:: Resumo do Projecto e Espécies Alvo
The seas of the Azores, Madeira and Canary Archipelagos constitute the privileged habitat for several cetacean specie.
Some baleen whales use temporarily the seas of these archipelagos during their annual Equator-Pole (and vice-versa) migrations. Contrarily, toothed whales like the sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus), the short-finned pilot whale (Globicephala macrorhynchus), the bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) and the Atlantic spotted dolphin (Stenella frontalis) use the seas of the Macaronesian archipelagos on a regular or even permanent basis.
The three archipelagos provide feeding, reproduction and socializing areas for these species, being therefore considered important for their conservation. The fact of these species present migratory movements that goes beyond the waters of each archipelago (despite existing resident groups in the Canary and seasonal in the Azores and Madeira) make us considers the hypothesis of the existence of a single population (of each target species) inhabiting the waters of these archipelagos.
To know the population structure and the movements of the different groups of each target species is extremely important to define a conservation and management strategy (including the management of the Whale- and Dolphin-watching tourist activities).
cetaceans are currently protected by regional, national and international legislation, like the Berna, Bona and Washington Conventions that applies on a particular or general way to the species considered on this project.
Despite the Natura 2000 Network Protected Areas contemplate on its marine areas a small part of the habitat of these cetaceans, the broad range movements and distribution of the populations of these species justifies special management and conservation measures. Therefore, this project aims to study the population structure, the distribution and the local, regional and inter-regional movements of these four species in the Macaronesia, as well as the way they use the habitat.
The selection of the four target species respect to conservationists and scientific criteria. So, the sperm whale is an oceanic species with a wide distribution and with broad cultural and economic interests for the Azores, where also is the preferred target species on Whale-watching; the short-finned pilot whale is the main target species on Whale-watching in the Canary Islands; the bottlenose dolphin is one of the both species that are included on the Annex II of the Habitats Directives and require special conservation areas; and the Atlantic spotted dolphin is one of the most abundant species in the Macaronesian Region.
This project intends to use and develop different research methods, combining an ordinary but efficient technique (photo-identification) with advanced and innovated ones (population genetics, acoustics and tagging with transmitters radio and satellite).
The photo-identification (individual identification based on cuts, scars and natural characteristics) will supply information about the individual’s distribution, movements and habitat. The acoustics will be used on the distribution study. The molecular genetic techniques will help on the population structure study, supplying data on the genetic relations between different populations (proximity and genetic flux). The radio and satellite tagging systems will allow knowing the movements of the individuals on a small- and large-scale, with the possibility to infer on the distribution and migration patterns between the different populations.
The project foresee 15 tasks that can be grouped in the following way:
• 3 coordination meetings (administrative/financing);
• 3 workshops – the first one to search and compare the existent data, fieldwork definition and equipment selection; the second one to define a single protocol between the three archipelagos; and the third one to analyze final results;
• 265 days of fieldwork (in the three archipelagos) – fieldwork trips for photo-identification and collect skin samples for genetic studies; to put VHF/TDR’s transmitters and follow the animals; and one campaign with researchers from the three archipelagos (detailed information about the methods and techniques are presented in annexes).