The first sightings of fin whales in the study area were recorded in 2011 and 2013, during some occasional trips made during those seasons prior to the start of the project. Since 2014, the marine surveys have been carried out intensively, with daily trips from mid-February to mid-June (weather conditions permitting)
Sightings and Effort
In marine surveys, random transects are carried out in which a sighting effort is recorded. Once the animals have been sighted, they are monitored in order to record the information necessary for the research, such as their position, behaviour, and identification of individuals, among other aspects.
The following summary table shows the main results obtained since the seasons prior to the start of the Fin Whale Project in 2011.
Since the start of the project in 2014, we have had the help of fishermen, mainly the trawling fleet, and sailors who have reported sightings to us over the years.
A total of 90 professional fishing boats belonging to eight fishermen’s guilds that cover the coastal strip between Palamós and Ametlla de Mar report their sightings to the Fin Whale Project. Most of them are trawlers, as their area of work coincides with the areas where whales are most abundant. Their collaboration is very important for the research, because it allows us to cover a much larger study area. The warnings from the professional fishermen are reported in real time and allow us to go to the coordinates where the whales have been sighted and collect scientific data more efficiently.
The following table shows the sightings of fin whales recorded by professional fishermen and sailors.
This 2022 season the first sighting was made at the end of February in Barcelona and the last sightings were recorded in October in Tarragona.
Highlights and Report 2022
Footage of various individuals feeding near the shore and at the surface that we have obtained with the research drone on different days and seasons. We have also observed whales with full chins, indicating feeding at greater depths.
Observation of patterns related to feeding. Irregular circling and zig-zagging and irregular breathing patterns typical of feeding or foraging behaviour. Defecation has also been observed and images of feeding and defecation have been recorded.
Collisions with vessels are the main concern for the conservation of the fin whale along the Catalan coast. The data collected, together with the animals showing collision marks and the high level of maritime traffic, indicate the high threat posed by ships to this species.
Permanence and fidelity
Recording of the same individual over several days or weeks, and also over different seasons, thanks to photo-identification. With a percentage of 14.76% of animals recaptured in different seasons. The fin whale is a migratory animal and the fact that it remains in the same area for several days indicates that it is feeding or foraging.
Meteorological and oceanographic influences
Meteorological and oceanographic conditions significantly affect the presence of fin whales on our coasts. A clear example of this was in 2019 when we had only 5 sightings, this year was characterised by being a very warm and dry year. In 2021 on the other hand, we had our record number of sightings with 174 and more than 200 animals sighted, in this case it was a cold and rainy year.
Presence of krill
Krill have been collected in surface waters and near the coastal shelf, especially abundant in areas where whales use to be observed. Krill is the main food of fin whales and we have been able to record and film the presence of these invertebrates as they are ingested by the whales.
The presence of whales feeding off the Catalan coast, especially off the coast of Garraf, is confirmed.
The annual report presents the objectives, methodology, results and conclusions of the Fin Whale Project to date. Including the activities carried out during the year (talks, conferences,…) and the publications made, both at academic level and in scientific articles and conferences. You can download the report using this link.
The Fin Whale Project is an initiative that EDMAKTUB has been developing since 2013, which has the authorisation of the Directorate General for the Sustainability of the Coast and the Sea of the Ministry for Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge for the approach of cetaceans for scientific purposes in the Balearic Sea (rf116/3662).