Links of Interest About Cetaceans

Public Outreach

The success of the Dolphins of the Kelp project is mainly due to the support and participation of local partners, stakeholders and community. A number of public outreach initiatives have been conducted during the first six months of the project. These included four presentations and two appearances in the local newspapers the Penguin News. Some other material in downloadable here including the Photo ID catalogue for Peale’s dolphin, two ID cards and two of the research protocol used.

List of material available:

  • Presentations made on board of the HMS Enterprise during a 10-days trip to South Georgia (in pdf):
  • Presentation made at the Community School in Stanley (download PDF): Dolphin of the kelp – 30th of March 2017.
  • Presentation made at the Chamber of Commerce within the SAERI series (download PDF): Hear About Falkland Flipping Dolphins – 20th of April 2017.
  • Penguin News articles:

    Falklands dolphin study underway – 23rd of December 2016
    Dolphins of the Kelp Update: Exploration of the West Falklands – 31st of March 2017

    Summary of material available in the page:


    • Article on the Blog Meertex about the South Georgia expedition on board of the HMS Enterprise (in German – available in English soon)
    • ID-cards for:


Dolphin Catalogue

The first catalogues for Peale’s and Commerson's dolphins are available below. Peale's Dolphins have been photographed in the area of Port Williams and Bertha's Beach. The catalogue for Commerson’s dolphins contains animals photographed off Port Williams and Berkeley Sound (Focal Study Area A) and Choiseul Sound and Bertha’s Beach (Focal Study Area B). The catalogue for Commerson’s dolphins off Port Howard and adjacent bays is work in progress.


Genetic diversity and local population structure

Genetic sampling is conducted to investigate genetic diversity and local population structure. This represents the first genetic characterisation of Peale’s and Commerson’s dolphin population within the Falklands. The work will assess: the degree of genetic separation from conspecific populations in South America; the genetic diversity around the Falkland Islands, in comparison to other conspecific population and expectations for effective population size; the degree of interchange or isolation among local populations within the Falkland Islands to assess the scale of management units; and level of kinship across generations within groups to better understand population connectivity on an ecological time scale. Skin and blubber samples, collected with a small biopsy dart will be stored and archived to allow subsequent analysis for natural isotope ratios (C/N), pollutant contaminants, etc. in future associated research.


The collection of genetic samples is a non-surgical technique involving the collection of a small sample of skin and blubber using a biopsy dart deployed during small-vessel surveys. The duration of the biopsy sampling is essentially instantaneous, as the dart strikes the animal and immediately recoils from the force of impact. Vessel approaches the dolphins slowly to reduce the potential for behavioural disturbance.

The biopsy dart is a small stainless-steel punch, with 5 mm of diameter and 7 mm of length fitted to a light-weight pole. The dart is used for dolphins riding the bow of the boat. A metal flange or stop, approximately 2 - 3 cm in diameter, prevents penetration of more than a centimetre or two into the skin and blubber and provides recoil to dislodge the dart on contact with the dolphin. The force of impact of the dart is adjusted by the positioning of the boat. The biopsy dart is cleaned and sterilised by flaming after each collection and immersed in 70% ethanol immediately before use.

Maria sampling an individual un Peale’s dolphin off New Island.

Ethic statement

To our knowledge, no injuries have been reported for a dolphin with the use of either the pole biopsy. The healing and long-term response to biopsy samples is described for bottlenose dolphins in New Zealand (Tezanos Pinto and Baker 2012). The remote biopsy system to collect genetic samples from dolphins (and whales) has been approved by the University of Auckland, New Zealand, Animal Ethics Committee and the Oregon State University, Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC). The licence for the sampling of 60 Commerson’s’ and 60 Peale’s dolphins have been released by the Falkland Islands Government – FIG (Research Licence No: R04/ 2016).

Preliminary results

Biopsy collection was carried out by Professor Scott Baker and, after appropriate training, by the SAERI staff. Under terms of the initial research license, 120 samples were collected, 60 samples of Commerson’s dolphins in the three focal study areas, and 60 samples of Peale’s dolphins in Port Williams and Berta’s Beach in the East Falkland and New Island, Beaver Island, Weddell Island and Shallow Harbour in the West Falkland.

After obtaining the appropriate CITES permits from FIG, the samples were sent to the Hatfield Marine Science Center, Oregon State University, USA, on the 8th of April 2017.

Analyses will last six months and should began in May 2017. Stay tuned for more information.

Sample extracted by a Commerson’s’ dolphin in Port Howard and wound left on the right side of the body

Focal study

The focal study consists of a series of boat-based surveys carried out twice a year (during winter and summer) in three locations to collect photo-identification (link below)  data and, in one location, acoustic data (link below).

Study area

The three areas for the focal studies have been selected based on their accessibility and potential presence of target species. The areas are:

A. Port Stanley – Port Williams – Berkeley Sound (East Falkland)

B. Choiseul Sound (East Falkland)

C. Port Howard – Swan Island – Many Branch (West Falkland)



Cetacean observation is carried out using the rigid-hulled inflatable boat (RHIB) “Baltic Warrior” owned by the Shallow Marine Surveys Group ( The skipper is Steve Cartwright.


Photo-identification Methods

Observation is carried out by two observers at a speed ranging from 13 km/h to 22 km/h (from 7 to 12 knots). When a sighting occurs navigation is temporally suspended and animals are approached to estimate group size and age composition and to collect photo-identification data. Pictures are taken by the two researchers using a Canon EOS 7D Mark II, equipped with a lens EF 70-200mm f/2.8, and a Nikon D7200, equipped with a lens AF-S VR-NIKKOR 70-200mm 1:2.8G. Underwater video are taken using a GOPRO Hero 4.

Observers searching for cetaceans during the focal study.


Researcher attempting to take pictures of the dorsal fin of every individual in the group.

Identification pictures are taken focusing on the notches and nicks present on the dorsal fin of the individuals. Scratches, wounds, scars, pigmentation and fin shapes are also used to facilitate individual identification (see protocol).

a) Commerson’s Dolphin

b) Peale's Dolphin

Dorsal fins of a. Commerson’s and b. Peale’s dolphins showing notches, nicks and scars used in the identification of individuals. Photos by Marina Costa - SAERI.


Photo-identification techniques allow the “capture” and “recapture” of marked individuals without physical handling. These mark-recaptures methods use the combination of multiple recapture occasions to estimate demographic parameters of the population such as abundance, survival probability, growth and recruitment rates, residency and movement patterns.

For the data collection protocol used, see HERE.

Passive Acoustic Monitoring (PAM) Methods

Static PAMs are used to investigate the temporal occurrence of dolphins in one area. The technique is ideally suited to remote harsh environments as data on the presence of dolphins are collected continuously irrespective of short-daylight or weather conditions which can limit visual-surveys. Five units PAM will be used to investigate temporal drivers and potential seasonal patterns in space utilisation of Many Branch Harbour. The C-PODs will collect data for 16 months; every 3-4 months data are downloaded and batteries changed.

Preliminary results

The first survey has been carried out in the summer of 2016 (November and December) in the three selected areas, during eleven days of survey at sea. Furthermore, during the survey carried out in January 2017 to collect dolphin tissue for the genetic analyses (see below 3 - Genetic diversity and local population structure) other data were added, resulting in a total of:

  • 20 days spent at sea.
  • About 766 km navigated searching for dolphin.
  • 169 sightings made, of which 132 of Commerson’s dolphins, 36 of Peale’s dolphins and one of orcas.
  • 14,024 pictures taken, of which 12,204 of Commerson’s dolphins and 1,675 of Peale’s dolphins and 145 of orcas.

Map showing the effort during the first focal study carried out in November and December 2016 and the genetic survey carried out in January 2017. Area A: Port Stanley – Port Williams – Berkeley Sound (East Falkland); Area B: Choiseul Sound (East Falkland); Area C: Port Howard – Swan Island – Many Branch (West Falkland). Sighting positions of Commerson’s (red triangle) and Peale’s (green circle) dolphins are shown.

The analysis of the pictures is in progress for Commerson’s dolphins and has been concluded for the Peale’s dolphins, resulting in 36 individuals identified (9 with very distinctive marks and 27 with poor markings) of which 13 individuals (36%) have been recaptured.

For the catalogue of marked Peale’s dolphins, see HERE.

The C-PODs have been deployed in Many Branch on the 16th of April 2017. The first set of data will be downloaded in July 2017.