Site fidelity and movements of humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) on the Brazilian breeding ground, southwestern Atlantic



Site fidelity and movements were studied for humpback whales photo-identified from 1989 to 2006 in the Abrolhos Bank, southwestern Atlantic, Brazil. A total of 2,612 individuals were identified, 374 of which were observed on more than one occasion. The cumulative number of identified whales has increased since 1989. Recapture rate was low and varied among different years. A total of 33 whales was observed using the Abrolhos Bank for longer than 10 yr, up to a maximum of 16 yr. Our data suggest that different whales show distinct movement rates. Some whales used a large extent of the Abrolhos Bank region. Opportunistic photo-identification data (on the scale of the Brazilian coast from 4° to 23°S) revealed important information about stock identity. The longest distance between within-season resightings was over 600 km, while one whale was observed in two locations separated by more than 1,400 km in different years. Long-range movements within and between seasons support the single stock hypothesis for humpback whales wintering off the Brazilian coast.