Occurrence and distribution of cetaceans off northern Angola, 2004/05

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Caroline R. Weir


The occurrence and distribution of cetacean species off northern Angola was examined using dedicated survey data and incidental sighting records. Dedicated surveys for cetaceans were carried out during two geophysical seismic surveys off northern Angola between August 2004 and September 2005. A total of 3,268hr of survey effort data were collected, resulting in 779 on-effort cetacean sightings. There were 263 sightings reported off-effort and incidentally from other platforms and sports fishermen. With 21 cetacean species confirmed, the cetacean community off northern Angola is diverse and primarily tropical in characteristic, comprising four species of baleen whale, two sperm whale species, at least two beaked whale species, and 13 species of delphinid. Humpback and sperm whales were the most frequently recorded cetaceans. The occurrence of humpback whales was significantly higher within neritic waters, and during the winter and spring months in association with seasonal occupancy of their West African breeding grounds. Sperm whales were recorded in water depths exceeding 1,000m and demonstrated significant seasonality, with peak occurrence during the summer and autumn. Atlantic spotted dolphins and common dolphins (Delphinus sp.) were the most numerous delphinids recorded, with spotted dolphins showing a significant seasonal peak during the spring and summer, and common dolphins in the winter. Other species recorded included fin whale, sei whale, Bryde’s whale, dwarf sperm whale, Cuvier’s and Mesoplodon beaked whales, killer whale, short-finned pilot whale, false killer whale, melon-headed whale, Atlantic humpback dolphin, rough-toothed dolphin, Risso’s dolphin, bottlenose dolphin, Pantropical spotted dolphin, spinner dolphin, Clymene dolphin and striped dolphin. Further research is required to document the cetacean community in Angola, particularly given the unknown threat from fishery bycatch and the increasing level of oil and gas exploration in the region.

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