Ritter, F. , Neumann, K.
THE YEAR OF THE WHALE: EXTRAORDINARY OCCURRENCE OF BRYDE’S WHALES OFF LA GOMERA (CANARY ISLANDS)
The waters off La Gomera (Canary Islands) are known for an extraordinarily high number of cetacean species. With more than 20 species identified, the regularly surveyed area (roughly 100 nm2) represents the highest species diversity in Europe. However, these waters predominantly are a habitat for medium sized and small toothed whales, such as several species of delphinids, short-finned pilot whales, beaked whales and others. Large baleen whales are seen regularly, but not very frequent, and mostly during certain periods during the year. This was different in 2005, when Bryde’s whales (Balaenoptera edeni) were constantly seen from springtime on. During some months, they belonged to the most frequently seen species of the cetacean community. The observation of feeding behaviours indicated that these whales spent the greater part of the year in this area because they found enough fish to feed on. Preliminary analyses of the photographs taken suggest that the number of whales was within the range of dozens of animals. Mother/calf pairs were seen regularly.The extraordinary occurrence of Bryde’s whales, together with some other remarkable changes within the cetacean community off La Gomera suggests that 2005 was an unusual year in terms of oceanographic conditions and fish abundance.