Results of our research

Since 1998 we have been recording our sightings in the Strait of Gibraltar. For each whale and dolphin species we have an extensive database on position, behaviour and number of individuals. Our data can be evaluated according to tide level, weather conditions etc.

Positionskarte für alle Arten 1999–2015
Positions for all species from 1999 to 2015

Since 1999 the firmm-team records standard data of all sightings on the trips:

  • Date and time
  • Tidal and weather conditions
  • Position via GPS
  • Species involved
  • Number of individuals separated by adults, calves and newborns
  • Behaviour, distance to the boat, photos and other remarks

With the help of GPS data, we can create position maps and have learned, for example, where Pilot Whales stay in the Strait at certain times of the day in relation to tidal levels. However, our data can also be evaluated according to many other criteria. For example, we have investigated whether the occurrence of Sperm Whales in the Strait of Gibraltar is influenced by the wind.

Whale-friendly route determination for ferry inspired by firmm data.

The distribution maps of all observed whale species are available as digital map images. These maps helped to determine a "whale-friendly" route of the fast ferry from Tarifa to Tangier and contributed to the fact that the Spanish Ministry of the Environment decided on a speed limit for the Strait.

Photo Identification

Grindwal-Finnen zur Fotoidentifikation
Pilot Whale dorsal fins for Photo ID

Photo ID is an important way to learn more about whales. In particular with Pilot Whales we were able to acquire extensive knowledge about the behaviour of the animals in the Strait of Gibraltar. A special feature for identification of Pilot Whales is for example the shape of the dorsal fin, but also scars or other injuries help us to recognize individual animals.

In Sperm Whales, the fluke is the identification mark. However, suitable photos presuppose that one either pursues the animals or puts oneself in their way. However, this contradicts the guidelines for respectful whale watching and our philosophy. Therefore, we try to identify the animals mainly by other obvious characteristics.

Photos are also taken for health assessment purposes.

In 2015, our marine biologist checked all images in our database for injuries and diseases of the animals photographed. Since that time firmm also records the number of big game fishing boats for the tuna season, because the suspicion arose, that they are responsible for many injuries of Pilot Whales and other dolphins. Thanks to our foundation board member Prof. Dr. Patricia Holm (University of Basel), the report on the injuries was now made also available to the IWC.

Why we don't do invasive research

We owe much scientific knowledge about whales to invasive research in which animals are injured or even killed. Part of invasive research is, for example, taking tissue samples or attaching transmitters. Why doesn't firmm use these methods?

There are several reasons against invasive research. As a rule, invasive research must be approved, which does not happen easily with threatened species. Another reason is that the animals must be pursued and targeted. This contradicts our philosophy of respectful whale watching. On the other hand, the resulting injuries can lead to inflammation in the whales - which is not surprising considering the pollution of the Strait.

Many findings can also be obtained without invasive research.

Of course, our foundation has an understanding for invasive research and the will to learn more about the animals. But it should be carefully considered for which purposes this is really necessary.

Our foundation has been observing the whales and dolphins in the Strait of Gibraltar for many years now. We know their movement patterns according to time of day and tide - all without having to use invasive research methods. Some whales and dolphins have been with us for several years and have been given names. We know which group they belong to, their behaviour and family structures. In the section Adoptions you can read more about these animals and find out that each individual has his or her own character.

Cooperation with firmm

Our database can be evaluated according to various criteria. If you are interested in a cooperation and evaluation of our data for your scientific work, please Contact us.

Supporting firmm

Reliable data are the best arguments for our commitment to marine mammals. This is why we want to continue to improve the time-consuming collection and analysis of data. Help us with your donation! Whether a one-time donation, a whale/dolphin sponsorship or a VIP membership of firmm - together we can move a lot!

Information about sponsorships