Researchers at the Centro Interdisciplinar de Investigação Marinha e Ambiental (CIIMAR) looked at photos and videos shared on the social media pages of maritime tourism companies between 2011 and 2020 and found that 16 species of cetaceans were sighted on the Algarve coast, two of which had never been seen in the region before.
The study was published in the international scientific journal 'Frontiers in Marine Science'.
The investigation was carried out as part of CIIMAR's 'Blue Young Talent' internship program with the help of the Centro de Ciências do Mar da Universidade do Algarve (CCMAR).
Pedro Morais, leader of the study, said today that it arose from the “need to obtain fundamental information about cetaceans in the Algarve”, namely, which species exist and which are the most and least common.
"This type of information is essential for developing conservation measures, if they are necessary", said the researcher.
Through images and videos shared on Facebook and Instagram, the study concluded that, between 2011 and 2020, 16 different cetacean species were sighted along the coast, two of which have never been officially recorded before.
“This study demonstrates that social networks contain precious information on the biodiversity of whales and dolphins in the Algarve”, noted Pedro Morais.
According to the researcher, there are still records of eight species in the Algarve that were not observed during the study period.
“Since the records began, 24 species of cetaceans have been sighted in the Algarve”, he noted, adding that the common dolphin was the species most often observed and the minke whale the least rare among the five species of whales sighted between 2011 and 2020.
Ester Dias, a researcher at the center of the University of Porto, explained that the main motivation for the work was the “scarcity” of information available on the biodiversity of cetaceans in the Algarve.
“Seven of the 16 species sighted by maritime-tourism companies had never been described in a formal scientific publication”, she highlighted.
Luis Afonso, a young student of CIIMAR's Blue Young Talent program and also the author of the study, pointed out that the investigation demonstrated “the usefulness of something common like social networks, as a scientific tool that should not be undervalued”.
The researchers intend to continue monitoring the social networks of maritime-tourism companies in the Algarve to keep “an update” on the species present in the region, as well as apply the methodology on the African coast.