LAND-BASED OBSERVATIONS OF CETACEANS ON LA GOMERA (CANARY ISLANDS)
Off La Gomera (Canary Islands), 21 cetacean species have been reported. This extraordinary species diversity represents an outstanding potential for both scientific research and whale watching activities. From 04-10 October 2002, a feasibility study was conducted on La Gomera to find out, a) if behavioural observations of cetaceans from an elevated viewpoint on its South coast are possible, b) if it is possible to observe interactions between boats and cetaceans and c) if it is feasible to direct whale watching boats to groups of cetaceans spotted from land. Observations were made from a viewpoint approximately 160 m above sea level. A KOWA Prominar TSN-3 telescope with 20x, 30x wide angle and 20-60x oculars, mounted on a Manfrotto 144B tripod, and a standard pair of binoculars (8x) were used. A total of 13 h 25 min of sighting effort resulted in five cetacean sightings. During three sightings, the species could be determined and during four sightings it was possible to conduct behavioural observations Interactions with whale watching boats were recorded in three instances. Once, a whale watching boat was directed to a group of cetaceans via mobile phone. Thus, it was demonstrated that a) the identification of cetaceans from land-based observation points is possible, b) behavioural observations of cetaceans and their interactions with boats are feasible and c) it is realistic to direct whale watching boats to cetaceans spotted from land. These results will add to the development of a detailed, land-based study on cetaceans with the purpose of monitoring cetacean abundance and behaviour, vessel activities and to direct whale watching boats to cetaceans. The establishment of a permanent outlook on the coast of La Gomera, as has been shown to be practicable in the Azores, is recommended.