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Tenerife-La Gomera Marine Area Whale Heritage Area
Tenerife-La Gomera Marine Area Whale Heritage Area

Tenerife-La Gomera Marine Area Whale Heritage Area

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This Whale Heritage Area encompasses the marine area along and between the west coast of the island of Tenerife and the island of La Gomera. Cetacean biodiversity is the main natural treasure that the local community are proud of, and whale watching is the main touristic activity of the area. Its unique resident population of pilot whales live alongside a high diversity of other cetaceans. They inhabit a designated Special Area of Conservation (SAC), with a coastline that hosts millions of tourists every year – many of whom wish to see these majestic marine mammals in the wild.

Species or habitat details

As well as being famous for short-finned pilot whales and bottlenose dolphins, both of which have resident populations in the area and show strong social units, the Tenerife-La Gomera marine area is also an important migration stop for 21 other cetacean species:

Risso’s dolphin, sperm whale, killer whale, false killer whale, short-beaked common dolphin, striped dolphin, Atlantic spotted dolphin, rough-toothed dolphin, Fraser’s dolphin, Cuvier’s beaked whale, Blainville’s beaked whale, Gervais’ beaked whale, Northern bottlenose whale, humpback whale, fin whale, sei whale, blue whale, Bryde’s whale, common minke whale, North Atlantic right whale, pygmy sperm whale.

Threats

The WHA is located next to one of the biggest tourist hotspots in Tenerife. Many marine tourism activities interact with cetaceans, making harassment one of the biggest threats to local cetaceans. There are too many whale watching boats, many of those are illegal, and some do not respect the code of conduct established by the law when in proximity of cetaceans.

Entanglement is the second biggest threat. Strategies are in place already with volunteers and rescue teams; however, there is the need to have a patrol at sea to collect debris.

Did you know?

The Canary current and the coastal upwelling from the African coast promote rich marine biodiversity in the Canary Islands, including 28 cetacean species.

The resident community of short-finned pilot whales living in the southwest of Tenerife is of great importance as one of the few resident populations known in the world, with an estimated 391 individuals.

Several studies have confirmed a general matrilineal social system in pilot whales, where social units remain stable and related individuals stay together for years.

The pilot whales perform a unique hunting behaviour, never registered in a deep-diving species before. They have been nicknamed the “cheetahs of the deep sea” for their deep, high-speed, sprint-dives to chase and capture large squid.

Some studies also suggest the existence of both specific individual and group calls that ensure group cohesion and coordinate group activities.

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Why visit a Wildlife Heritage Area?

Trustworthy

Visitors to Wildlife Heritage Areas can take part in outstanding wildlife watching experiences that put wildlife first. Staying in a Wildlife Heritage Area helps local communities invest in animal welfare and wildlife conservation, benefitting community well-being and driving forward sustainable practices.

Designated for excellence

Communities achieve Wildlife Heritage Area designation by playing a central role in protecting wild animals and their habitats. With support from responsible travel organisations and wildlife experts, these communities are committed to help turn the tide on biodiversity loss and the climate crisis, adopt a zero tolerance for wildlife suffering in tourism, and advocate for positive change through a willingness to collaborate.

Stories

Human-cetacean conflict solutions

Human-cetacean conflict solutions

Tenerife’s whale watching community has recognised the need to continue improving standards, promoting responsible practices, and encouraging collaboration.

There are already various national regulations and laws that protect cetaceans, including two mandatory permits per boat involved in whale watching, and a two-year moratorium limiting the number of permits that can be...

Conservation success

Conservation success

Since 2014, Tonina Association has been conducting research during several field seasons to establish the conservation status of the cetacean populations in the area and their principal risks. Following the results, the Association, together with several stakeholders, recommended a package of mitigation measures, including:

1. Surveillance of whale watching boats from both...

Education and research

Education and research

Tenerife-La Gomera WHA is the location of a great range of environmental education, conservation-based research and citizen science programmes, delivered by NGOs, academic institutions, and government bodies. These initiatives are vitally important and help gain a better understanding of the whales and dolphins in the area, and bring the marine environment to life for residents...

Cultural heritage (new/ modern)

Cultural heritage (new/ modern)

In contemporary times, cetaceans have earned a place in the region's culture, and the communities within the Tenerife-La Gomera WHA are host to a whole range of centres, events, and festivals that celebrate whales and dolphins and the wonderful local marine life.

The Arona Son Atlántico is a large annual festival that promotes the preservation of the environment on land and...

Sustainability

Sustainability

There are several stakeholder groups within the WHA who are committed to reducing environmental impacts, and protecting the habitats and welfare of the animals upon which the industry depends.

Activities currently being undertaken or within an action plan to be carried out by various stakeholders include measures to encourage lowering energy use and adoption of renewable...

Collaboration for the sake of cetaceans

Collaboration for the sake of cetaceans

ACEST is an association of entrepreneurs from the whale watching sector in the southwest of Tenerife. ACEST was founded in 2014 and, since then, members have been focusing primarily on the protection and welfare of the local cetacean populations, the impact of excessive nautical activity and the bad practices around the whales and dolphins.

Its objective is to promote the...