Salvador is the capital of the Bahia state in the northeast of Brazil. Located in Salvador is Todos os Santos Bay, the largest tropical bay in the world and the largest coastal Brazilian city. The sheltered waters of Todos os Santos Bay are home to the Guiana dolphin (Sotalia guianensis), classified as Near Threatened by the IUCN Red List.
Due to Bahia’s oceanographic characteristics, a diverse range of marine species can be found in its waters, including 21 different species of cetacean..
Some of these species are considered emblematic from both ecological and social points of view, such as Humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae). One of the larger Humpback whale populations in the Southern Hemisphere, with an estimate of 20,000 individuals, comes to the Bahia coast to breed and calve from July to November.
Humpback whale populations in Brazilian waters have been increasing since the prohibition of commercial whaling, including in Todos os Santos Bay where the whales were abundant prior to whaling activities.
At a glance
Where is it:
Region – Latino America
Country – Brazil
Area/State – Bahia
- Guiana dolphin
- Pygmy killer whale
- Rough-toothed dolphin
- Fin whale
- Humpback whale
- Bottlenose dolphin
- Atlantic spotted dolphin
- Clymene dolphin
- Spinner dolphin
- And 12 more cetacean species
When to see them:
- All year round
Salvador is located in the northeastern region of Brazil, at a latitude of 13° 01′ S and a longitude of 38°31′ W, on a peninsula that narrows the entrance of the largest Brazilian bay, Todos os Santos Bay.
The city is surrounded by the sea on two sides: the Atlantic Ocean at the eastward side and the Todos os Santos Bay waters. The proposed polygon has 98,4Km² and the distance from the coast is an average of 1,852m.
What makes Salvador a Candidate Whale Heritage Site?
Each Whale Heritage Site has a unique route to meeting the criteria set out by the WCA. Check out some of the highlights from the Candidate site Salvador:
Salvador has become part of the whale watching tourism route since the beginning of the PBS Project (Projeto Baleias Soteropolitanas), which has been working together with the Port Authority of Salvador and the State Tourism Department and has made this industry official. Now they are standardising the activity, working on certification, providing training, as well as making whale watching a more responsible activity.
Whales have played an important role in the area’s maritime heritage. There are historical records from the 17th century, during the colonisation period of Brazil, showing that whales were used in the construction of the city; for example, their blubber was used as a sealant against humidity in buildings. The Itapuã fishing colony also has a whale culture and provided a strong whaling economy for the city. In Brazil, commercial whaling was finally banned by law in December 1987.
A Whale Festival has been held in this area for 10 years. It’s a multidisciplinary and multi-sector event that aims to strengthen the connection of the local community with the ocean, encourage discussions about the conservation of marine life, promote a harmonious and respectful relationship between humans and the sea, and stimulate tourism. The event takes place during the period when Humpback whales migrate to the coast of Bahia for their calving season.
Environmental education activities are carried out frequently, such as beach clean-ups that involve the local community and tourists, and annual monitoring to evaluate the status of plastic pollution on the beaches of Salvador. REDEMAR has been working on an initiative to create an Ocean Citizenship, a way to reconnect the citizens of the Salvador with the oceans in a harmonious and respectful way.
Training is regularly offered to the fishing community, users of local marinas and other tourism operators about the migration of humpback whales, good practices and responsible interactions, and strategies for the conservation of the species.
A team of scientists, under the Humpback Whale Monitoring Project, are carrying out studies on the interaction and behaviour of the whales in relation to the various activities on the coast.
The local community is encouraged to participate in citizen science to increase scientific knowledge about cetaceans. An interactive map is available for everyone to access.
Several partnerships within different sectors of the community (government, private and non-profit/social) already exist. These partnerships have been fundamental for successful cetacean conservation actions, and have also had an outreach to schools, providing lectures and whale watching tours to the kids.
Who is leading the process locally?
Soteropolitanas Whales Project
Progress Towards Certification
- Application submitted and Candidate status awarded.
- Engaging with key stakeholders and local community.
- Steering committee being formed.
- Working on final application.
- Final application submitted and under review.
Images credits: First header (Njuliane, Pixabay); Second header (Victor Bandeira); Third header (Ferreira Kleber, Pixabay); Humpback whale (Max Lissenden, Unsplash); Capoeira (Redemar); Beach clean-up (Redemar); Humpback whales (Redemar); Beach in Salvador (Njuliane, Pixabay).