8.3

BLACKFISH OFF CAPE VERDE ISLANDS: THE NEED FOR FUTURE EFFORT TO ASSESS DISTRIBUTION, ABUNDANCE AND INTERACTIONS WITH HUMAN ACTIVITIES

Cristina Brito
CHAM, Centro de História de Além-Mar
Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e Humanas, Universidade Nova de Lisboa
Escola de Mar, Campus da FCUL
cristina.brito@escolademar.pt
Inês Carvalho
 Escola de Mar Campus da FCUL
Ocean Giants Program, Wildlife Conservation Society, NY, USA carvalho.inesc@gmail.com

In 1997, the IWC Scientific Committee concluded that information on small cetaceans in Africa (outside southern Africa) is very sparse and that issues of cetacean fishery by-catch must be addressed. The same is true to other West African countries, namely the Cape Verde Archipelago and given the absence of new information being presented at this meeting, we consider important to present some work in progress and to emphasize the need for future effort for this region.
Blackfish is usually a common denomination to long-finned pilot whales (Globicephala melas), short-finned pilot whales (Globicephala macrocephalus), false killer whales (Pseudorca crassidens), pygmy killer whales (Feresa attenuatta), killer whales (Orcinus orca) and melon-headed whales (Peponocephala electra). All, but the long-finned pilot whales, may occur off Cape Verde Islands. In fact, all of these are reported to occur in the archipelago with strandings and mass strandings being common. Historically, several species of small cetaceans were hunted in the Cape Verde Islands, using hand harpoons, and their meat was very appreciated. Despite of a protective legislation (law n. 17/1987), cetaceans are occasionally captured in several islands and their meat is sold and consumed. Dolphins can still be found quite regularly in the markets, especially on Santiago, and stranded or weakened offshore whales are readily butchered by the local population.
Recent reports for the Santiago Island may indicate that besides using remains of stranded animals, for instance as forms of local art and handicrafts, remains of captured or by-caught animals may also be in current use. Bones and skulls of small cetaceans are also used as decorations in the island and most probably on several other islands in the archipelago. There are also reports of captures and an evidence of one individual (pilot whale) either directly captured or by-caught, but no relevant and continuous information on this matter was ever obtained.
In 2009, the IWC Scientific Committee considered the status of small cetaceans in the eastern tropical Atlantic as well as takes of small cetaceans as high priority topics and we consider to direct research to assess impacts of by-catch or direct captures are fundamental in this region. Still, all reports of cetaceans from the region remain equally important, such as strandings and sightings records. Knowledge of spatial and temporal distribution of small cetaceans as well as the numbers involved is still rudimentary and only continued reporting can improve this.
Future effort should now be directed to the study of occurrence, distribution, abundance and habitat use of small cetaceans, especially blackfishes, off the Cape Verde Islands as well as to possible interactions with human activities.

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Nota biográfica
Cristina Brito
Doutora em História, é investigadora integrada no CHAM (FCSH-UNL), sócia fundadora da Escola de Mar e Presidente da Direcção da Associação Para as Ciências do Mar. Licenciada em Biologia (FCUL) e Mestre em Etologia (ISPA), é especialista em estudos interdisciplinares e integrados vocacionados para o meio marinho, história ambiental e conservação de espécies e habitats. Tem vários artigos publicados e uma vasta experiência na recolha e análise de dados ecológicos, históricos e sócio-culturais, com anos de trabalho em Portugal (continental e ilhas) e em países africanos. Os seus interesses de investigação centram-se na biologia e história dos mamíferos marinhos, da caça à baleia em termos mundiais e história das ciências e dos descobrimentos portugueses na África Ocidental e nas Ilhas Atlânticas