cetáceos/Madeira - Project for the conservation of cetaceans in Madeira Archipelago

LIFE99 NAT/P/006432

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Contact details:

Project Manager: Luís António DE ANDRADE FREITAS
Tel: 351/291/961859
Fax: 351/291/961407
Email: lfreitasmb@mail.telepac.pt

Project description:


There are various species of cetaceans in the waters off Madeira. Those most frequently sighted are the bottle-nose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus), the Atlantic spotted dolphin (Stenella frontalis) and the short-finned pilot whale (Globicephala macrorhynchus). Within Community waters, the latter are found only in the Madeira archipelago, the Azores and the Canaries. Since 1986, regional law has protected cetaceans in the Madeira archipelago. However, there were gaps in the legislation, in particular as regards tourist activities such as whale- and dolphin-watching. This was partly due to a lack of basic information needed for drawing up effective management and regulation plans, such as data on the species' population trends and the impact of tourist activities.


The main objectives of this project were to determine the conservation status of the bottle-nose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus), the Atlantic spotted dolphin (Stenella frontalis) and the short-finned pilot whale (Globicephala macrorhynchus) and to determine the impact of whale- and dolphin-watching on them. The information collected was to be used to draw-up a proposed regulation of these activities, which the competent authorities have already agreed to consider. The project also aimed to achieve an increased level of awareness of fishermen, tourists, tourism operators, students and local populations about the importance of cetacean conservation. Among the actions planned to achieve its objectives, the project foresaw to: implement aerial and marine censuses of the cetacean populations; to collect and study dead animals; to assess whale- and dolphin-watching activities; to partially implement the proposed regulation using volunteers; and to implement several awareness-raising measures. The assessment of cetacean watching was to be achieved through the monitoring of ships and the observation of the animals' behaviour.


This project has achieved very good results. The beneficiary collected comprehensive biological information on several different cetacean species, not limited to the three initially targeted species (the bottle-nose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus), the Atlantic spotted dolphin (Stenella frontalis) and the short-finned pilot whale (Globicephala macrorhynchus)) but also on several other whale and dolphin species living around Madeira. The project has provided a significant contribution to the previously scant knowledge of biology, population and conservation status of these cetacean species. Furthermore, LIFE had important pump-priming effects in the field of information collection. The beneficiary is the only Portuguese partner in the “Europhlukes” project, which is responsible for creating a European photo identification system and database for whales, dolphins and porpoises. He is also coordinating an INTERREG IIIB project together with scientist groups from the Azores and the Canary Islands aimed at assessing the range of some cetacean populations and delineating an integrated conservation approach for the three archipelagos. The project bought a vessel, which allowed not only the collection of data, but also the testing and adjustment of the Permanent Monitoring Plan, one of the main tools for cetacean conservation that resulted from the project. Being financially sustainable at long-term, it allows qualitative and quantitative monitoring of all biological parameters which are indicating potential changes to the already identified impacts or which develop to new potential threats in the future. The Plan was presented to the regional authorities, who should implement it within the coming years. Even after the end of the LIFE project, the vessel will continue to play an important role in whale conservation. The project evaluated the impact of whale- and dolphin-watching and assessed the potential threats for cetaceans. The project then directed its activities towards achieving an increased level of awareness among fishermen, tourists, tourism operators, students and the local population about the importance of cetacean conservation and appropriate behaviour when in proximity to these marine mammals. The project worked with four out of the six whale-watching operators in Madeira, as well as with the heads of sport fisheries boat companies, to come to common agreements how to protect the whales most effectively. For developing new regulations, the beneficiary also closely cooperated with the Regional Government, which is responsible for nature conservation, tourism activities in the sea, environmental quality and fisheries.


Environmental issues addressed:


Species - Mammals
Habitats - Marine


ecotourism‚  endangered species‚  environmental impact of tourism‚  protected area‚  marine ecosystem‚  public awareness campaign‚  monitoring system‚  survey‚  voluntary work

Target EU Legislation

  • Nature protection and Biodiversity
  • Directive 92/43 - Conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora- Habitats Directiv ...

Target species

 Globicephala macrorhynchus   Stenella frontalis   Tursiops truncatus 

Natura 2000 sites

SCI PTDES0001 Ilhas Desertas
SCI PTMAD0003 Ponta de S. Lourenço
SCI PTMAD0004 Ilhéu da Viúva



Coordinator Câmara Municipal de Machico - Museu da Baleia
Type of organisation Local authority
Description The municipality of Machico became the headquarters of the Portuguese administration in Madeira, not long after the Portuguese landed there in 1419. Machico has abundant water and a favourable climate, and quickly developed thriving sugar cane plantations. In the 1940s, the whaling industry also brought prosperity to the area, but after only 40 years the last whaling company closed. In 1986, the waters of Madeira were declared as a whale sanctuary. Today, Machico has 22,000 inhabitants. Situated in Caniçal, the whale museum receives funding from the Regional Government as well as the European Regional Development Fund. Although linked to the municipality of Machico, the museum (the "caça à baleia") is a financially independent body. It has permanent and temporary exhibition areas, an auditorium, a library, laboratories and other facilities for cetacean research and conservation works. Featuring the history of whale hunting and the archipelago’s whaling industry, it is devoted to gathering knowledge to ensure the protection of cetacean populations in Madeira's waters, and to informing local residents and tourists about whale protection.


Project reference LIFE99 NAT/P/006432
Duration 01-JAN-2000 to 30-SEP -2004
Total budget 517,981.45 €
EU contribution 258,990.72 €
Project location Madeira(Portugal)


Read more:

Project web site Website of the project


Project description   Environmental issues   Beneficiaries   Administrative data   Read more   Print   PDF version