There is a community of some 400 sperm whales in the western Mediterranean and this, says the Tursiops association, makes the Balearic Sea a strategic area of utmost importance for their conservation.
This association, which investigates whale movement and population in Balearic waters, has photographed and identified 86 examples of sperm whale over the past thirteen years, leading it to estimate that the community is around 400. The research has also included acoustic soundings and echolocation, and the results of all it has been published in the scientific journal Quercus and takes a further step in efforts for marine biodiversity conservation.
Biologist and Tursiops president, Txema Brotons, says that the association is working towards having the Levante zone of the Balearic Sea declared as special interest in order to protect the whales. The areas with the highest population of whales are from the south of Formentera to the north of Minorca in the Levante zone.
The research has received the support of the University of St Andrews and has in recent years identified areas of conflict with human activity, especially maritime traffic and acoustic contamination.
Brotons says: “It is very important to determine the corridors with the greatest presence of sperm whales in order to avoid this conflict. In our campaigns we have identified three which have been struck and injured. These have survived, but we don’t know if others have been killed.” Measures need to be taken in order to avoid collisions with ships.
For any research there is a need for funding, and between 2010 and 2012 the association had to suspend this research because of a lack of it. Activity restarted in 2013 thanks to volunteers, people who spend a week of their time pursuing research and looking for and observing the whales. “It isn’t a tourist activity. Volunteers contribute to research guided by the association’s scientists.”
During the 2015 campaign there were 43 encounters with sperm whales, and next summer the plan is for there to be six weekly campaigns.