Population, Distribution and Abundance of Humpback Whales and Cetaceans in Machalilla National Park

Project Name:  
Population, Distribution and Abundance of Humpback Whales and other Cetaceans in Machalilla National Park

Project Dates:

Project Site(s):
Machalilla National Park (Puerto López, Puerto Cayo, Salango, Machalilla, Isla de La Plata)

Project Aims: 

  • Identify and monitor the population of humpback whales in the National Park Machalilla.
  • Analyze, classify and compare new photographs of humpback previous years.
  • Compare the Ecuadorian catalog with other catalogs in Latin America, Antarctica and the Pacific.
  • Promote the development of knowledge, attitudes and abilities related to the conservation of the environment and improve the quality of life of the local communities along the Ecuadorian coast.
  • Publish our results at all levels local, scientific and media.

Project Justification:
Whalewatching tourism is the source of economic, social and cultural development of thousands of residents of the Ecuadorian coast. PWF’s research supports information and monitors the status of whales and other cetaceans, to maintain the right balance between nature and human development.

Project Methodology:
Photo-identification i carried out from whalewatching vessels leaving from the small coastal town Puerto Lopez and departing towards Isla de la Plata. Surveys are conducted in a nonsystematic fashion within the study area (depending on reports of sightings, as well as weather conditions). Data is collected opportunistically in the form of digital photographs, audio tape recordings, and real time observations recorded on pre-formatted data sheets.

Project Permits (if any):
MINISTERIO DE AMBIENTE – Parque Nacional Machalilla
– Permiso No. 002 - RM - DPM - MA

Centro de investigación de ballenas, Machalilla National Park, Tourism Ministry of Ecuador, Universidad Central del Ecuador, International Students Volunteers, guías naturalistas del Parque Nacional Machalilla, Environmental Ministry, Operadora turística Palo Santo, Operadora turística Manta Raya, Operadora Turistica Costatour, Operadora Turística Isla de La Plata

Management Outcomes: 
The distribution, abundance and movements of humpback whales and other cetaceans in Ecuador and Latin America is poorly understood. Whalewatch boats have become platforms of opportunity to investigate and to train and educate operators, guides and visitors. PWF’s ongoing research and the grwoth and development of tourism has resulted, in part, Ecuador joining the International Whaling Commission in 2007. Due our PWF’s efforts, along with other researchers and impact of tourism, there are three new protected areas related to the presence of dolphins and whales in Ecuador.

Castro, C & Mena, B. 2009. Huellas del Mar. Historias y fotografías de las ballenas jorobadas en nuestro Ecuador. 120 pp. http://www.grafitat.com/2010/02/09/huellas-de-mar/

ACEVEDO J, K RASMUSSEN, F FÉLIX, C CASTRO, M LLANO, E SECCHI, M SABORÍO, A AGUAYO-LOBO, B HAASE, M SCHEIDAT, L DALLA-ROSA, C OLAVARRÍA, P FORESTELL, P ACUÑA, G KAUFMAN & LA PASTENE (2007) Migratory destinations of humpback whales from the Magellan Strait feeding ground, Southeast Pacific. Marine Mammal Science 23(2): 453-463.

FERNANDO FÉLIX, CRISTINA CASTRO, BEN HAASE, PAUL FORESTELL, JUAN J. ÁLAVA, MEIKE SCHEIDAT AND GREG KAUFMAN. In press. Estimates of the Southeastern Pacific Humpback Whale Stock with Mark-Recapture Models in Ecuador. J. Issue special in Journal of Cetacean Research and Management.

Acevedo J, J Allen, C Castro, F Félix, K Rasmussen, L Flórez-González, A Aguayo-Lobo, E Secchi, M Llano, F Garita, P Forestell, B Haase, J Capella, L Dalla Rosa, D Ferrina, J Plana, Ic Tobón, G Kaufman, P Flak, M Scheidat & La Pastene (2008) Migratory destination of humpback whales from the Eastern South Pacific population as revealed by photo identification analysis. Paper SC/60/SH20 presented to Scientific Committee of the Internacional Whaling Commission. Santiago, Chile. 8 pp. [Available from the Office of IWC]

Castro C, J Acevedo, J Allen, L Dalla Rosa, L Flórez-González, A Aguayo-Lobo, K Rasmussen, M Llano, F Garita, P Forestell, Er Secchi, I García Godos, D Ferrina, G Kaufman, M Scheidat & La Pastene (2008) Migratory movements of humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) between Machalilla National Park, Ecuador and Southeast Pacific. Paper SC/60/SH23 presented to Scientific Committee of the Internacional Whaling Commission. Santiago, Chile. 6 pp. [Available from the Office of IWC]

Castro, C., K. Groch, M. Marcondes, M. van Bressem y K. van Waerebeek. 2008. Miscellaneous skin lesions of unknown aetiology in Humpback Whales Megaptera novaengliae from South America. Documento SC/60/DW18 presentado a la International Whaling Commission.

Castro, C., Forestell, P., Kaufman, Scheidat, M., Gibson, Q., and Ferina D. 2008. Photo-identification of Humpback Whales, Megaptera novaeangliae, in the Puerto Lopez part of Machalilla National Park in the Ecuadorian Coast – South America: 1996 – 2007. 60th annual meeting Intl. Whaling Commission; Santiago, Chile, June. SC/60/SH22.

Iñíguez, M., I. Avila, J. Belgrano, J. Bolaños-Jimenez, C. Castro, S. Cipolotti, P. Flores, A. Fuentes, B. Galleti, C. García, K. R. Groch, M. R. Rossi-Santos, and M. Sironi. 2008. A brief overview of whale watching in South America. Working paper IWC/60/SC/WW/34 presented to the International Whaling Commission, Santiago de Chile, 2008.

VAN BRESSEM, M.F., VAN WAEREBEEK, K., FLACH, L., REYES, J.C., DE OLIVEIRA SANTOS, M.C., SICILIANO, S., ECHEGARAY, M., VIDDI, F., FÉLIX, F., CRESPO, E., SANINO, G.P., AVILA, I.C., FREIJIA, N. AND CASTRO, C. Skin disease in cetaceans. Paper SC/60/DW8 presented to the IWC Scientific Committee, June 2008, Santiago, Chile (unpublished). 11pp. [Paper available at the Office of this Journal] [2008]

Castro, C. y G. Merlen. 2009. Observations of Humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) in the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador. Documento SC/61/SH30 presentado a la International Whaling Commission. Available from Office of IWC: http://www.iwcoffice.org/_documents/sci_com/sc61docs/SC-61-SH30.pdf

Castro, C., Alcorta, B., Allen, J., Caceres, C., Forestell, P., Kaufman, G., Mattila, D., Pacheco, A.S., Robbins, J., Santillan, L., Scheidat, M., Silva, S. and Tagarino, A. Comparison of the humpback whale catalogues between Ecuador, Peru and American Samoa. Evidence of the enlargement of the Breeding Stock G to Peru. International Whaling Commission, Tromso, Norway. SC/63/SH19.

Castro, C., Kaufman, G.D., and Maldini, D. A preliminary review of skin conditions and other body anomolies observed on humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) from Ecuador. International Whaling Commission, Tromso, Norway. SC/63/SH18

View video from Ama La Vida TV in Ecuador of an interview with Cristina Castro, Director of Pacific Whale Foundation's Ecuador Project.