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Madeira's biodiversity: management and conservation

A. Madeira, A. Freitas & A. D.Abreu
Rua Dr. Pestana Júnior nº 6,
9050-558 Funchal,
Madeira, Portugal

"Marine Mammals in Madeira's Archipelago Waters", by L. Freitas

The Madeira Regional Government launched a three-year project - "Madeira's Biodiversity: Management and Conservation" - to bring up-to-date the knowledge on Madeira's biodiversity regarding to it's conservation state, according to international criteria. The regional scientific community - Madeira´s University, Whale Museum, Funchal Natural History Museum, Botanical Garden - are working together in this initiative, co-ordinated by the Environmental Regional Government Department. The motto of this initiative, "Knowing to Conserve", calls on the scientific community and the sphere of influence in the region to participate in  a common objective - the conservation of the Natural Heritage.

Given the small dimensions of the area, Madeira's Archipelago has a high density of species, including a  high number of endemics. All compiled data will be available, together with other environmental parameters, in the Environmental Information Regional System. Information will also be made available in such a way that Biodiversity can be established as a central theme of nature conservation and education activities, promoting a valorisation and preservation political strategy with regard to Madeira's Natural Resources.

One of the first outputs of this project is the elaboration of thematic booklets, each describing a group of species and it's conservation state in Madeira. Regarding Marine Biodiversity the first books published concerns Marine Mammals in the Madeira's Archipelago, which was co-ordinated by L. Freitas ( of the Whale Museum.

Marine mammals in Madeira's Archipelago and their present conservation statute according to IUCN categories (1994)
Species Conservation status
Eubalaena glacialis (Müller, 1776) Threatened species
Balaenoptera physalus (Linnaeus, 1758) Threatened species
Megaptera novaengliae (Borowski, 1781) Threatened species
Balaenoptera acutorostrata (Lacépède, 1804) Lower risk species
Physeter macrocephalus (Linnaeus, 1758) Threatened species
Kogia breviceps (de Blainville, 1838) Data deficient
Ziphius cavirostris (Cuvier, 1823) Data deficient
Mesoplodon densirostris (de Blainville, 1817) Data deficient
Mesoplodon bidens (Sowerby, 1804) Data deficient
Orcinus orca (Linnaeus, 1758) Lower risk species
Pseudorca crassidens (Owen, 1846) Not evaluated
Globicephala macrorhynchus (Lesson, 1828) Lower risk species
Grampus griseus (Cuvier, 1812) Data deficient
Tursiops truncatus (Montagu, 1821) Data deficient
Steno bredanensis (Lesson, 1828) Data deficient
Delphinus delphis (Linnaeus, 1758) Data deficient
Stenella frontalis (Cuvier, 1829) Data deficient
Stenella coeruleoalba (Meyen, 1833) Lower risk species
Monachus monachus (Hermann, 1779) Threatened species

Since 1986, cetaceans are protected in Madeira by legislative measures. However, these measures have not been followed by management measures or monitoring programme, to enable the identification of threats to the cetaceans populations. In 1999, a LIFE-Nature project started and aims at the conservation of cetacean's populations in Madeira's archipelago waters.

At present, in Madeira some problems affecting the species can be pinpointed. Namely, intensive maritime traffic in the south coast of Madeira, unregulated whale-watching and dolphin-watching activity, performed on a rather opportunistic basis by unprepared operators, and negative interactions between cetaceans and humans (e.g. fishermen, litter) resulting in the direct death of animals. In order to overcome these problems, four specific objectives have been established:

- To determine the conservation status of Tursiops truncates, Stenella frontalis and Globicephala macrorhynchus in Madeira's archipelago waters.

- To determine the impact on cetaceans, especially on the species mentioned above, of whale-watching and dolphin-watching activities, witch are been carried out by the coastal tourist boats and big game fishing boats, and to propose measures to reduce the impact.

- To raise awareness of the population, especially the fishing villages inhabitants and the users of the sea, to the conservation of cetaceans, mainly on what concerns the harmful impact the litter thrown to sea can have on these animals.


Secretaria Regional do Ambiente e dos Recursos Naturais
Direcção Regional do Ambiente
Rua Dr. Pestana Júnior n.º6, 3º Dtº
P-9054-558 Funchal

- To raise the awareness of tourists, that are majority of coastal tourists boats and big game fishing boats customers, for the disturbance they can cause to the cetaceans, in an attempt to encourage the tourists to became agents of conservation.

The monk seal (Monachus monachus) has been protected by legislation implemented by Madeira's Regional Government and was also embraced by a LIFE-Nature project aiming for its habitat (Deserts Islands) conservation.

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