Recording whale calls will help protect threatened humpbacks off Cape Verde
R/V Song of the Whale team member Conor Ryan joined the German RV Meteor in Mindelo, Cape Verde, at the end of April to deploy an acoustic recorder in partnership with GEOMAR (Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research, Kiel) and INDP (Instituto Nacional de Desenvolvimento das Pescas), and with support from the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).
The recorder will be deployed for the next 18 months to investigate the seasonality of humpback whales that visit the archipelago to breed and give birth each spring, by monitoring for their distinctive songs. Relatively little is known about humpback whales in the eastern north Atlantic, although research in recent years has revealed that a genetically isolated and precariously small humpback whale population, comprising less than 200 individuals, breeds around the Cape Verde Islands. It is hoped that this new research will also shed light on the presence of other cetacean species which remain poorly studied in the region.
The recorder was deployed on a German (GEOMAR) oceanographic mooring, 100 km to the north of the Cape Verde Islands; GEOMAR kindly agreed to provide this opportunity to the team, as they are engaged in climate change research in the tropical Atlantic.
The recorder will log acoustic data for up to 12 months at this site, generating a unique long-term dataset on the presence of humpback whales in the region.
The aim is to shed light on the timing of humpback whale migrations to and from the archipelago and also determine whether southern hemisphere humpbacks migrate to Cape Verde during the austral spring. The device will also record other species such as sperm whales and dolphins.
This project is part of a larger commitment by Marine Conservation Research (MCR) and partners to carry out research in the region with a view to increase research capacity, expertise and interest in cetacean conservation there. The data collected will help inform new policy and conservation actions in the region.
As we write, humpbacks are starting to return to their northern feeding areas (with sightings recorded in the Azores, Ireland and Iceland in the past few weeks).
We hope they were singing on their travels!
For more information about IFAW efforts to help protect whales, visit our campaign page.