Açoriano Oriental
Scientific expedition makes Rabo de Peixe the epicenter of sperm whales

A research project coordinated by Stéphanie Suciu took place in the fishing village between May and September, allowing for a more in-depth study of sperm whales.


Autor: Paulo Faustino

The village of Rabo de Peixe was the starting point for a research project on cetaceans on the north coast of São Miguel island between May and September this year, involving several foreign researchers and enabling a more in-depth study to be carried out on sperm whales in what is considered a 'sanctuary' for these animals.

The project was coordinated by researcher Stéphanie Suciu, linked to the Moniceph project and working in collaboration with the University of the Azores, with the support of Azores Boat Adventures, a maritime tourism company based in Rabo de Peixe, and Irish researcher Seán O'Callaghan's, linked to the Sperm Whale Scale project.

Other researchers came from Spain, France, Belgium, Norway and Ireland, providing a framework of diversity that only increased the opportunities for exchange and enrichment of knowledge, at all levels, between the expedition's participants (local and foreign).

The project included extensive photographic recording using cameras mounted on board the Azores Boat Adventures vessel, as well as using a drone, resulting in the capture of images and videos that enabled many individuals, groups, species and their sizes to be identified. It also included audio recording using hydrophones in order to better understand how sperm whales communicate with each other, as well as the collection of DNA samples through the feces and skin remains that the marine mammals left on the surface.

As a whole, the project has produced exhaustive data that will lead to greater monitoring, understanding and protection of the whale species that swims year-round in Azorean waters and is truly emblematic of the archipelago.

"This scientific expedition to the north coast of São Miguel island was a success both in terms of the quantity/quality of the scientific data collected and the fact that the companies’ commercial interests did not override the interests of research/protection of the animals. There was a huge synergy between various biologists, skippers and lookouts from some whale watching companies," emphasized Tomás Anselmo, CEO and skipper of Azores Boat Adventures, in statements to Açoriano Oriental.

Looking at the sector, the businessman calls for greater attention to be paid to the process of revising cetacean legislation, which is currently underway: "Tourism must not take precedence over research, nor the other way around. The two should complement each other, since the ultimate interest is the same for everyone: the protection of cetaceans." And he has no doubt that "it is essential to have legislation that increases the duties that whale watching  companies must have in the field of research".

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