Cape Verde 2006 Report available

16th May 2006 The final report of the recent IWDG expedition to Cape Verde is now available.

The second IWDG humpback whale expedition to Cape Verde recorded 36 sightings or encounters of seven species, during the 1200 nautical miles surveyed. Most sightings were of humpback whales but six species of odontocetes were also recorded.

Most sightings of humpback whales were around Boavista with three additional sightings of three animals (likely to be the same group) observed off Maio. No humpbacks were observed around Sao Nicolau, Branco, St Luzia and Sao Vicente despite considerable survey effort in good sea conditions. Humpbacks were heard singing off Sao Nicolau on one occasion but they were probably on passage as they were recorded in deep water (>1000m).

Fluke shots of 14 individual humpback whales were obtained and have been submitted to the North Atlantic Humpback Whale Catalogue for matches. Of these, five were re-sightings (two from the IWDG expedition in 2003). Such a high re-sighting rate suggests the abundance of humpbacks around Cape Verde is very low. No matches were made withe humpback whales recorded off Ireland.

Around 2.5 hours of good recordings of humpback whale vocalisations were recorded and await analysis. Only one biopsy was attempted on a humpback whale and no genetic sample was obtained. However 19 skin samples of melon-headed whales were obtained from a mass stranding on St Luzia in 2003.

A number of recommendations are made including:

We recommend the following points should be considered in order to and ensure that the Cape Verde take full advantage of its' marine resources while ensuring that its marine biodiversity is protected and, where possible, enhanced:

1.The is potential for developing whalewatching, especially off Boavista,

2.Whalewatching should only be encouraged if a proper framework for sustainable development is in place

3.Baia de Sal Rei, at Boavista is a very important habitat for breeding humpbacks and adult-calf pairs and should be listed as “critical”

4.More photo-identification images of humpback whales are required to locate feeding grounds and to derive a robust abundance estimate

5.Visiting mariners (yacht charters, scientists) should be encouraged to contribute to photo-identification catalogues

6.Marine conservation and research should work with development companies to ensure that the marine environment, which is attracting visitors to Cape Verde, is not degraded by development but enhanced.

7.Marine biodiversity, including cetaceans, turtles, seabirds and reefs, should become part of the visitor experience and in turn, this tourism should fund marine research and education

8.A Marine Research and Education Centre could be established in Sal Rei, Boavista

A full copy of the report can be downloaded: Click Here (1.66MB)

Simon Berrow,

Expedition Leader