DOLPHINS OF THE KELP
Data priorities for Falkland’s inshore cetaceans
The project is funded by the Darwin Initiative through UK Government
The near-shore waters around the Falklands islands host a unique community of Commerson’s (Cephalorhynchus commersonii) and Peale’s (Lagenorhynchus australis) dolphins that exhibit an apparent year-round reliance on coastal kelp forests. Despite both species being recognised as of conservation concern under international, regional and national plans, very little is known about their populations or biology and hence vulnerability to anthropogenic threats.
Whilst offshore surveys have been conducted by the Joint Nature Conservation Committee, inshore studies has been limited to voluntary cetacean reporting, cataloguing of historical strandings and a small-scale Darwin Challenge pilot study (documents). This lack of data on which to base management decisions has been recognised as a major threat to effective conservation and restricts inclusion into on-going national spatial planning initiatives and inshore ecosystem-based fisheries assessments
Project aim and timeframe
The aim of the Dolphins of the kelp project is to establish baseline data on the abundance, distribution, natural history and genetic diversity of the Falklands inshore cetacean populations to provide a scientific basis for conservation and ecosystem-based marine management initiatives. The project will be delivered through three complimentary work programmes: 1. Island-wide transect survey; 2. Focal study based on photo-identification; 3. Genetic diversity and local population structure, three study areas were chosen:
- Island-wide suvey
- Focal study
- Genetic study
The project begun in mid-2016, is operative since the last 20th of October 2016 and it is expected to last until September 2018.
Target species of the project are Commerson’s dolphin (Cephalorhynchus commersonii) and Peale’s dolphin (Lagenorhynchus australis) although all the cetacean species encountered will be recorded.
Commerson’s dolphin (Cephalorhynchus commersonii), photographed off Port Howard, West Falkland
Peale’s dolphin (Lagenorhynchus australis), photographed in Port Williams, East Falkland. Photos by Marina Costa - SAERI.