Words by Laura González, marine biologist at Futurismo
Whale watching activities provide a great opportunity to collect cetacean data worldwide. Since the beginning of our story, in Futurismo we have always registered sightings of cetaceans during our whale watching tours, both in São Miguel and in Pico islands in the Azores. In basic terms, we record the location and species, and some interesting information like the number of individuals, behaviour or sea conditions, among others.
In 2008 we implemented a more standardised protocol, which has improved over the years, leading to our current database of more than 14000 sightings of 22 different cetacean species. When possible, photos of the animals are taken to photo-identify the individuals. Photo-identification allows researchers to recognise each individual looking at different shapes, marks and colours on the dorsal fin, on the fluke or even on the body of the animals. The aim is to find a match (same individual photographed in different places or dates) in order to learn more about residence patterns, social structure of the groups or even movements or migrations of the photographed animals.
As you can see, the information we collect onboard is highly valuable to carry on cetacean research. Actually, some of our biologists are currently working on their Msc. thesis using Futurismo data, while some others have already completed their PhD or Msc. in collaboration with different universities, or even published scientific papers or joined international research projects.
We have created a video that you can find on our Facebook page where you can see how the first step of the process, the data collection, is done during our tours. You will see as well the first steps to go through the data once in the office and some examples of the amazing results you can get with the information collected during our tours.
All of this knowledge we have gained over the years, about the species, about the individuals, about our environment, is transmitted with professionalism and love to our customers in every single tour and on our educational activities with locals, raising awareness among people of all ages from all over the world. Every trip provides the opportunity to enjoy these beautiful whales and dolphins, but also to learn about them, to get to know them (even to know their own story!), and overall, to give them back our time and effort, which will help to protect them wild and free in their own environment.
Our little daily choices will make the big difference 😉
Take a look at Futurismo’s video on the first step of data collection and also a message in reminder to enjoy every day, follow this link: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=251154109424940
As restrictions relating to the Covid-19 pandemic change, you can keep updated on what this means for the Azores and whale watching with Futurismo here: https://whalewatchingazores.com/blog/2020/06/covid-19-in-portugal-situation-in-the-azores-updated-daily/