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From Whaling to Whale Watching: Cetacean Presence and Species Diversity in the Galapagos Marine Reserve

  • Judith DenkingerEmail author
  • Javier Oña
  • Daniela Alarcón
  • Godfrey Merlen
  • Sandy Salazar
  • Daniel M. Palacios
Chapter
Part of the Social and Ecological Interactions in the Galapagos Islands book series (SESGI, volume 1)

Abstract

Before the Galapagos Archipelago became famous thanks to Darwin’s work on the theory of natural selection, it already was a hub in the global economy as an eighteenth-century whaling ground. Now a marine reserve, Galapagos is one of the most popular destinations for nature tourism and whale observations in the world. Over the last two decades, tour guides and researchers have contributed their occasional whale and dolphin sightings to a whale database with sighting records from 1993 to 2010, which we analyze here. We use presence/absence data of different species to assess the impact of El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) cycles and associated surface water temperature variations on the cetacean community in the Galapagos. We also describe the occurrence patterns of the 12 most common species in detail. Finally, we photographically identify 17 orcas in four pods and follow their distribution within the Galapagos Marine Reserve (GMR). According to their presence from June to November, humpback and blue whales show a strong affinity for the Southeast Pacific population, but sightings of all baleen whales throughout the year suggest that there are resident populations in the GMR. Of all cetaceans, bottlenose dolphins are most common and similar to orcas; they seem to be resident to the GMR. Residency of orcas is confirmed by numerous resightings of 17 animals with the longest time span between resightings from 2005 to 2011. The information presented here indicates that Galapagos supports a unique and diverse cetacean fauna that can be reliably observed along the established routes for tourism vessels. This information could form the basis for the establishment of a targeted and responsible whale watching industry.

Keywords

Bottlenose Dolphin Sperm Whale Humpback Whale Common Dolphin Baleen Whale 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Notes

Acknowledgments

We are especially grateful to the tour guides of Lindblad Expeditions and others for providing us with numerous sighting records and to the Galapagos National Park for taking us along and hosting us at Bolivar Channel. Our thanks go to Chiara Guidino, Annika Krutwa, and all the other volunteers; to Walter Traunspurger and Hubert Spieth from Bielefeld University for their support on a Southwestern Galapagos Research cruise; and to Ben Haase for sharing his Orca photographs. Finally, we express our appreciation to Pol Segarra and Carlos Mena for editing sighting positions, and to Eduardo Espinoza for helpful comments. The present project has been carried out under Research Permit (PC-23-10 and PC-27-11) of the Galapagos National Park.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Judith Denkinger
    • 1
    Email author
  • Javier Oña
    • 1
  • Daniela Alarcón
    • 1
  • Godfrey Merlen
    • 2
  • Sandy Salazar
    • 3
    • 4
  • Daniel M. Palacios
    • 3
    • 4
  1. 1.Galapagos Science Center, College of Biological and Environmental SciencesUniversidad San Francisco de QuitoQuitoEcuador
  2. 2.Galapagos National ParkSanta CruzEcuador
  3. 3.Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric ResearchUniversity of HawaiiHonoluluUSA
  4. 4.NOAA/NMFS/SWFSC/Environmental Research DivisionPacific GroveUSA

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