Mediterranean sail research update: promising findings off the southern coast of Portugal

A mixed group of common and striped dolphins taken using a GoPro mounted on the bow of SOTW. Photograph by Luke O'Connor.Eleven days in and we’ve reached the southern coast of Portugal, where we’ve finally been able to shed the oilskins that kept us warm through the earlier part of our transit south.

Great sailing weather meant that we were able to turn the engine off at Brittany, crossing the Bay of Biscay using the power of the wind alone!

We have been testing the hydrophones over the last week, and have had acoustic detections of harbour porpoise, common, striped and Risso’s dolphins, pilot whales and sperm whales as well as sightings of fin whales.

I joined the Song of the Whale (SOTW) for the summer and am hoping at some point to test a way to collect whale blow samples using a remote controlled helicopter which I have used in the past during my work on grey seals at SMRU in Scotland.

We have investigated four submarine canyons off the coast of Portugal (all suitably positioned across shipping lanes) which revealed lots of acoustic detections, and one possible detection of the group of animals we are specifically searching for – beaked whales.

The deep water canyons are possible habitat for deep divers such as beaked whales, and one has been proposed as a future Marine Protected Area (MPAs); the recordings will be analysed later in the year to determine if these waters are home these elusive cetaceans.

We’re nearly into the Mediterranean and hope to continue with the good weather and awesome cetacean sightings, but now to the important matter of baked camembert for dinner!


For more information about IFAW's Song of the Whale marine research vessel visit our program page.

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Brian Sharp, Emergency Relief Officer, Stranding Coordinator
Manager, Marine Mammal Rescue and Research
Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova, Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation
Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation Program
Matt Collis, Director, International Policy
Director, International Policy
Patrick Ramage, Program Director, Whales
Program Director, Marine Conservation