A week of dolphins in Lisbon

The past week had an unprecedented amount of dolphins sighted in the river Tagus. A total of 5 sightings were recorded on video and shared throughout social media, 4 of them were in consecutive days.

Last sighting of the week, the furthest upriver

All sightings were of small groups of common dolphins, corroborating the previous studies which indicated that common dolphins are the most sighted species in the Tagus. This contrasts with all the other rivers, which have mostly bottlenose dolphin sightings. This could be related to the depth preferences of these species, common dolphins prefer depths of at least 20m while bottlenose dolphins are perfectly comfortable in waters 2m deep. Most rivers do not get deeper than 10m, making them unsuitable for common dolphins to visit. However the impressive depth of the Tagus river with depths up to 60m, delivers enough depth for the common dolphins to visit while hunting schools of fish.
Only 2 of the sightings were in the usual area where we find them in our dolphin watching tours, close to the mouth of the river.
Two others were closer to the 25th of April bridge, one downriver and the other upriver from the bridge.
And on Sunday the last sighting was further upriver, inside the estuary, very close to the shore at Parque das Nações, the “New Lisbon” 25 km from the Sea. Impressive indeed but not close to a record, in 2010 this species were photographed 48 km upriver!!
The reasons why so many sightings condensed within a week remain unknown. Most likely numerous factors contributed to it, namely regular schools of fish entering the river probably for spawning, as feeding was the main activity seen in the videos.

Clean&Safe certified

Tourism of Portugal recognized that our company comply with the recommendations of the Directorate-General for Health to avoid contamination of spaces with SARS-CoV-2.
The boats are completely open and only 2/3 of the seats are available, the tours will be available this Monday Jun 1st.

Billie the adopted dolphin

Billie is a female bottlenose dolphin that lives by Algeciras, in Gibraltar, Spain. She was first sighted by Spanish colleagues in 2006, when she was a solitary juvenile. Weeks later she was spotted among common dolphins and have been ever since.
Billie had spent her time in the company of common dolphins and have been observed interacting in their social behaviours like babysitting. Ten years later she actually had her own offspring which was an bottlenose-common dolphin hybrid. She definitely took this being a common dolphin thing very seriously!
Read more on the published scientific article here about her and the her calf!

Dolphins in the Tagus again!

On International Women’s Day we sighted a group of common dolphins composed of mothers and some juveniles. They were fishing inside the Tagus river!
It seemed that they got delayed during the hunt and caught some disfavourable tidal current, they were actually entering the river while swimming out!

Dolphins in the Tagus river 2020

Today February 28th we recorded the first encounter of the year with dolphins inside the Tagus river!

They were a pod around 20 common dolphins of all ages (calves, juveniles and adults) and had a uncommon melanic individual. We followed them on their way out of the river for 30 minutes. By their behaviour, we assume that they where feeding on schools of fish in the turbulent outflow of the river.

Know more about the dolphins in Lisbon in our previous publication.

Fort S. João das Maias, Oeiras

St. Amaro Beach, Oeiras

Orcas pass north of Lisbon

 On January 12th 2020 our colleagues from AWF spotted a group of orcas off Peniche going north. The cellphone videos is very pixilated and makes the photo-ID task almost impossible. However it is possible to recognise in one of the videos, the matriarch Toni 011. These orcas very likely belong to the Iberian population and likely belonging to Toni’s matriline, Omega’s or Lamari‘s matrilines, as the rest of the individuals are highly subjective to identify.
It is not too farfetch to consider that this orca pod passed by Lisbon on the 11th or the 10th.

European Capital of Dolphins

It is known in the Lisbon folklore there were dolphins off Lisbon in the past. As the story tells, they went away in the 70s due to the increasing pollution in the Tagus river.

Before the founding of ECCO Ocean (which owns Lisbon Dolphins), back in 2014 APCM (Association for the Sea Sciences) dug in depth into the records trying to find support for this old Portuguese mystery.

Several records in journals and magazines were found, referring to dolphins sighted in the Tagus River in the XX century and even in the XIX century and reporting frequent sightings of dolphins in the Tagus and Sado rivers. There were even older records, going back to the XVI century, where dolphins and whales were depicted in paintings but referred as fishes, nereids and tritons.


Whales eventually die soon after being found in the river

It was clear that dolphins did really exist in the river. Analysing more recent sources, there was no significant decrease of occurrences after the 70s. Actually, there was an increase in the last decades. However, this was not related with the dolphins but with the improvement of connectivity and information sharing. In addition, the bloom in nautical tourism “placed” more eyes on the river, increasing the chances of the dolphins being spotted.

The dolphins spotted in the Tagus river are not the same from the Sado river, neither they are residents. They are just visitors going after some fish, on average spending few hours in the river. The Tagus river is exceptionally deep, having a wide U shape profile 30m deep, reaching 60m in depth on the south margin. This makes the Tagus the deepest river in a 1900 km radius, deep enough for oceanic species to feel comfortable to enter. There are records of dolphins seen travelling to shallower areas as far as 40Km upriver.

 The most notorious memorial to these dolphins is on the pillars’ base of the 25th of April bridge. There, we can see paintings of the most commonly sighted species in the river, the common dolphin, bottlenose dolphin, orca and sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus). In addition to the species depicted in the mural, there are also records of the fin whale and the pygmy sperm whale (Kogia breviceps) in the river.

In 2019 there were 8 sightings of dolphins inside the river, that we know of. One of bottlenose dolphins and the rest of common dolphins. Both in 2018 and 2019 were recorded pygmy sperm whales in city centre that died.

ECCO Ocean under Lisbon Dolphins

We would like to announce that from today on we will be conducting our expedition tours under the flag of Lisbon Dolphins!
Lisbon Dolphins is the touristic brand of ECCO Ocean, and it will make it easier for costumers to remember, write our name and to find us online. The name ECCO Ocean will be kept for the research projects and for environmental consulting.

With a simpler address, our guests can easily consult our page during the tour! For example, it will be easier to check out the dolphin catalogues.
Check out the new pages, new look on main page and more complete didactic material. It will be an adventure to ‘sail’ in our website, freshly decorated with nice photos from 2019’s expeditions.

Orcas in Lisbon

052 and OOLX01

On the past Monday, 6th of August we found a group of orcas few miles off Lisbon feeding of fish along with common dolphins. These individuals belong to a known group from the Gibraltar population, the Bartolo pod. Only individuals from 51’s matriline were present (50, 51,52 and an unknown baby).
These orcas usually feed during the summer months in Gibraltar, chasing tuna. There are a total of 5 groups on Gibraltar’s population and all seem to pass by Lisbon coast.

050 the mature male

051 the matriarch hunting alongside common dolphins

052 inspecting the boat

Whale in Lisbon

In the last expeditions we had been seeing whales, 2h away from Lisbon. We are convinced that’s a minke whale, the 2nd smallest species of the baleen whales. It is very hard to photograph as this individual is very invasive and unpredictable, making a rigorous identification very difficult. Minke whales had been