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Seychelles cetacean research program

A research project on cetaceans has been initiated in November 2020 by Florida International University (FIU) and the University of Seychelles (UniSey), with the collaboration of the Marine Mammal Institute (Oregon State University). This initiative has also resulted in a Memorandum of Understanding signed between FIU and UniSey, particularly to develop research activities on cetaceans in Seychelles and build local capacity. This project aims at better understanding the importance of Seychelles for blue whales (Balaenoptera musculus) and other cetaceans using multiple methods, including visual vessel-based surveys and passive acoustic monitoring.

This year, the third field season has been conducted in the Amirantes (unlike in 2020 and 2021, where surveys have been carried out off the northern Granitic Islands), and is funded for three years by Save our Seas Foundation. In November 2022, 3 researchers from FIU and UniSey have carried out 3 weeks of survey work in the St. Joseph-D’Arros region. For this first year, the team has surveyed over 1000 km which resulted in 75 sightings involving 7 species. The most remarkable result from this first expedition is the discovery of an island-associated population of Risso’s dolphins (Grampus griseus, also the most common species encountered) occurring in the shallow waters of the islands. Acoustic recordings, drone footages, photo-identification data and biopsy samples were collected from this species and several others during this expedition.

Since 2020, the Seychelles Cetacean Research Program has deployed 4 Soundtraps (ST600, Ocean Instruments), and two additional hydrophones will be deployed in 2023. Over 3500 km of survey effort has been carried out, resulting in a total of 350 cetacean sightings involving 23 species. The project currently involves several students from Seychelles, and will hopefully continue to grow in 2023. For more information, please contact Dr. Jeremy Kiszka (Florida International University/Island Biodiversity and Conservation Center – University of Seychelles;

Contributor: Jeremy Kiszka