First underwater sighting of Shepherd’s beaked whale (Tasmacetus shepherdi)

Christopher D. H. Thompson, Phil J. Bouchet, Jessica J. Meeuwig

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Here we describe the first underwater sighting of Shepherd’s beaked whale (Tasmacetus shepherdi). Two individuals were observed together on video footage obtained via mid-water stereo-Baited Remote Underwater Video Systems (BRUVS) deployed off the coast of Inaccessible Island, Tristan da Cunha, in the South Atlantic. This observation constitutes the first recorded live sighting of this species in the waters of Tristan da Cunha since 2002 and provides further evidence for the persistence of a population of this species in the region. The observed individuals lacked the dark flipper stripe observed in previous descriptions, indicating that the species may exhibit greater variation in pigmentation than previous records indicate. The planned implementation of a marine reserve in the region along with the current low level of fishing pressure and remote location of this archipelago provide a good context to ensure the appropriate management and protection of this rare species. The recent establishment of an ongoing mid-water stereo-BRUVS monitoring programme, in concert with other methods targeted at marine mammals, may yield further information about this little known species and aid in informing management decisions in the future.
Original languageEnglish
Article number6
Number of pages6
JournalMarine Biodiversity Records
Publication statusPublished - 21 Mar 2019


  • Tristan da Cunha
  • South Atlantic
  • Whale
  • Cetacean
  • Pigmentation
  • Marine reserve


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