatures
(Fig.
2.3
d),
when required
. In 2019, the aft lookout was also responsible for collecting data on
the beta vers
ion of the Monicet App (Fig. 2.3
e)
.
On occasion
,
crew me
mbers may have
had to do more than one job
at a time
.
19
Figure 2.3
b
.
POPA sheet duty.
Figure 2.3
c.
Hydr
ophone deployment and listening.
20
Figure 2.3
d.
Collecting w
ater
for
temperature
measurement
(for POPA)
.
Figure 2.3
e.
Collecting data
using
the Monicet a
pp.
21
When found, s
pe
rm whales were approached from b
ehind in order to obtain fluke
photographs
and in accordance with the whale watching regulations
.
Baleen
whales were
also approached from behind
,
but moving further forward to obtain photograp
hs of dorsal
fins
as well as chevron pattern
s
of the fin whales
(mottling located on the right side of the
animal, just behind the blowhole)
.
Risso’s dolphin
and orcas
were also paralleled in order
to obtain dorsal fin
and saddle patch (orcas)
photographs
for identification of individuals.
Other dolphin
s
sighted
were
approached for species identification
. If the species was not a
target species,
the boat usually move
d
on to look for other
target
animals.
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.
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)
.
Only
four
categories of behaviours (
milling, travelling, bowriding or feeding
)
were
differentiated
,
because generally not enough time
could be
spent with the an
imals to br
eak
behaviours
down further.
If the animals were travelling,
the
direction of travel was noted. In
addition, environmental informati
on was also recorded
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.
All sightings were treated as separate encounters, unless
more dolphins were seen within
two to three
minutes of
ending the previous encounter,
then the maximum number of dolphins and end time were adjusted.
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,
if there was a
visible callous
(a grow
th on the top of the dorsal fin,
which
indicates
that
the whale is female)
or
,
if the whale was male, posit
ion, fluke heading,
defecation
and the presence of other whale watching
boats
.
When
lo
ggerhead turtles were sighted,
their position was recorded on POPA forms
.
An
attempt to catch the animal was made and, if successful,
it
was
measured and tagged
with
stainless steel flipper tags
f
or the University of Florida
/
University of the A
zores turt
le
tagging programme.
When the boat returned to port, there was a debriefing on board to show where the boat
had been
during the day
, using a nautical chart
. L
ater
,
sperm whale photos
taken
during
the day
were matched to the catalogue.
Results
were analy
sed using
E
xcel
data analysis tools
. S
ummary statistics
obtained thus
were
used
to
obtain average
group sizes and ranges
.
Sightings obtained in 2019 were not
sufficient to use other statistics.
22
2.4
. Results
2.4
.1. Effort
The research vessel
Physeter n
ormally
left
the harbour around
09:00
and return
ed
around
16:00
,
weather permitting. The boat went to sea
for nine
days during the expedition and
spent between
3
and
8.25
h
ou
rs (h
)
per day on the water,
the
average
being
5.5 h
. A total
of 52.5
h
with sea c
ond
itions less than sea state 5 were
spent at sea
.
In 2019, there were
also 10 h
with a sea state of 4, only a fraction less than sea state 5.
A comparison of the
yearly effort
since 2004 is presented in Fig
2
.4a
.
It should be noted that prior to 2009
, the
expedition
duration was 13 days, which has
since been reduced to 10 days. Also
of
note
is
that in 2009, 2011, 2013 and 2015 there were no expedition
s
in May. There was no
e
xpedition in 2017. I
n 2018 the expedition began in March for the first time
,
with n
o
groups
in May. There were also no
groups in May in 2019 and only one
day at sea in March
of the
same year
.
2.4
.2. Encounters
During the
2019
expedition
,
eleven
groups of non
-
sperm whales
from four different
species
and
15
sperm whale
encounters
were r
ecorded (Table 2.4a.
).
Table 2.4
a.
Species encountered.
COMMON DOLPHIN,
Delphinus delphis
8
RISSO’S DOLPHIN,
Grampus griseus
1
ORCAS,
Orcinus orca
1
F
IN WHALE,
Bal
aenoptera physalus
1
SPERM
WHALE
,
Physeter macrocep
h
alus
15
These encounters resulted in a relative sightings frequency as shown in Fig
.
2.4b
. Sperm
whales were the species encountered most
at
5
7.69
%
and, along with common dolphin at
30.76%, made up
almost 90% of the sightings. Fin whales, orcas and Risso’s dolphin
s
comprised the rest of the sightings.
23
Yearly Effort
0
20
40
60
80
100
120
140
160
180
200
2004
2005
2006
2007
2008
2009
2010
2011
2012
2013
2014
2015
2016
2017
2018
2019
H
o
u
r
s
May
April
March
Figure
2.
4
a
.
Yearly e
ffort
2004
2019.
24
Figure
2.4
b.
Species sightings frequency
relative to other species
.
25
© Biosphere Expeditions, a
not
-
for
-
profit
conservation
organisation
registered
in Australia
,
England, France, Germany
,
Ireland,
USA
Officially accredited m
ember of the United
Nations Environment Programme, the International
Union for the
Conservation of Nature and the European Citizen Science Association.
2.4
.3.
Species sightings
Common d
olphin
This species was encountered
eight
times
.
G
roup size
ranged from 5
-
30
with an
av
e
rage
of
13 (Fig. 2.4
c
).
This group size
is
lower
than we have previously
observed
. Calves were
first observed on
2
April
and seen
on 5
0% of sightings during the
expedition.
There
are
insufficient data to determine if group size
s
were
larger with calves than without.
It is
generally thought that calves are present in larger groups, which provide
greater
protection
for the youngsters
(Scha
ffar
-
Delaney 2004, Tezanos
-
Pinto 2009)
.
Common Dolphin Group Size
62.5
25
12.5
0
10
20
30
40
50
60
70
5 to 10
11 to 20
21-30
Relative Frequency
Figure
2.4
c.
Common dolphin group size
classes
.
Be
haviour
of common dolphin was evenly split between milling and travelling. They
bowrode on 75% of encounters and were s
een feeding on
ce (Fig. 2.4
d
).
50
12.5
75
50
50
87.5
25
50
0
10
20
30
40
50
60
70
80
90
100
Milling
Feeding
Bowriding
Travelling
%
Yes
No
Figure
2.
4
d.
Common dolphin behaviour.
26
© Biosphere Expeditions, a
not
-
for
-
profit
conservation
organisation
registered
in Australia
,
England, France, Germany
,
Ireland,
USA
Officially accredited m
ember of the United
Nations Environment Programme, the International
Union for the
Conservation of Nature and the European Citizen Science Association.
Risso’s d
olphin
One group of 25 Risso’s dolphin was seen, including males as well as mothers and calves.
Photographs were taken of dorsal fins to identify ind
ividuals (Fi
g. 2.4
e). This
proved to be
a mixed group of known individuals. There we
re several females, including
“Resa”
,
first
seen i
n 2004, M3a
, first seen in
2006, with
her third
calf and also M5cc
,
with a calf. There
were a few males mixed in with the group. One o
f these
(
“Loopy”
)
used to be part of a
large group of older males that has slowly disappeared ov
er the years and now he does
not appear to
have a stable group. He and S22
had
no
t been seen for several years
prior
to this encounter
(Karin Hartman pers. comm
.).
Figure
2.4
e
(part 1)
.
Risso’s dolphin dorsal fin photo
-
ID
.
M3a with third calf
Resa
27
© Biosphere Expeditions, a
not
-
for
-
profit
conservation
organisation
registered
in Australia
,
England, France, Germany
,
Ireland,
USA
Officially accredited m
ember of the United
Nations Environment Programme, the International
Union for the
Conservation of Nature and the European Citizen Science Association.
Figure
2.4
e
(part 2)
.
Risso’s d
olphin dorsal fin
ID
photos.
28
© Biosphere Expeditions, a
not
-
for
-
profit
conservation
organisation
registered
in Australia
,
England, France, Germany
,
Ireland,
USA
Officially accredited m
ember of the United
Nations Environment Programme, the International
Union for the
Conservation of Nature and the European Citizen Science Association.
Orcas
A group
of
eight orcas was observed on
31 March
2019
. This group had also been seen a
few days prior t
o the expedition
sighting
(Sanne Bakkers pers. comm.). They were milling
(non
-
directional movement) and appeared to be feedin
g, although no prey was seen. ID
photos of the dorsal fins and saddle patches were taken to match to other previous
sightings of or
cas in the Azores
(Fig. 2.4
f)
, though
no
matches were found to the
catalogue. This species is not seen very frequently, but can be seen at any time of the
year, although there have been more sightings in the spring
than at other times of the
year
.
F
igure
2.4
f
(part 1)
.
Orca dorsal fin ID photos
.
29
© Biosphere Expeditions, a
not
-
for
-
profit
conservation
organisation
registered
in Australia
,
England, France, Germany
,
Ireland,
USA
Officially accredited m
ember of the United
Nations Environment Programme, the International
Union for the
Conservation of Nature and the European Citizen Science Association.
Figure
2.4f
(part 2
).
Orca dorsal fin ID photos.
30
© Biosphere Expeditions, a
not
-
for
-
profit
conservation
organisation
registered
in Australia
,
England, France, Germany
,
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Officially accredited m
ember of the United
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Union for the
Conservation of Nature and the European Citizen Science Association.
Figure
2.4f
(part 3
).
Orca dorsal fin ID photos.
Fin whale
One group of three
fin whales was seen during the expedition. They were travelling
southea
st. Photo identification pictures of the chevrons and dorsal fins of two in
dividuals
were obtained (Fig 2.4
g) and these photos were sent to the College of the Atlantic,
University of Virginia and The Bottlenose Dolphin Research Institute (BDRI) in Spain fo
r
matching to their Atlantic catalogues. No matches have been found to date.
Figure
2.4g (part 1)
.
Fin whale ID photos
31
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-
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-
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Figure
2.4
g
(part 2)
.
Fin whale ID photos.
Humpback w
hale
No humpback whales were seen on the 2019 expedition. However, f
or the first time in over
30 years of research, we heard a humpback whale singing on the hydrophone on
4
April
2019
. It is the male humpback whales that usually “sing” on the breeding grounds.
Unfortunately, we were unable to locate the animal.
Sperm whal
e
Sperm whales are one of the target species of the expedition. They were encountered
15
times
on 1
3 April
, comprising 19 animals (not all different individuals)
. The average group
size was
1.27
, ranging from
1
-
2
, which is similar to that encountered duri
ng other parts of
the summer.
One large male was seen
,
and females with c
alves
were observed
4
times
.
Photographs were taken of all whales
that
fluked up. Individuals can be recognised by the
nicks and scallops formed o
n the trailing edge of the tail,
due
mainly to wear and tear as
the flukes beat through the water
(Fig. 2.4
h)
.
Four
different
individuals were identified
in
total
, from the 15 encounters
.
One
male
was observed
that
had not
previously
been seen.
T
he other
s
were
re
-
sighted individuals
;
2
had be
en seen during the 2013 expe
dition and
the other individual had
also
been
seen during the 2008 expedition
,
in addition to 2013.
32
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-
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-
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,
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ember of the United
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s
een in 2013
s
een in 2013
s
een in
2008
&
2013
unidentified male
Fig
ure 2.4
h
.
Sperm whale ID photos.
33
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-
for
-
profit
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organisation
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,
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ember of the United
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Union for the
Conservation of Nature and the European Citizen Science Association.
Miscel
laneous sightings
Lo
ggerhead turtles were observed seven times during the expedition. N
one w
ere caught
for tagging (Fig. 2.4
i).
Figure 2.4
i
.
Loggerhead turtle
.
Sightings during the expedition
Figs. 2.4j
and
k
show locations of species sightings in
relation to the islands of Pico, Faial
and S
ã
o
Jorge
, and over the two expedition slots.
Monicet app
In 2019, a beta version of the Monicet data collection app was trialled on a smartphone.
Monicet is a platform that collects sightings from mainly around
the Azores, used
primarily
by whale watching companies (
www.monicet.net
)
. It was partially successful. Three of the
tracks collected
u
sing it
are shown in Figs. 2.4l
-
n. Green and yellow icons are GPS
locations and blue are the start/end points of sightings. The blue icon at Horta bay was
necessary in order to end the app
recording
on 31 March 2019, which
demonstrates
one
of
its
glitches.
From gaps in the track lines, it can be seen that GPS points were not
always recorded. It is
unknown
why this occurred. Monicet has funding to create a new
and improved app for 2020. However, at the time of writing this was unlikely to be ready by
the tim
e of the 2020 expedition.
34
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-
for
-
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ember of the United
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Union for the
Conservation of Nature and the European Citizen Science Association.
Fig
ure
2.4
j
.
Sightings during
group 1 (
29 March
7 April
2019
).
35
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-
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-
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Fig
ure
2.
4
k
.
Sightings
during group 2 (
9
18 April
2019
).
36
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-
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-
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ember of the United
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Figure 2.4
l.
Track
recorded by Monicet app on
31 March
2019.
Green and yellow icons are GPS lo
cations
(from a phone and a dedicated GPS unit respectively),
and blue are the start/end points of sightings.
37
© Biosphere Expeditions, a
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-
for
-
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organisation
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ember of the United
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Union for the
Conservation of Nature and the European Citizen Science Association.
Figure 2.4
m
.
Track
recorded by Monicet app on
2 April 2019.
Green and yellow icons are GPS locations
(from a phone and a dedicated GPS unit res
pectively),
and blue are the start/end points of sightings.
38
© Biosphere Expeditions, a
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-
for
-
profit
conservation
organisation
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,
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Officially accredited m
ember of the United
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Union for the
Conservation of Nature and the European Citizen Science Association.
Figure 2.
4
n
.
Track
recorded by Monicet app on 4 April 2019.
Green and yellow icons are GPS locations
(from a phone and a dedicated GPS unit respectively),
and blue are the start/end points of s
ightings
.
39
© Biosphere Expeditions, a
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-
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-
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organisation
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ember of the United
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2.5
. Discussion & c
onclusions
March,
April
and May
are
usually
a
good
time
for cetacean sightings
in the Azores.
Biosphere Expeditions are playing an important role in collecting vital information at a time
of year when little or no work has be
en done in the past
,
mainly due to low numbers of
tourists and lack of independent funding
.
Many species of c
etacean can be observed in the a
rchipelago. In fact, the variety of
cetaceans is
usually
greater at this time of year than any other time of the
whale watching
season
.
S
ightings of baleen whales are unpredictable,
but
the use of lookouts
(vigias)
on
the cliffs greatly enhances the
probability
of sighting them.
Orcas are an uncommon sight
in the Azores. They can appear at any time of the year, altho
ugh there are more
observations in the spring than at other times.
The weather in 2019 was not favourable for our surveys. While we did manage to get out
to sea
for over 50 hours during
the 2
groups
, we were often limited
by the weather
as to
where we cou
ld
go
and often work
ed
in difficult conditions. When the sea state is over 3, it
becomes very difficult to spot d
olphins, which may account for the
lack of sightings
as
reported above
.
Baleen whales were only sighted once during the expedition, which is v
ery unusual. In
fact,
sightings during
the whole 2019 season
were
significantly
below average. This could
possibly be explained by a lower
primary
productivity
(plankton)
in the area,
which means
that
there is
less food for the animals to
eat, so they look
elsewhere
. The productivity in
the Azores had been increasing up until 2014,
the year
which to date has had the most
sightings of baleen whales
(
Steiner et al. 2014
)
. After 2014, the productivity began to
decrease in the Azores and appear further north (S
ergi Perez Jorge pers comm.).
Fig.
2.5
a
shows
a comparison between 2018 and 2019 prod
uctivity levels. Between these two
years there is not too much difference. It may be that a gradual decline in productivity over
the past few years has led to animals taki
ng a different route to their feeding grounds.
Figure 2.5
a.
Comparison of Chlorophyll A between 2018 and 2019 (
Sergi Perez Jorge
pers comm).
40
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-
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Fin w
hales
Fin whales were encountered
once
in 2019. A group of three
individuals was recorded
travelling to t
he southeast. These whales
were
on their northward migration; exactly where
they
travelled to
is still
unknown
. During the expedition, some initial
photo
-
ID
matching
began with photos taken previously in the Azores
,
and
photographs of
individuals were
forw
arded to interested groups in the US and Spain to
attempt to make
matches
(see next
paragraph for a Spain match),
as well as the College of the Atlantic, which currently
overseas the humpback whale catalogue. As far as we know from tags placed on fin
whale
s by the University of the Azores
(Fig.2.5
b)
,
their general movement is northwards
in
the spring
, but the tags have stopped wo
rking or fallen off, before the
animals
reach
ed
the
main feeding grounds.
Fig
ure 2.5
b.
Movement of
blue and fin
whales
tagged in the Azores (Silva et al. 2013).
The only match to date is of o
ne leucistic
(i.e. with partial loss of pigmentation)
fin w
hale,
very well marked with white patches
, that
was observed in the Azores i
n June 2017
and
was re
-
sighted off n
orther
n Spain in October 2017
(Methion
and Diaz Lopez,
2019)
Fig.
2.5
c.
41
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-
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Figure 2.5
c.
Movements of fin whales in the North Atlantic (BDRI Fa
cebook post)
.
Knowledge of fin whale movements and identification
is important, because in 2017 and
2018,
one company in Iceland
began hunting fin whales in order to export the meat to
Japan. Although no fin whales
were hunted in 2019, the licenc
e is vali
d
until 2023.
I
t is
possible that animals from the Azores migra
ting
to Iceland may face an extra threat on one
of their possible feeding grounds.
Humpback whales
No humpback whales were observed
during
the 2019 expedition. One individual
humpback
was see
n just before the expedition started
, and o
n 4 April 2019
a
humpback
whale was heard singing on the hydrophone. In over 30 years of research, singing from a
humpback whale has never been heard in the Azores.
T
he male humpbacks sing on the
breeding grounds
to attract females
(
Payne and McVay 1971)
. Unfortunately, we were
un
able to locate the singer
to
obtain fluke photos for photo ID
.
In wider research
on this species outside the expedition,
t
here have been several
humpback whales sighted in the Azores that
have also been seen in the Cape Verde
Islands (Wenzel et al. 2009).
To date there are
ten
matches between the Azores and Cape
Verde with
five
of those being seen in
n
orthern Norway (Fred Wenz
e
l pers. comm.).
One
humpback whale sighted during a previous ex
pediti
on
was
matched to a whale seen in
n
orthern Norway (2014/2015) and close to the Russian border (2016)
(unpublished data)
.
There has been a new match from the Azores (not the author’s photo) to Newfoundland,
which is the first trans
-
Atlantic match
(unp
ublished data)
.
Tagged animals have passed by
the Azores on their way to the Caribbean
(unpublished data)
, but have not been
photographed yet
, s
o i
t
is
just a matter of time
before a match is found to the Caribbean
population as well. Two animals tagged in
Norway
a few years ago
came close to Faial on
their way to the Caribbean
(unpublished data)
,
just not close enough to be identified. A
new match has also been made recently from the Azores catalogue to Iceland
(unpublished data)
.
42
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-
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-
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ember of the United
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The
North Atlantic Humpback Whale Catalogue
, managed by the College of the Atlantic,
is
currently approaching
11
,000 individuals on record and although the Azores photos are a
very small part of this catalogue, they pla
y an important role in discovering some long
-
range matches.
Since 2004,
the expediti
on has contributed 21 ID photos
to the catalogue
,
which produced
one match to the Cape Verde Islands in 2010 and one to Norway in 2018
(unpublished data)
.
The Cape Verde ma
tch made by the expedition
,
as well as data
collected outside the expedition and by
Wenzel et al. (2009)
, suggest
that
most of
the
humpbacks that are seen in the Azores are part of the endangered Cape Verde
population, rather than the Caribbean population
which was taken off the endangered list
in 2016 (Fig.
2.
5d
, Wenzel et al. 2009).
Matching movements and populations is important,
because little is known about the movements of the eastern Atlantic humpback whales
and
as an endangered population,
it is goo
d to
monitor
its
status
in order to take action as
soon as possible if a decline is noticed
. Some animals appear to stop in the Azores
to feed
on their way to the
final
feeding grounds
as well as on their way back to the breeding
grounds
(Cucuzza et al
.
20
15)
.
With several matches made to Norway, it would appear
that many of the Cape Verde animals make their way to Norway as a preferred feeding
area
(Wenz
e
l et al
.
2009)
.
This project has made a significant contribution to these
important insights.
Most res
earchers will not risk coming to the Azores to find baleen whales, because their
migration patterns are too unpredictable
,
as
can be
seen by the expedition’s very v
ariable
success in recording baleen whales
. Researchers could come to the islands for a
few
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 fo
r the
baleen whale catalogues are always thankful for data
gathered during the expedition,
and
continue to
repeatedly communicate to the author the importance of the baleen whale
photos taken during the expedition,
since the Azores may be a route marker fo
r animals
travelling north (Richard Sears, Peter Stevick
,
pers comm.).
Two collaborative projects were conducted with the University of the Azores
,
looking at
sightings of (non
-
baleen) sperm whales (Boys et al. 2016, 2019), as well as baleen
whales
,
with
respect to environmental data collected by the university (depth, slope and
tide as a few examples). One poster on baleen whales, using photo
-
ID from 1998
-
2015
,
was presented at the 2016 European Cetacean Society conference in Madeira (Chevallard
et al. 2
016). This corroborated the results mentioned above, i.e. that some blue whales
have 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 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 Icel
and 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 and death. Having a
baseline of information on the
number of animals and
the
areas that they are using may
also be useful in detecting any early changes in prey abundance due to global warming. In
this regard, 2019 may be an indicator of things to come, if global warming is responsible
for the decline in p
roductivity
in the Azores
over the past few years. Only over the next few
years will we be able to determine if this slowdown in productivity is a normal variation in
productivity
,
or an indication of future
trends
due to global warming.
43
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-
for
-
profit
conservation
organisation
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,
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,
Ireland,
USA
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ember of the United
Nations Environment Programme, the International
Union for the
Conservation of Nature and the European Citizen Science Association.
Fig
ure 2.5
d
.
Movement
of h
umpback whales in the North Atlantic
(Wenzel et al. 2009).
Azores
matches in green and blue.
Dolphin species
Overall, dolphin
sightings continued to be low. This may have been due to the weather
conditions we were operating under
,
or possibly
due to
a lack of
food
. There were no bait
balls or feeding frenzies of Cory’s shearwaters observed in the area.
The last
three
years
have
had lower overall dolphin sightings than previous years. To date, it is not known why.
If there is lower primary productivity, then it follows that there will be less
prey
for
some
species
to eat.
Another possibility is that the dolphins have been stressed
by the
swimming with dolphins that occurs mainly in the summer months
,
and are now spending
less time in the main whale watching areas.
Azores
44
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-
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The expedition saw one
group of resident Risso’s dolphin. Two of the Risso’s dolphin were
the well
-
known females “Resa
” and M3a. “Resa” has been seen since 2004 an
d M3a
since 2006. Resa had her fourth calf and M3a had her third
calf wit
h them.
This is a
regular “nursery” group of Risso’s dolphin we see regularly. The males tend to live in
separate groups.
Also identified
in 2019
were a couple of males
, mixed in with the
females,
“Loopy” and “S22”,
who
had
not been seen for several years
prior to this sighting
(K. Hartman pers.comm.). The males were
part of a very well
-
known gro
up of males, but
over the years
that group has
declined and been moved out of the prime area for females
by
new,
younger
and
stronger groups of males. The remaining males are no longer
affiliated to any specific group and tend to roam around in small unaffiliated groups
, which
was
probably
why the mal
es were associating with a nursery group
(Hartman pers.
comm.)
. All of the ID photos of the Risso’s were forwarded to Karin Hartman who wrote
her PhD (Hartman 2014) on Risso’s around Pico, for future analysis
.
Eight
groups of common dolphin were seen. Th
ese dolphin
are not part of
the photo
-
ID
project, since group sizes can often be quite large
making it difficult to identify all the
individuals and prior to digital photography, prohibitively expensive
. The group size
s
were
smaller than usually observed,
but this could be due to prey being
dispersed
over a wide
area
,
or because there were not enough sightings to get
a complete
picture.
Orcas were observed for the first time during a
n expedition. A group of eight individuals
was seen on
31
March
2019
, the
expedition’s
first day out at sea. Orcas are not a regular
sighting in the Azores
though
they can be seen at any time of the year
. F
or
an
unknown
reason,
there are more sightings in the spring than
at
other times of the year.
ID
photos
were c
ompared to th
e orca catalogue and n
o matches were found. Other groups of orcas
have been re
-
sighted between groups of islands and in different years, leading to the
hypothesis that there may be some resident orcas in the Azores, spending most of their
time offshore hun
ting tuna or other large fish,
and
only occasionally coming closer to the
coast where
they can be observed
.
This would explain the paucity of sightings.
Sperm whales
The 2019 expedition had a total of 15 encounters of 19 sp
erm whales, including females
w
ith suckling calves
,
as
was
observed
during
previous expeditions
,
in addition to
one
big
male
.
We hear
d
spe
rm whales on the hydrophone on two
additional days, but were unable
to locate them in the time available.
Before Biosphere Expeditions began
working
in the Azores
, the expectation was that
we
would see mainly large males
in
spring
, but this
has
proven not to be the case, although
we do tend to see more males in the spring than
in
the summer.
One
male w
as
seen
during this expedition.
He
was
observed
in
the same area as a group of female sperm
whales
. It is normal for very large males to become more solitary the older they get, but
after they leave their natal group, at around 15 years old,
they usually associate with other
male “teenagers” in bachelor g
roups
(Whitehead 2003)
.
W
hen mature,
25 years or more,
they move around the
north
Atlantic (in this case) looking for females that are ready to
breed
(Whitehead 2003)
. This
may have been occurring here, although no socialising or
mating was observed.
Re
-
sightings of male sperm whales are rare
, because they move around looking for
female groups to breed with when not in their feeding areas, which tend to be further north
than the Azores
(Whitehead 2003)
. There have only been a few re
-
sighted
males
over 30
years
(unpublished data)
.
45
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-
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-
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Recently
,
a match was made of a sperm whale seen in the Gulf of Mexico
in
2002. It was
re
-
sighted in the Azores in 2017
(unpublished data)
. This is the first cross
-
Atlantic match of
a sperm whale.
Little
is known about movements
of young males (Whitehead 2003). This
whale had not been identified as a male in the Gulf of Mexico, but was
positively identified
as one
15 years later. The author has been trying to get access to images of bachelor
groups from the Caribbean, without succ
ess to date.
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 male
s seen in the
Azores were matched to animals re
-
sighted in Norway in 2007 and 2008
.
This gave
researchers the first indication of where the males observed by the expedition may go
when they are not in the Azores. The collaboration with biologists working i
n Norway is
ongoing
, but the male from this year’s expedition
did not
match to Norway. Th
e movement
of males
has now been published (Steiner et al. 2012). Since then another nine males
have been matched from Norway 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
(Fig. 2.5
e)
(unpublished data)
.
Data collected at this time of year are valuable to elucidate
whether
some of the same
individual sperm whales remain in the archipelag
o 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 archipelago o
ver 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 or even tourists for this harsh and challenging time of year
,
and
therefore gettin
g research vessels out on the water,
are
the main obstacle
s
to investigating
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 a
ll months
,
or they possibly move around the archipelago all year round.
ID photographs
confirm that
female sperm whales spend their whole lives together
(Whitehead 2003)
; it is the juvenile
males that leave the group
(Whitehead 2003)
. Some of the animals o
bserved in previous
years have been seen together for 2
8 years.
Usually when one animal from 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 gi
ven day, but repeated sightings
of the same group over time give more chances to catalogue 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 hal
f of their lives.
We have been collaborating with two whale watching companies that operate out of São
Miguel, as well as one of the companies from the south of Pico
,
since 2010.
Several
matches exist between the catalogues from the other whale watching c
ompanies,
indicating that there is movement of
some
animals around the archipelago, although most
animals have been observed in only one area. The two groups of islands are only 125
n
autical
m
iles
apart, so it is not surprising that there is movement betwe
en the two areas.
46
© Biosphere Expeditions, a
not
-
for
-
profit
conservation
organisation
registered
in Australia
,
England, France, Germany
,
Ireland,
USA
Officially accredited m
ember of the United
Nations Environment Programme, the International
Union for the
Conservation of Nature and the European Citizen Science Association.
Fig
.
2.
5e
.
Movements of male sperm whales in the Atlantic (
some data
from Steiner et al 2012).
Azores matches in green.
Azores
47
© Biosphere Expeditions, a
not
-
for
-
profit
conservation
organisation
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in Australia
,
England, France, Germany
,
Ireland,
USA
Officially accredited m
ember of the United
Nations Environment Programme, the International
Union for the
Conservation of Nature and the European Citizen Science Association.
Collaboration between
the expedition scientist,
Madeira and the Canaries has been going
since 1998.
The Wha
le Museum of Madeira (
www.museudabaleia.org
)
and more recently
the Oceanic Observatory of Madeira (www.
oom.arditi.pt
)
,
as well as
SECAC (
Sociedade
para el Estudio de los Cetaceos en el Archipelago Canario,
www.cetaceos.org
)
and
CEAMAR (Cetaceans and Marine Research Institute of the Canary Islands
www.ceamar.org
)
from the Canaries,
share sperm whale photos to
investigate matches
within Mac
a
ronesia.
This collaboration has already provided
32
matches for females
between the areas
(13 Az
-
Can, 8 Az
-
Mad, 11 Mad
-
Can)
. A few of the
animals
that
h
ave
been sighted in the Azores and then
in
Madeira or
the Canary Islands
,
have
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 wi
th 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
during the
winter of 2011/2012 and in 2012 she was back in the Azores, with her
calf, which was starting to make indep
endent dives on its own.
A
s of 2013, the calf
has not been seen,
so it is unlikely to have
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, w
ith help from the Friends
of
Biosphere Expeditions (Fig. 2.5
f
, Steiner et al. 2015)
and is being prepared for
publication
.
An interesting development is that DNA samples that have been taken from sperm whales
in the three archipelagos show distinct differ
ences
in DNA
, indicating that the populations
are separate (Rodrigues
et al 2019). Collaboration will continue with other researchers to
understand this phenomenon
. It probably comes down to sample size
:
There are not that
many groups that have moved betwe
en the archipelagos
, s
o 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
. Andrews
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 resid
ency around 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 much lo
nger 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 has been linked to a lack of orca preda
tion in the Atlantic. The larger groups in
the Pacific provide protection to individuals from orca attacks (Whitehead et al.
201
2
).
48
© Biosphere Expeditions, a
not
-
for
-
profit
conservation
organisation
registered
in Australia
,
England, France, Germany
,
Ireland,
USA
Officially accredited m
ember of the United
Nations Environment Programme, the International
Union for the
Conservation of Nature and the European Citizen Science Association.
Fig
ure 2.5
f
.
Movements of female sperm whales in the North Atlantic (from Steiner et al. 2015).
49
© Biosphere Expeditions, a
not
-
for
-
profit
conservation
organisation
registered
in Australia
,
England, France, Germany
,
Ireland,
USA
Officially accredited m
ember of the United
Nations Environment Programme, the International Union for the
Conservation of Nature and the European Citizen Science Association.
Conclusion and outloo
The expedition and its annual reports
have,
since 2004
,
(see
www.biosphere
-
expeditions.org/reports
)
demonstrated
the value of long
-
term studies on cetaceans. There
should be more publications
arising from the author’s work on sperm whales in the next
year or so. Initial work has started on using the matching information between islands to
determine
how often groups of sperm whales move between the central and eastern
groups of islands.
In con
clusion, this expedition was a success for the
fif
teenth
year. Sightings
were
fewer
than we had
hoped for, presenting more questions to answer
, particularly in relation to the
effects of global warming
. More sperm whales than baleen whales were observed an
d
there were not many dolphin sightings. The weather conditions during
the expedition were
poor,
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 e
nd a day’s work of observations.
In 2020 we will also have another
program
me
for matching sperm whales,
Flukebook
. There are images in that catalogue
that are not present in the current
catalo
gue (compiled be the lead author)
.
The 2020 e
xpedition should:
continue the photo
-
ID work on the various species
continue matching fin whales to confirm if
they
visit in multiple years and send to
other catalogues around the Atlantic
start matching Sei
whales to confirm if they are visiting repeatedly as well as
sending images to other catalogues around the Atlantic
s
tart matching false killer whales
with a view to
creating
a catalogue of individuals
put more effort into the trash survey, as part of t
he POPA programme, which began
in 2016. Marine litter is already a huge problem, with micro plastics finding their way
into the fish we eat.
Perhaps
in 2020 we can
have a dedicated beach clean duri
ng
the expedition
continue to collect data with
a mobile a
pp. In 2020 we will use
the
Seafari
app
,
since the new Monicet app will not be ready
.
We will also
continue to
use a
GPS
device,
which can also download the track of the boat
start
uploading new images and matching
flukes to Flukebook to match sperm
whale
s to animals that are not included in the presentcatalogue
compiled by the
lead author
.
Thank you to all expedition members for your assistance.
50
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not
-
for
-
profit
conservation
organisation
registered
in Australia
,
England, France, Germany
,
Ireland,
USA
Officially accredited m
ember of the United
Nations Environment Programme, the International Union for the
Conservation of Nature and the European Citizen Science Association.
2.6
. Literature cited
Aguilar de Soto, N.,
Martín,
V.,
Silva,
M.,
Edler,
R.,
Reyes,
C.,
Carrillo,
M., Schia
vi, A.,
Morales,
T., García
-
Ovide, B., Sanchez
-
Mora, A.
(2017) True's beaked whale
(
Mesoplodon mirus
) in Macaronesia. PeerJ 5:e3059; DOI 10.7717/peerj.3059
Alves
,
F
.
, Ale
ssandrini, A., Servidio, A.,
Mendonça
, A. (2019)
Complex biogeographical
patterns sup
port an ecological connectivity network of a large marine predator in the north
-
east Atlantic.
Diversity and Distributions 25(10):
269
-
284
.
Antunes, R. (2009) Variation in sperm whale (
Physeter macrocephalus
) coda vocalizations
and social structure in the
North Atlantic Ocean. PhD thesis, School of Biology, University
of St. Andrews, Scotland.
Boys, R. M., C. Oliveira, S. Perez
-
Jorge, R. Priet
o, L. Steiner, and M. A. Silva (
2019)
Multi
-
state open robust design applied to opportunistic data reveals dynamic
s of wide
-
ranging
taxa: the sperm whale case. Ecosphere 10(3): e02610. 10.1002/ecs2.2610
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 presented 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 at
the European Cetacean Society Conference, Madeira, March, 2016.
Cucuzza, M., Hartman, K., Olio, M., Peres Santos, R., Steiner, L., Stevick, P.T., van der
Linde, M., Villa, E., (2015), The Azores constitute a migrator
y stopover for humpback
whales in the North Atlantic Ocean. Poster presented at the Society for Marine
Mammalogy Conference, San Francisco, 2015.
Hartman, K. (2014). Patterns of social ecology of Risso’s dolphins, (
Grampus griseus
) off
Pico Island, Azores
. PhD thesis
,
Department of Biology, University of the Azores.
Methion, S., Diaz Lopez, B. (2019) First record of an atypical pigmentation pattern in fin
whale,
Balaenoptera physalus
, in the Atlantic Ocean.
Diseases of Aquatic Organisms
135:
121
-
125
. DOI:
10.3354/dao03385.
Payne, R. S. and McVay, S.
(
1971
)
Songs of humpback whales.
Science
, 173: 585
597.
Rodrigues Aragon, Y., Hernandez Ferrer, M. Almeida de Silva, M., Freitas, L., Carnilo
Perez, M. Aguilar de Soto, N. (2019).
Are sperm whales in Macarone
sia connected?
Females seem genetically isolated. Poster presented at the World Marine Mammal
Conference, Barcelona, December 2019.
Schaffar
-
Delaney, A. (2004). Female reproductive strategies and mother
-
calf relationships
of common dolphins (
Delphinus del
phis
) in the Hauraki Gulf, New Zealand. MSc thesis.
Massey University, Albany, New Zealand.
51
© Biosphere Expeditions, a
not
-
for
-
profit
conservation
organisation
registered
in Australia
,
England, France, Germany
,
Ireland,
USA
Officially accredited m
ember of the United
Nations Environment Programme, the International Union for the
Conservation of Nature and the European Citizen Science Association.
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 (
Ba
laenoptera
musculus
) photo
-
identification catalogues. Poster presented at the Society for Marine
Mammalogy Conference, San Francisco, December 2015.
Steiner, L., L. Lamoni, M. Acosta Plata, T. Lewis, C. Beer, J. Gordan, L. Pettersson, M.
Domingo, E. Lette
vall, S.
-
K. Jensen (2009) Long distance movement of sperm whales,
Physeter macrocephalus
, in the North Atlantic: including new matches between the Azores
and Norway. Poster presented at the Society for Marine Mammalogy Conference, Quebec
City, 2009.
Stein
er, L., Lamoni, L., Acosta
-
Plata, M., Jensen, S
-
K., Lettevall, E., Gordon, J.
(2012)
A
link between 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, S., Hammer, M., Machete, M. (2014) Photo
-
identification and surveys of
cetaceans in the central group of the Azores islands. Expedition report 2014, available via
www.biosphere
-
expedit
ions.org/reports
.
Steiner, L., Perez, M., van der Linde, M., Freitas, L., Peres dos Santos, R., Martins, V.,
Gordon, J. (2015) Movements of female/immature sperm whales in the North Atlantic.
Poster presented at the Society for Marine Mammalogy Conferenc
e, San Francisco,
December 2015.
Steiner, S., Estrela, G., Hartman, K., van der Linde, M. (2019) First insights into the
ecology of false killer whales observed in the Azores. Poster presented at the World
Marine Mammal Conference, Barcelona, 2019.
Tezan
os
-
Pinto, G. (2009). Population structure, abundance and reproductive parameters
of bottlenose dolphins (
Tursiops truncatus
) in the Bay of Islands (Northland, New
Zealand). PhD thesis. University of Auckland.
Wenzel, F., Allen, J., Berrow, S., Hazevoet, C
.J., Jann, B., Seton, R.E., Steiner, 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 Mamm
als 35: 502
-
510.
W
hitehead, H. (2003).
Sperm whales: social evolution in the ocean.
Chicago, Il: The
University of Chicago Press, 431 pp.
Whitehead, H., Antunes, R., Gero, S., Wong, S.N.P., Englehaupt, D., Rendall, L.
(2012).
Multilevel Societies of Fema
le Sperm Whales (
Physeter macrocephalus
) in the Atlantic
and Pacific: Why Are They So Different?
International Journal of Primatoly 33 (5): 1142
-
1164.
52
© Biosphere Expeditions, a
not
-
for
-
profit
conservation
organisation
registered
in Australia
,
England, France, Germany
,
Ireland,
USA
Officially accredited m
ember of the United
Nations Environment Programme, the International Union for the
Conservation of Nature and the European Citizen Science Association.
3. O
bserver Programme for the Fisheries
of the Azores (POPA)
Miguel Machete
Department of Oceanogr
aphy and Fisheries of the University of the Azores / IMAR
Sea Institute
3.1.
Introduction
The Biosphere Expeditions research project
took place between 29 March and 18 April
2019
in Faial Island (Azores, Portugal). Onboard of the ve
ssel Physeter
, seve
ral
participants had the opportunity to collect some information on marine life of the Azores.
During the expedition period,
citizen scientists
recorded the occurrence of several marine
species such dolphins and seabirds (see figures below).
Sightings on s
urface marine
debris were also performed.
The information recorded during the expedition will be
processed and included in the database of the POPA (
Azores Fisheries Obs
erver
Program
).
POPA was launched in 1998 with the main goal of certifying the tuna caught around the
Azores as a “
Dolphin Safe
” 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 fishing events,
catches, and fishing effort), weather conditions (e.g.
sea su
rface temperature
, wind and
visibility), live bait fisheries (e.g. location of fishing events, catches, gear used), cetaceans
(e.g. occurrences, interaction with fishing events and association with other species), birds
and sea turtles (e.g. occurrences)
a
nd since 2015 the program
me
observers also collect
information on marine debris
. POPA is also responsible for
the
“Friend of the
Sea” tuna
fishery certification and since 2016 is coordinating the Azores nucleus of the ICCAT
Atlantic Ocean Tropical Tuna Tag
ging Programme.
3.2.
Results
Figure 3.2a
.
Trip coverage during the 2004
-
2019 period
.
53
© Biosphere Expeditions, a
not
-
for
-
profit
conservation
organisation
registered
in Australia
,
England, France, Germany
,
Ireland,
USA
Officially accredited m
ember of the United
Nations Environment Programme, the International Union for the
Conservation of Nature and the European Citizen Science Association.
Figure 3.2b
.
Seabirds
observed
in 2019
.
Figure 3.2c.
Species of
cetaceans
observed
in 2019
.
Figure 3.2d.
Debris items (5
-
60 cm)
observed
in 2019
.
54
© Biosphere Expeditions, a
not
-
for
-
profit
conservation
organisation
registered
in Australia
,
England, France, Germany
,
Ireland,
USA
Officially accredited m
ember of the United
Nations Environment Programme, the International Union for the
Conservation of Nature and the European Citizen Science Association.
3.3. Disc
ussion
POPA has proved that accidental capture of cetaceans in the tuna fishery in the Azores is
highly insignificant and no records of mortality of cetaceans were ever reported (Silva
et al
.
2002
, Cruz et al. 2016
).
But the programme has a much wider ran
ge than just the “Dolphin
safe” topic.
In recent years
the
POPA dataset
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 th
e
OBIS
-
SEAMAP
and
EMODnet
map databases and the
papers published regarding information on
fisheries
discards in
the Azores (Fauconnet et al. 2019) and marine turtle dist
ribution
(
Vandeperre et al. 2019
)
.
Besides the scientific outputs, the data collected by POPA observers
are also available for
NGO
s, government and the fishery industry.
3.4. Literature cited
Cruz MJ, Menezes G, Machete M, Silva MA.
(
2016
)
Predicting In
teractions between
Common Dolphins and the Pole
-
and
-
Line Tuna Fishery in the Azores.
PLoS ONE
11(11):e0164107.
Fauconnet
L,
Pham C.,
Canha A, Afonso P, Diogo H, Machete M, Silva H, VAndeperre F,
Morato T (2019) An overview of fisheries discards in the Azores.
Fisheries Research Vol
209, 230
-
241 pp.
Silva, M.A., Feio, R., Priet
o, 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.
Vandeperre, F., Parra, H., Pham, C.K.
(2019)
Relative abundance of oceanic juvenile
loggerhead sea turtle
s in relation to nest production at source rookeries: implications for
recruitment dynamics. Sci Re
p 9, 13019
.
55
© Biosphere Expeditions, a
not
-
for
-
profit
conservation
organisation
registered
in Australia
,
England, France, Germany
,
Ireland,
USA
Officially accredited m
ember of the United
Nations Environment Programme, the International Union for the
Conservation of Nature and the European Citizen Science Association.
Appendix I:
Expedition diary
& reports
A multimedia expedition diary is available
at
https://blog.biosphere
-
expeditions.org/category/expedition
-
blogs/azores
-
2019/
.
All expedition reports, including this and previous Azores expedition
reports, are available at
www.biosphere
-
expeditions.org/reports
.
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Poster
Full-text available
Humpback whales use the Azores as a stopover feeding point on their migration
Article
Full-text available
After hatching, juveniles of most sea turtle species undertake long migrations across ocean basins and remain in oceanic habitats for several years. Assessing population abundance and demographic parameters during this oceanic stage is challenging. Two long-recognized deficiencies in population assessment are (i) reliance on trends in numbers of nests or reproductive females at nesting beaches and (ii) ignorance of factors regulating recruitment to the early oceanic stage. To address these critical gaps, we examined 15 years of standardized loggerhead sighting data collected opportunistically by fisheries observers in the Azores archipelago. From 2001 to 2015, 429 loggerheads were sighted during 67,922 km of survey effort. We used a model-based approach to evaluate the influence of environmental factors and present the first estimates of relative abundance of oceanic-stage juvenile sea turtles. During this period, relative abundance of loggerheads in the Azores tracked annual nest abundance at source rookeries in Florida when adjusted for a 3-year lag. This concurrence of abundance patterns indicates that recruitment to the oceanic stage is more dependent on nest abundance at source rookeries than on stochastic processes derived from short term climatic variability, as previously believed.
Article
Full-text available
Atypical pigmentation, which is rarely observed in the wild, may influence social interactions between animals and can be detrimental for survival. Hypopigmentation, which is the lack of pigment in a part or on the entire body, is a type of atypical pigmentation pattern that can be either acquired (e.g. vitiligo) or congenital resulting from the inheritance of mutations in pigment-related genes (e.g. albinism, leucism and piebaldism). This study documents atypical pigmentation in a fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus) along the northwestern coast of the Iberian Peninsula (Atlantic Ocean). Photographic and video data collected between 2016 and 2017 on 30 individual fin whales were examined. One fully-grown fin whale exhibited hypopigmentation. Several white patches of different shapes and sizes were present across the body of the fin whale including on the head, body, dorsal fin, flippers, and flukes. The position, shape, and lack of inflammation of the white patches on the whale observed, along with its body length and condition might indicate that the depigmentation pattern is due to vitiligo. To our knowledge, this is the first case of abnormal pigmentation pattern in fin whales described with photographs and video records. As these observations are rare, especially in highly migratory, long-lived, marine mammal species, this study provides valuable information to better understand the occurrence of this phenomenon. Further studies are needed to determine the ecological and physiological implications of abnormal colourations, which might have a significant influence on the animal´s survival.
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
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.
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.
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