The sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus) is listed as vulnerable in the National Catalogue of Threatened Species (RD139 / 2011), in the Regional Catalogue of the Canary Islands (L.7L / PPL-001 of 2009) and is listed as “vulnerable” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). In the Canary Islands, the main threat to sperm whales is collision with fast ferries. The Canary Islands has one of the highest maritime traffic densities on the planet. Every year several cetacean strandings occur that show evidence of injuries caused by fast ferry collisions.
Between 2000 and 2018, 81 sperm whales were stranded in the Canary Islands. In 44 of these cases, the cause of death was attributable to collisions with vessels. These deaths have a significant impact on the populations of the species in the archipelago because the collision mortality rate exceeds the natural reproduction rate. Furthermore, this is not only a conservation problem in the Canary Archipelago but a threat to species across the Macaronesian subregion. Due to the absence of studies there is not much information on the biology and ecology of the sperm whales in this area.
Collision mortality could be reduced thanks to the approval of mitigation measures based in scientific studies. Nautical census with Passive Acoustic Monitoring (PAM) and Photo-identification technics are used in the SECAC project to fill the scientific void concerning this species in the archipelago and understand the structure of the population, ecology, movements and use of the habitat in order to create a map of the possible risk of collision.