Prospective new whale watching site based on sei (Balaenoptera borealis) and other whale species in Punta Marqu?s (Chubut Province, Argentina)
Coscarella, Mariano A. & Riera, Marina G.
In the past few years, different whale species have been increasingly observed in Golfo San Jorge. In Chubut province, Argentina, occurrence of these whales may attract the attention of the local community as a potential resource for tourism-related activities, since the region has a long history on whale watching targeting the southern right whale. To assess the viability of the site as a future whale watching operation site systematic visual surveys have been conducted from September 2019 to October 2021. The observations were made from the top of a 160 m high cliff to assess the seasonal occurrence and relative abundance the species, following a scan method with the aid of a spotting scope. A total of 316 scans were performed in which 764 sei whales, 46 southern right whales and 32 humpback whales were recorded. The Sighting per Unit Effort indicates that during the summer and autumn months the frequency of sightings increase. Sei whales were spotted while feeding on squat lobster, being one of the main observed behavioural states. For humpback and southern right whale, the main behavioural state recorded was socializing. Golfo San Jorge could be regarded as a previously unreported feeding summer ground for sei whales. The continuation of this study will provide a better understanding of the habitat use and the factors that influence seasonal patterns of rorquals in the area and generate baseline knowledge to contribute to the conservation and assist in developing management actions.