News and reports from the Tristan da Cunha Government's Conservation Department.

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Two pilot whales beached on Tristan

Two pilot whales found on 16th October 2022

Photographs and reports by Jason Ivory, James Glass, Shirley Squibb and Emil Pirzenthal

Sunday 16th October 2022 was a beautful day so many islanders were out and about. During the day two long-finned pilot whales (Globicephhala melas) were found beached west of Calshot Harbour towards Hottentot Point. These majestic animals are in fact large black dolphins, uncommon in Tristan waters and this is the first known record of them being found beached on the island.

The photographs below record better than words the sorry scenes that were viewed.

Below we detail more information about the species.

Photos 1 and 2:
The first two images show the first pilot whale to be discovered beached near Hottentot Point. It was a male,
that was found alive, but struggling. It died later and was lying on his right side head pointing east.

Photo 3: Close up view of the second pilot whale found later. It was a female and was found dead.

Photos 4 and 5: Two similar views, taken from the top of the cliff above, of the second female pilot whale
which was found alive but struggling in a rock pool some 200m east of the first animal, west of Calshot Harbour.

Photo 6: Another view of the female pilot whale taken later from the beach.

About Long-finned pilot whales (Globicephhala melas)

From The Field Guide to the Animals and Plants of Tristan da Cunha Edited by Peter Ryan

Long-finned pilot whales are large black dolphins with a distictively broad-based dorsal fin. Mature animals range from 4-7 metres in length with males larger, but outnumbered by females. They are gregarious and commonly occur in pods of 10-100 animals.

They dive, often at night, to depths of up to 600m, but more commonly 200m, for between 10-15 minutes to feed on squid and fish.

Females have a gestation period of between 12-18 months and calve every 3-6 years, suckling their young for up to three years.


Long-finned pilot whales do indeed have very long flippers! However, the 'pilot' part of their name comes from an old theory that each pod is piloted by a single leader. It is now known this is not the case, but the name has stuck.

The total worldwide population size may number several hundred thousand whales and the IUCN conservation status is of Least Concern.

Long-finned pilot whales live throughout the cold and temperate waters of the southern hemisphere and in the North Atlantic Ocean; they have a wide distribution around the globe. They prefer deep offshore environments but do occur in coastal waters in some areas. Long-finned pilot whales are generally nomadic, although some populations are resident all year round in the same location. Their movements are principally dictated by sources of food in the ocean – they move around searching for good supplies of squid.

You can find more details on the Atlantic Guardians Facebook page: Atlantic Guardians Facebook

Tristan's Atlantic Guardians Project Report

Five finger fish swimming in Tristan waters (Photo - Rob Mrowicki)

Atlantic Guardians





See also:

Tristan da Cunha Blue Belt Programme

Atlantic Guardians explained by RSPB's Siobhan Vye

What is Atlantic Guardians?

Atlantic Guardians is a project that aims to support Tristan da Cunha with their Marine Protection Zone after its legal designation in 2021. The activities in the project were designed in partnership between the Tristan da Cunha Government, RSPB and Blue Nature Alliance, to ensure that Tristan has the support it needs to get the MPZ off to a strong and sustainable start. The name “Atlantic Guardians” was chosen to highlight the commitment of the Tristan community in their role as guardians of the Atlantic, through the protection of the ocean around their islands, and the amazing wildlife it supports. Atlantic Guardians will support a wide range of activities over the next two years, from supporting the fisheries and conservation departments with marine management work, through to helping the community share their work across the globe as an example to the world of how a small community can make a big positive impact to their marine environment.

Map of the Tristan da Cunha Marine Protection Zone

The Atlantic Guardians project has four key strands: strengthening science & management; celebrating and increasing community engagement with the marine environment; building marine management knowledge and skills on Tristan, and raising the global profile of the MPZ and community of Tristan.

Some examples of the project’s activities over the next few years include:

  • Supporting the establishment of a new Sounds of the South Atlantic research programme between the Tristan Conservation department and partners in the RSPB, British Antarctic Survey and SRUC to learn more about the whales that frequent Tristan’s pristine waters.
  • Supporting the recruitment and training of a Tristanian Marine Protection Zone Officer to increase Tristan’s marine management capacity.
  • Supporting global knowledge exchange trips for the Fisheries and Conservation departments to exchange learnings & build connections with global experts in sustainable fisheries and marine conservation.
  • Support the establishment of an expert Marine Protection Zone Advisory Committee that will support the Tristan Government and Island Council with marine management strategies and decisions.
  • Implementing a communications strategy that builds the profile of Tristan’s Marine Protection Zone and celebrates the achievement of the community globally.
  • Provide marine education opportunities to Tristan school children, from involvement in conservation activities through to learning traditional boat building skills from older generations.
  • Supporting wider community involvement with marine conservation activities.

Sub-Antarctic fur seals swimming in the Tristan kelp forest (Photo - Rohan Holt)

How does Atlantic Guardians interact with wider marine management work around Tristan?

Atlantic Guardians forms one part of a wider picture of marine management work led by Tristan. Another part is ongoing work under the UK Government Blue Belt programme that is supporting the Government with research and monitoring in the MPZ. Furthermore, Tristan Government works with many other partners on specific projects that support the MPZ, such as the British Antarctic Survey, JNCC and many others.

Janine Lavarello giving a presentation on the Atlantic Guardians project
in the Prince Philip Hall on Tristan on 8th June 2022.
See: Tristan da Cunha Wildlife and Conservation News: Atlantic Guardians Talk to Islanders for more.


Project Steering Group (responsible for decision making and advice)

James Glass, Trevor Glass, Administrator, Steph Martin, Andy Schofield, Siobhan Vye, Jéssica Escobar Porras, Janine Lavarello, Dale Richards.

Core project delivery staff:


Jéssica Escobar Porras: RSPB Marine Management Support Officer based on Tristan, whose primary role is to deliver on island activities and provide additional marine management capacity to Tristan Government across all relevant Fisheries and Conservation departments work (not exclusively Atlantic Guardians supported). Reports to the Administrator on island, and supports both departments as both have marine management / research responsibilities.

Janine Lavarello: Tristan da Cunha Government Marine Protection Zone Officer – shadows and supports the MMSO to build knowledge and skills to lead MPZ work after the project finishes. Reports to the MMSO.

United Kingdom

Siobhan Vye – RSPB Project Manager: oversight of project, coordinating & supporting delivery of all project activities, and leading delivery of some UK / overseas activities.

Dale Richards: RSPB Communications Lead – supports project communications from the project.

As the project continues, we hope that the whole of the community has the opportunity to get involved with activities.

Tristan represented at UN Ocean Conference

Report and photos

Tristan Government

Environmental and Conservation

Policy Officer

Stephanie Martin

UN Ocean Conference, Lisbon, Portugal 27 June-1 July 2022

The second United Nations high-level Ocean conference was held in Lisbon, Portugal, during the last week of June. Trevor Glass, Head of the Conservation Department and I were honoured to be part of the UK delegation. (Unfortunately, Trevor became ill and was unable to attend) The Blue Belt program sponsored me as part of my role as the UKOT rep to the Blue Belt Steering Group. Many sessions were relevant to Tristan da Cunha's Marine Protection Zone and other UKOTs marine programs. One of the week's highlights was one session about Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing co-chaired by Lord Goldsmith.   Lord Goldsmith talked about the Blue Belt program and, at the end of the session, specially named the Tristan Community as an example of the incredible work happening in the UKOTs as champions of the environment!

Stephanie Martin (Centre) is joined by
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) Minister Rebecca Pow (right)
and Holly Mennel, also from DEFRA (left)
  for this photograph where they are framed by one of the conference's posters.

In the evening I attended receptions with leaders from South Pacific Islands and other Small Island Developing States (SIDS) to discuss common ocean challenges, including climate change impacts.

I was honored to have lunch with Minister Rebecca Pow (then the appointed Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) and the UK Ambassador to Portugal, Chris Sainty. They both asked many questions about Tristan da Cunha and the community. It was a wonderful and a bit intense week, but I am grateful for the opportunity to continue to share all the important environmental work happening in Tristan! #smallislandBIGIMPACT

Stephanie with the UK Ambassador to Portugal, Chris Sainty.

Atlantic Guardians Talk to Islanders

Atlantic Guardians team members gave a talk to Tristanians on World Ocean Day 2022.
Full story >>

World Ocean Day 2022 at St Mary's School

Visiting marine biologists ran an event to celebrate World Ocean Day 2022 at St Mary's School.
Full story >>

James Glass gives key presentation at oceans event in London

Tristan islanders and officials participated in a 'Blue Belt' event in London to celebrate World Ocean Day 2022.
Full story >>

MPZ Event at the House of Commons

The designation of Tristan's Marine Protection Zone was celebrated at the Palace of Westminster on 11th May 2022.
Full story >>

Great Egret sighted on Tristan

Migrant visitor seen at the Patches
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Tristan training after flax removal project

Post field season activities with Inaccessible Flax Team
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