Sperm Whales are the largest of the toothed whales and feed on large squid species which they hunt at incredible depths – deeper than any submarine can reach. The species is normally recorded individually most months throughout the year by BDRP in the deep waters of the Bay of Biscay, which plunges to a depth of over 4000 meters.
However, a crossing in mid September 2008 was a more unusual encounter, with an increase in the numbers of whales observed. In total 11 animals were seen, almost to the day that 22 animals were seen the previous year. The animals were moving south, consistent with a southerly migration and through the deeper waters of the slope of the continental shelf, which not only provides a rich feeding habitat but may also possibly be used as a navigational aid.
Dr Tom Brereton, BDRP Research Director commented: “Sperm Whales are monitored by BDRP throughout the year in the Bay of Biscay and we have established a photo-identification catalogue to confirm whether the animals we see in the Bay of Biscay are the same ones present in the early summer off Norway and other parts of northern Europe”.
Sperm Whale are known to be migratory, the larger males tend to move towards the cooler polar regions during the summer months to feed and return to warmer breeding waters during the winter to join the smaller females. The monitoring of a migration through Biscay again highlights the importance of Biscay in European terms for the Sperm Whale.
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NOTES TO EDITORS
About the Biscay Dolphin Research Programme (BDRP)
Marinelife has been monitoring whales and dolphins, seabirds and other marine life in the English Channel and European Atlantic continuously for thirteen years through one of its main projects, the Biscay Dolphin Research Programme (BDRP) using ferries as research platforms for monthly surveys. In addition, a BDRP full-time Wildlife Officer collects daily data on whale and dolphin abundance. Data from such long-term surveys give an accurate picture of changes in the status of whale and dolphin populations and their behaviour within the survey areas, thus far recording more than 20 species of whale and dolphin. They also highlight threats they face over time.
Marinelife is a Charitable Limited Company established to co-ordinate and develop a growing portfolio of global research and monitoring projects. Through these we aim to further the conservation of the wildlife of coasts and oceans through scientific investigation and educational activities. Marinelife continues to work in partnership with a number of other research groups, spearheading an international initiative, the Atlantic Research Coalition (ARC) that aims to describe changes in the status of whales and dolphins at a European scale. Further information on Marinelife can be found by visiting our website
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Marinelife is a Charitable organisation established to co-ordinate and develop global whale & dolphin research and monitoring projects to further the conservation of the wildlife of coasts and oceans through scientific investigation and education