A review of the human activities impacting cetaceans in the eastern tropical Atlantic


Weir, Caroline R. and Pierce, Graham J.



Secondary Title

Mammal Review








Africa, by-catch, cetacean bushmeat, eco-tourism, habitat degradation, bushmeat, Gulf of Guinea, Sousa, sousa teuszii, Atlantic humpback dolphin


1. The eastern tropical Atlantic (ETA), extending from Mauritania south to Angola, is inhabited by at least 34 cetacean species. Knowledge of cetaceans and the human activities affecting them in the ETA is scant. 2. Available literature was reviewed over three eras of ETA cetacean research: the whaling era (1700s–1950s); the stranding and specimen era (1950s–70s); and the modern field research era (1980s–present). Eight human activities were documented to impact ETA cetacean species: directed takes (whaling and small cetaceans); by-catch or entanglement in fishing gear; the ETA tuna purse seine fishery; overfishing; habitat loss and degradation; vessel strikes; marine ecotourism; and live captures for display. Climate change may represent a future threat. 3. Directed takes of small cetaceans were documented in 12 ETA countries, and incidental by-catch (especially in gillnets) in at least nine countries. Additionally, unknown levels of cetacean mortality occur in ETA tuna purse seine fisheries. The use of cetaceans as ‘bushmeat’ was documented in 15 countries and involved at least 23 species. Little information could be found on cetacean mortality in Liberia, Benin, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, São Tomé and Príncipe or the Democratic Republic of the Congo. 4. Human activities were most frequently and widely reported to impact on common bottlenose dolphins Tursiops truncatus and Atlantic humpback dolphins Sousa teuszii, which are particularly vulnerable to anthropogenic interactions due to their nearshore occurrence. 5. The lack of information on the scale of impacts and on cetacean abundance and population structure in the ETA currently hinders assessments of the sustainability of mortality levels.