This 2019 expedition to the Azores collected valuable information on the movements of whales & dolphins around the Azores (the expeditions have done this since 2004) and provided confirmation of previously theorised migratory routes. Prior to Biosphere Expeditions starting to work in the Azores, there was virtually no data on any type of cetacean in the Azores during spring.
Some highlights of the past 15 (!) years have been
- Around 500 sperm whales have been identified over the years. There are indications that some of the sperm whales seen during the expedition tend to be present more in the autumn/winter/spring, instead of the summer. This has given rise to a “winter whales” theory, which will be investigated further.
- Because of results that have been published and disseminated, there is enthusiasm from other biologists to collect more photo-ID of the animals they are watching. Some whale watching operators have now started to work before the main season to observe the migration of the baleen whales past the islands, extending their season and economic incentives based on healthy and active cetacean populations
- The sperm whales that have been re-sighted during Biosphere Expeditions in the spring have created the incentive for future studies that will take place in the winter, via the “Winter Flukes Project”
- Two blue whales seen in two separate years, indicating that at least some of them use the same migration route
- Three humpback whales that were identified by the expedition in the Azores have been re-sighted in the Cape Verde Islands, providing a valuable link as to where individuals passing the Azores breed
- In 2019, orcas were recorded by the expedition, south of Pico, for the first time
- Additionally, also in 2019, a single humpback was heard singing south of Faial, something not heard by of by the expedition lead scientist Lisa Steiner in the Azores for over 35 years
- Finally, a placement programme for local students has built local capacity since 2011
Thank you to all expeditioners over the years. Your contribution in achieving all this has been invaluable!
And here are some pictures of the 2019 expedition (mostly courtesy of Craig Turner):