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Current Knowledge on the Distribution and Relative Abundance of Humpback Whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) off the Cape Verde Islands, Eastern North Atlantic
Abstract: During the winter/spring months from 1990 to 2009, 13 cetacean surveys were conducted around the Cape Verde Islands off West Africa. The main target species was the humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae). Study periods varied from 14 to 90 d in duration. Study platforms included a 5-m inflatable boat, a 12-m catamaran, and/or 15-m sailing or motor vessels. Collectively, we obtained 88 individual humpback fluke photographs from this region. These fluke photographs have been compared to over 6,500 individual fluke photographs maintained in the North Atlantic Humpback Whale Catalogue. Based on photo-identification, humpbacks in the Cape Verde Islands have a relatively high interannual resight rate (> 22%) compared to other studied breeding locations in the West Indies. While this is partly due to increased probability of detection in a small population, this result nonetheless suggests strong site fidelity to this breeding ground. Three photo-identified individuals from the Cape Verde Islands had been previously photographed on high-latitude feeding grounds off Bear Island, Norway, and Iceland. One Cape Verdean humpback was resighted in the Azores, possibly en route to the northern feeding grounds. These findings are consistent with the belief that the Cape Verde Islands represent a breeding ground for northeastern Atlantic humpback whales. Tourism activities in the Cape Verde Islands are rapidly increasing. A balance is needed whereby conservation, whale watching guidelines, habitat preservation, and enforcement are fully enacted in order to provide protection to both this species and its habitat. In addition, further research is required to clarify the importance of this small population and its breeding ground.
Key Words: Cape Verde Islands, breeding grounds, eastern North Atlantic, photo-identification, humpback whale, Megaptera novaeangliae
Document Type: Research article
Page Numbers: 502-510