According to the BDRI Association, the effects of climate change and human activities will have significant effects on the marine biodiversity in Spain, especially on endangered species of a migratory naturesuch as the blue and fin whales, and in those ecosystems characterized by their rich biodiversity and high anthropogenic pressureas the Galician coast.
In this context, the BALAENATUR II project is of great importance in providing information on the relationship between environmental variables susceptible to climate change and the distribution and presence of whales in our waters. In addition, the results of this project provide data on the ecology of these species and, in particular, their relationship with climate. Essential information, according to the entity, to propose measures for species management plans, proposals for adaptation measures, and a diagnosis of the vulnerability to climate change of the species studied.
The general objective of the project has been to improve the necessary knowledge about the blue whale and other endangered whale species in Natura 2000 Network areas and to contribute to their conservation.
The specific objectives were as follows:
The Baelanatur II project has provided information on the possible annual increase in the number of blue whales(Balaenoptera musculus) in the waters of southern Galicia and the relationship between the presence of this species and different climatic variables.
Thus, within the framework of the project, 26 cetacean sampling days were carried out along the continental shelf of the southern Galician coast. The sampling days were carried out between the months of March and October 2021 covering a total distance of 3,270 km. A total of 169 fin whales were sighted, 32 of which were blue whales. corroborate the annual increase of the presence of the species in the study area and, based on its analysis, it has been possible to verify that there are three variables The presence of these species is conditioned by the water temperature, the different levels of chlorophyll and the slope of the seabed.
As indicated by the entity, these data help to to increase knowledge of the conservation status of the species and to promote the designation or extension of new marine protected areasThe development of conservation plans and the implementation of management measures for human activities that interact with large cetaceans. In fact, the results of the project provide, for the first time, specific information on the critical areas for the blue whale in the national territory and, in particular. In addition, data from the last 5 years confirm that the southern waters of Galicia are an important feeding area and reinforce the need to take conservation measures for the species and its habitat, as well as adaptation measures for human activities, in order to design future conservation plans.
In addition to the blue whale, the entity has documented in recent years, more or less regularly in the northwest of the Iberian Peninsula, other species of mysticete, among which are the fin whale (Balaenoptera physallus), the minke whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata), the northern minke whale(Balaenoptera borealis) and the humpback whale(Megaptera novaeangliae). For the development of activities related to sampling campaigns, sightings and data processing and analysis, we have been able to count on the collaboration of volunteers and university students duly trained by the entity, contributing to the increase of knowledge about these vulnerable species.
Finally, all the information on the results of the Balaenatur II project has been compiled in a technical reportThe meeting also made proposals addressed to managers and competent authorities to facilitate the development of a conservation plan of mysticetes and others management plans and adaptation measures. In this way, the report has been disseminated for the transfer of knowledge to different public and private entities, to competent authorities in the field, such as the Subdirectorate General for Terrestrial and Marine Biodiversity of the Ministry for Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge, and to the scientific community through the academic social network ResearchGate.