The season 2016 — a retrospective view

by Jörn Selling

Fotos: Katharina Heyer, Jörn Selling, Sebastian Kanzler und Eduardo Montano Peralta

In 2016 Tarifa has shown its rough side. There were many days with the infamous wind “Levante”. Nevertheless we have hardly been in the bay of Gibraltar, where in autumn big shoals of flying fish gather. Off Tarifa we saw tuna and sea birds hunting flying fish and other small fish. Furthermore migrating storks and rare ships provided variety.

Seabirds and tuna in a feeding frenzy Storks move to the south Aircraft carrier off Tarifa Yacht and Moroccan tuna fisher 

Common dolphins

They became „uncommon „in the Mediterranean Sea, so we occasionally saw them in small groups or as part of groups of Striped Dolphins.

Clearly visible: the beautiful colouring and the exhalation before coming to the surface They love bodycontact, surfing in the stern wave and jumping Sometimes they steal a bait or a fish from the fishermen, amongst whom are violent ones, who cut off bodyparts of entangled dolphins or cut their bellies open! 

Striped Dolphins

Striped Dolphins can sometimes be observed in their hundreds and they move in big groups through the Strait of Gibraltar, in which there is always something to see.

Striped Dolphins off the Moroccan coast They also love to jump  and to surf in the bow wave. Mother and calf with clearly visible birth stripes. Young striped with orange spots, these are colonies of algaes (Diatomeen) settling on the skin. 

Bottlenose Dolphin

Of all dolphins the Bottlenose dolphins are the most acrobatic and especially in spring they are in a good mood, when they perform voluntary shows near the boat. At the same time they sometimes observe us.   

Jumping,   remaining body contact,   and swimming on the back, are popular maneuvers amongst Bottlenose Dolphins Meanwhile they observe us. This one seems to have a skin disease. Sometimes, but rather rarely, one can see them close to Tarifas port entrance 

Pilot Whales

are mostly swimming slowly and therefore seem very relaxed. They also like to surf like all other dolphins. While socializing they often integrate the Bottlenose Dolphins, with whom they get along well. To not many other species they are so nice, most of the time they drive them away, because they are very territorial.     

Ship reflects on the forehead. All under control. Calf with birth stripes.  Could be pregnant Nothing to see, at least above the water surface. Pilot Whales usually travel in groups of 8-12 animals. If the Orcas are not with the tuna fishermen, the Pilot Whales sometimes are, although they are not interested in their prey. 


Orcas are travelling in smaller groups; they come to the Strait of Gibraltar to hunt for tuna or to get their share from the fishermen.

Three different Orca males; this one is Camorro. Here in his sub-group. 

Sperm Whales

2016 was an average year concerning Sperm Whale sightings. But in spite of this, there were a few groups with several animals.

  Everthing in sight. 

Frequently other animals got curious, especially Pilot Whales and Bottlenose Dolphins, but also sea birds.

With Pilot Whales With Striped Dolphins With Bottleniose Dolphins Sperm Whale, Bottlenose Dolphin,Pilot Whale and Seabirds 

Most popular among the guests is the moment when the Sperm Whales descend.

Is this a bit of a fishing line hanging from his fluke? Also this whale has a fishing line attached to his fluke! This one had half of his fluke cut off... Diving down rapidly, the ship is already very close. 

Fin Whales

This season we could observe some jumping Fin Whales.

 Accompanied by Bottlenose dolphins.    Covered with copepods, parasites up to 30 cm. in length Ships are omnipresent in the Strait of Gibraltar. 

Humpback Whales

In 100 years there had only been two confirmed observations of Humpback Whales in the Mediterranean Sea, but since 1990 the sightings of this whale species increase. This concurs with the recovery of the North Atlantic stocks, which are protected since the introduction of the whaling moratorium. In the area around Gibraltar we twice had the chance the see Humpback Whales: in Zahara de los Atunes a dead, young animal stranded, and in the port of Algeciras, in the Bay of Gibraltar, a female with her baby stayed for a couple of days. This season, a young Humpback Whale, who unfortunately was attacked by the Pilot Whales, came to the Strait of Gibraltar. Pilot Whales are very territorial and sometimes they even drive out the Orcas. Maybe in the future there will be more sightings of Humpback Whales. But probably they remain occasional visitors for a long time to come.       

The poor thing tries to find shelter under the ship. Scratches of the Pilot Whale teeth are clearly visible. A big Humpback Whale barnacle <em>Coronula diadema.</em> Upon <em>Coronula diadema</em> another specialized barnacle is sitting<em> Conchoderma auritum.</em> 

We wish everyone a good season 2017, both the whales as well as the observers. 

Summery evening tour 

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