Abstract First Report of Blue Whales (Balaenoptera Musculus) frequenting the Canary Islands waters

Ritter, F. and Brederlau, B.
PROJECT M.E.E.R. LA GOMERA
APARTADO DE CORREOS 121, 38870 VGR, LA GOMERA, CANARIAS, SPAIN

 

Abstract

Twenty-five cetacean species are known to inhabit or visit the waters of the Canary Island archipelago including most physeterids , many delphinoids, some ziphiids and four species of the balaenopterid family: minke, bryde, sei and fin whale. Seventeen of these species have been documented to use the waters South of the island of La Gomera (Western Canaries) as part of their habitat.

On April, 4th 1997, a sighting of blue whales (Balaenoptera musculus) was made in the vicinity of Gomera island. This is the first report of this species frequenting the waters of the Canary Islands. Three whales where seen, presumably being two adults and one immature animal. They where followed and observed for approx. 2 hours while travelling in Northwest direction. Photographic pictures and video footage were made to document the sighting.

As very little is known about the number, the distribution and the migrating routes of blue whales in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean, the data gained from this sighting may serve as a valuable piece for the puzzle of the blue whales´ biology in this area.

The sighting was made by the crew of a small whale watching-boat of the CLUB DE MAR (a whale watching operator). This boat is involved in research done in collaboration with the project M.E.E.R. LA GOMERA (an nongovernmental organisation, NGO) since 1995. Thus the significance of a junction of whale watching activities with scientific research is underlined by the incident and the results described here.