IN a global first, the Falkland Islands have been formally recognised as an incredible location for the elusive and endangered sei whale.

The Islands’ coastal regions have been confirmed as a Key Biodiversity Area (KBA) for sei whales; KBAs are internationally important sites that contribute to the worldwide diversity of life. The recognition of this KBA – the first in the world for sei whales – is a fantastic achievement, and truly something to be celebrated. In the long-term, it will help Government, Industry, and the wider Falklands community to make the most environmentally-conscious and sustainable decisions for the Islands; both for benefit of wildlife, and the livelihoods that depend on a healthy and strong marine environment.

Although often observed around the Falklands, there are very few other global ‘hotspots’ where sei whales are reliably seen, especially nearshore, making the Islands a very special location for these whales. FC have been surveying sei whales since 2017, and the work has been funded by a Darwin Plus grant since 2019.

FC’s whale surveys have been led by Project Officer Dr Caroline Weir, and assisted by many volunteers and Shallow Marine Surveys Group. Surveys found incredible numbers and a wide distribution of sei whales across the Islands. This data was assessed by an independent KBA Committee against strict scientific criteria and, after stakeholder consultation and review last year, the KBA was officially confirmed at the end of April 2021.

The KBA covers the whole of the nearshore region to 100m depth as a ‘Falkland Islands Inner Shelf Waters KBA’ for sei whales. It is an important moment in the conservation of these once heavily hunted whales, and offers an incredible opportunity to remind the world that the Islands are home to much more than penguins.

Importantly, the work is recognised by a wide range of stakeholders including many Falkland Islands landowners; Mike Evans of Springpoint farm added, “The Falklands Inner Shelf is an incredibly pristine environment that we are only just beginning to explore and appreciate for its true value.

The success of this KBA application can only lead to greater awareness and interaction between whales, people and the environment we all depend on.”

To celebrate all things sei whale, FC will be hosting a number of online and local events over the next two weeks. Check out the What’s On Guide, or find FC on Facebook to find out more.

Pic C Weir FC – Info Falklands Conservation