Towards ship strike mitigation in the Canary Islands
Fabian Ritter, Natacha Aguilar de Soto and Vidal MartÃn
The Canary Island archipelago lies off West Africa and belongs to Spain. Besides attracting millions of tourists every year, they also are home for an extraordinary species diversity: 30 cetacean species have been documented here, i.e. more than a third of all existing species. Many of these are residents, others appear frequently, seasonally or more sporadically in the deep water around the islands. At the same time, the Canary Islands have been identified as a hot spot for vessel-whale collisions. The reason is the strong overlap between cetacean habitats and an intense marine traffic (international, inter-island large vessels and small-medium sized vessels). Today, fast and high-speed ferries are connecting the islands with each other almost exclusively, posing a significant threat to cetaceans in the area. A recent accumulation in strandings of cetacean with lesions typical for ship strikes has led to an increase in public interest as well as efforts from the Spanish and Canary Islands officials to tackle the issue. Only recently, and as a consequence of the latest ship strike cases which received a lot of public attention, demonstrations, authorities from the Canary Island and the national Spanish Government joined efforts to revive the interchange of knowledge and scientific data as well as to invite opinion on recommended actions. This process is ongoing and this paper is meant to support these current efforts.