By Waldheim Garcia Montoya
Recife, Brazil, Aug 5 (efe-epa).- Without the echoes of passing tourist cruises and countless cargo ships during the pandemic, the calm of the Atlantic Ocean is attracting a greater number of whales to the warm waters of Brazil’s northeast coast to breed.
“The reduction in boat noise affects cetaceans like whales and dolphins, which use a silent environment for their sound communication,” says biologist Sergio Cipolotti, operational coordinator of NGO Projeto Baleia Jubarte.
In 2019, approximately 20,000 whales passed along the Brazilian coast to mate and bear young, according to the NGO.
With the first sightings at the beginning of June in Espírito Santo, this number should increase until October when the whales normally begin their return journey to Antarctica.
Less movement of people and ships reduces the risk of running over their young as well as sea pollution.
According to the biologist, silence in the ocean also means no interference with emitted sounds such as those made by dolphins fishing and humpback whale songs during mating.
But the NGO, which has been monitoring the arrival of humpback whales in Brazil for 32 years, says it is still too early to determine the impact of the pandemic, especially in the Abrolhos archipelago area which the species uses for birthing and mating.
“Brazil has a great marine diversity with more than 46 active species in our ocean,” says Cipolotti.
“Of a total of 90 migratory species we have half like the humpback whales that feed in Antarctica and reproduce here.”
The silent seas brought about by the pandemic has also led to other species being spotted along Brazil’s 7,367 km coastline.
Last week, an endangered whale shark, the largest fish in the world at up to 12 meters, was spotted in Ilhabela, an island in Sao Paulo state.
A young orca whale was also found beached at Guarajuba in Camaçarí, a metropolitan region of Salvador, due to infection and severe malnutrition, according to the Aquatic Mammal Institute.
The presence of killer whales, a predatory species, is not common on the Brazilian coast and experts say their appearance could be due to reduced maritime traffic allowing them to search for food, such as the young of humpback whales.
In May, two Bryde’s whales, the least known of the fin whale species, were seen in Ilhabela and even crossed the usually busy Sao Sebastiao Channel.
The Agronauts Institute told Efe that more dolphins, including the endangered Franciscan species, as well as sea turtles have been seen along the São Paulo coast during the pandemic.
Studies by the Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte and Rio de Janeiro’s Projeto Baleias e Golfinhos found the constant movement of boats and noise is stressful for the cetaceans’ sensitive hearing.
The pandemic has reduced a lot of the industry that normally operates in the area.
The Baleia Jubarte Project has reduced half the personnel dedicated to the protection of cetaceans and tour operators associated with the initiative have been suspended.
The Tamar Project, the country’s largest sea turtle initiative, also had to suspend work due to the pandemic.