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The small historic town of Caravelas, in southern Bahia, is the nearest port to the Abrolhos National Marine Park. The Portuguese were the first visitors to arrive in the region, sailing along the Caravelas Rivers since 1503. Since then, other celebrities have been there, such as the English naturalist Charles Darwin, who was marvelled by the rich fauna, which included the humpback whales, much more numerous before whaling almost extinguished the species from Brazilian waters.

In 1987, a small remnant humpback whale population was discovered during the Marine Park’s implementation and thus Abrolhos was suggested as the species’ main “nursery” ground on the Western South Atlantic. The Humpback Whale Project was then created to promote research and protection for these mammals in Brazil. Caravelas, an important whaling port in colonial times, became the headquarters of the country’s first humpback conservation project.

In 1988 the first cruises to photograph the whales were carried out and the first attempt to study the whales from a land station on the Abrolhos archipelago were made.

Later, in 1966, the Humpback Whale Institute, a non-governmental organisation, was created to provide administrative support for the Project’s conservation and research activities. In time, the Environmental Information and Education Program and the Estuarine Dolphin of Southern Bahia Project were created. 

The whaling ban and intense conservation initiatives have resulted in the population’s recovery around Abrolhos and reoccupation of the species’ former range on the North coast of Bahia. For this reason the Institute’s second station was created in 2001 in Praia do Forte. This allowed for research cruises to be carried out on the North shore, increasing the study area. The species’ coastal habits and the narrow continental shelf along Bahia’s northern coast, allow the observations to be made near the coast and whalewatching, promoted by HWI as an effective awareness raising tool has been increasing every year. The HWI Research and Environmental Education Centre in Praia do Forte is a new space dedicated to communicate and educate the community and visitors about the humpback whales and their conservation in the region.

The HWI team believes that working with the local communities, tourists and public opinion, strengthens the struggle for marine conservation. Although the natural history of cetaceans is still largely unknown, the efforts carried out by HWI throughout over two decades have yielded amazing results. Through technical and scientific information, community interaction and taking part in public policy discussions, the efforts for marine conservation are becoming ever more effective, especially regarding humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) and estuarine dolphins (Sotalia guianensis).

Topo Topo

Caravelas - Rua Barão do Rio Branco, 125 – Centro - BA - CEP: 45.900-000 – Tel.: (+55 73) 3297-1340
Praia do Forte - Avenida do Farol, 2907 - Caixa postal 92 - Mata de São João - BA - CEP: 48.280-971 – Tel.: (+55 71) 3676-1463

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