Blasting planned in Cape Verde humpback breeding lagoon

16th Apr 2014
As part of the construction of a jetty at Sal Rei on Boavista, Cape Verde blasting is planned .  This site is breeding area for humpback whales that IWDG have been studying since 2003 as we think it could be the breeding grounds of humpbacks visiting Ireland. 
IWDG, in collaboration with colleagues working in Cape Verde, have written a letter to the government authorities and urge you to sign a petition to stop this activity during the humpback whale breeding season

To whom it may concern,

Sal-Rei Bay, including the waters immediately adjacent to the Harbour, comprise the single most important location known to a small and threatened population of humpback whales (Bérubé et al. 2013; Ryan et al. 2013). According to the attached notice, underwater blasting will soon commence at Sal-Rei Harbour. The timing of this activity (April and August 2014) is coincident with the breeding season of humpback whales in the immediate vicinity (see published study attached). This will, in our professional opinions, likely result in the injury (Todd et al. 1996) or potential death (Ketten et al. 1993) of humpback whales. This is one of the smallest populations of humpback whales in the world (Bérubé et al. 2013), and even a small mortality event could compromise the viability of this already threatened population.

Measures to protect this species are required by a range of international agreements and conventions to which Cape Verde is signatory: e.g. Convention on Biological Diversity (ratified on 29.03.1995), Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (ratified on 01.05.2006). Apart from the serious conservation issue for this threatened population, local whale-watching business and tourism will suffer greatly if these whales are displaced from the region. We urge you take immediate action to ensure that this activity does not take place during the critical breeding and nursing period (February – June). We have notified the scientific community of the blasting plans, to seek further advice and evidence on the potential effects of blasting on humpback whales in the region.

Yours respectfully,

Dr Conor Ryan (Marine Conservation Research, United Kingdom)

Dr Simon Berrow (Irish Whale and Dolphin Group / Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, Ireland)

Dr Cornelis Hazevoet (Instituto de Investigação Científica Tropical, Lisboa, Portugal)

Pedro Lopez Suárez (Bios, Sal Rei, Cape Verde)

Frederick Wenzel (National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, USA)

Beatrice Jann (Swiss Whale Society, Switzerland)



Bérubé, M., Ryan, C., Berrow, S.D., Lopez Suárez, P., Monteiro, V., Wenzel, F., Robbins, J., Mattila, D., Vikingsson, G., Oien, N., Palsboll, P. (2013). The Cape Verde Islands are home to a small and genetically distinct humpback whale population. Presentation to the 27th Conference of the European Cetacean Society, Setubal, Portugal, 8-10 April 2013.

Ketten, D. R., Lien, J., & Todd, S. (1993). Blast injury in humpback whale ears: evidence and implications. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America,94(3), 1849-1850.

Todd, S., Lien, J., Marques, F., Stevick, P., & Ketten, D. (1996). b_ehavioural effects of exposure to underwater explosions in humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae). Canadian Journal of Zoology74(9), 1661-1672.

Ryan, C., Craig, D., Lopez-Suarez, P., Vazquez Perez, J., O’Connor, I. and Berrow, S.D. (2013). Breeding habitat of poorly studied humpback whales (Megaptera novaengliae) in Boa Vista, Cape Verde. Journal of Cetacean Research and Management, 13(20), 175-180.


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