A note on vessel of opportunity sighting surveys for cetaceans in the shelf edge region off the southern coast of Brazil

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T. Polacheck
M. C. Pinedo
A. S. Barreto
M. P. Lammardo


Results are presented from vessel of opportunity sighting surveys conducted from 1996 to 1999 aboard the Fundação Universidade Federal do Rio Grande (FURG) Research Vessel Atlântico Sul off the southern Brazil coast (27°-35°S). These surveys were conducted in conjunction with a research sampling project (Argo) of the pelagic living resources within Brazil’s southern shelf and slope waters. The cruises entailed pelagic longlining and dedicated searching was conducted during hauling and setting operations as well as when the vessel was transiting. The sighting surveys represent the first attempt to collect quantitative information on the distribution and density of cetaceans in these waters. A total of 109 cetacean sightings were made during a total of 269 hours of dedicated searching effort covering approximately 2,200 miles. Sperm whales were the dominant species accounting for over 40% of the sightings and were concentrated in the slope area in the more southerly region. The high number and fidelity of the sperm whale sightings suggest the year around importance of the shelf border as a possible migration route and/or food resources ground. Killer whales were the second most commonly sighted species and were detected on all of the cruises. 44% of the killer whale sightings were detected during longline hauling or setting operations and observations suggest a positive attraction of killer whales to the vessel at these times. Also of particular interest during the spring cruise was a humpback and two minke whale sightings. Sightings in November-December in sub-tropical and temperate waters were unexpected for both of these species as the South Atlantic populations are generally considered to have fully migrated to Antarctic waters.

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Polacheck T, Pinedo MC, Barreto AS, Lammardo MP. A note on vessel of opportunity sighting surveys for cetaceans in the shelf edge region off the southern coast of Brazil. jcrm [Internet]. 2023 May 11 [cited 2023 Sep. 24];4(3):323-9. Available from: https://journal.iwc.int/index.php/jcrm/article/view/846