LONG-FINNED PILOT WHALE

(GLOBICEPHALA MELAS)

 DESCRIPTION

The robust body of Long-finned pilot whales is black or dark grey, with a white diagonal stripe that runs behind the eye. Its most characteristic feature is the frontal region, where the organ called melon is quite developed, which gives a prominent look and rounded head.

It has a grey area in the belly and a grey anchor-shaped stain on the chin. The dorsal fin is sickle-shaped, located near the head and is directed backwards. The pectoral fins are very long and black, with a length of 15-20% of the body length.

Size:

Male length:  4-7.6m           Male weight: 1,800-3,500Kg

Female length: 3-5.6m        Female weight: 1,000-2,500Kg

Newborn length: 1.8-2m      Newborn weight: 75Kg

HABITAT

They are distributed in the North Atlantic and the Southern Hemisphere.

Those in the North have been observed on the east coast of the US and Canada, through the Atlantic (Azores and Faroe Islands), on the west coast of Europe on the Strait of Gibraltar and North Africa. Normally, they live in the Antarctic Convergence Zone and other areas of the Southern Ocean. They have even been observed near the sea of ice in Antarctica. Generally they prefer deep waters, although some populations remain offshore and other groups inhabit coastal waters looking for squid.

 BIOLOGY

It is an exceptionally gregarious species. They live in family groups of 10 to 50 individuals, but sometimes can reach up to 100 individuals. These groups are led by a leader. They are very active, and younger individuals can be seen performing big jumps.

Usually they breathe several times on the surface before plunging several minutes. When they are hunting for fish or squid, they perform dives that can last more than 10 minutes and dive to depths of 600 metres, although most dives do not exceed 30-60 metres.

The sounds produced for communication and echolocation fall between 3 and 18kHz, and are produced 14-40 times per minute.

Globicephala_melas_Cape_Breton_1

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Globicephala melas

Common Name: Long-finned pilot whale.

Spanish: Calderón común, Ballena piloto, Calderón negro.

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Cetartiodactyla

Family: Delphinidae

Genus: Globicephala

FEEDING

They are carnivorous, feed mainly on molluscs and fish such as mackerel, Atlantic herring, cod and turbot. They consume approximately 34kg / day.

Reproduction:

Males reach sexual maturity at 12 years of age when they reach 4.6m. Females reach it when they are between 6-7 years old and 3.7m. Pregnancy usually lasts 15-16 months, giving birth usually in February or March. Between each pregnancy there is a period of 3-5 years. When they are born, the offspring remains with the mother around 20-22 months.

THREATS

· Stranding: they tend to strand as a group due to the strong family bond they have. One of the causes of stranding, according to several scientific studies, is the disorientation caused by the noise pollution of deep waters.

· Fishing: for many years it has been a very intensely fished species in countries like Norway, Greenland, Iceland and Scotland. Through its protection in the Bonn Convention (ANNEX IV) the fishing pressure has been reduced. Other fishing related incidents such as getting accidentally caught in fishing nets and injuries suffered as a result of a collision with ships’ propellers, also pose a problem for this species.

· Faroe Islands (Northeast Atlantic): for hundreds of years, hunters in this area have killed an average of 1,200-2,500 whales a year. This generates a great impact on the population, in addition to the brutal hunting techniques employed. Fishing vessels surround groups of Long-finned pilot whales and drive them to the coast, where they are dragged to the ground and are killed with hooks and clubs. The images are shocking, leaving several kilometres of beaches stained red by blood. Confrontations between environmental groups and the inhabitants of the islands are constant, as the former fiercely defend this tradition.

· Consumption of meat: consumption of Long-finned pilot whale poses a health risk due to the presence of some toxic metals such as mercury, cadmium, polychlorophenyls (PCBs), organochlorine, DDT and dieldrin.

CONSERVATION

                                                                                                    

· Red List (IUCN): classified as Data Deficient (DD).

· Habitats Directive (CE): found in Annex IV.

· Bonn Convention and the Berne Convention: Appendix II and Appendix III respectively, stocks in the North Sea and the Baltic Sea are listed.

· Council of the EU: all cetaceans are listed in Annex A of Regulation 338/97, and are, therefore, treated by the EU as if they were included in Appendix I of CITES, which bans trade.

· United Kingdom: it is a UK Biodiversity Action Plan priority species. Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981, it is illegal to intentionally kill, injure, capture or harass whales and dolphins in UK waters.