Volunteers spotted the elusive species during a Saga cruise returning from the Caribbean.
A pair of beaked whales were spotted by a team between La Gomera and Tenerife, an area known to have occasional Gervais beaked whale sightings in the past.
Good sea conditions and sharp photography skills from the team on board gave clear shots to review, and upon close examination our Marine Mammal Surveyors thought it was possible that these could be this rarely sighted species.
Given the challenges with identifying this particular group of beaked whales, the ORCA team have consulted with a number of experts, including our patron Mark Carwardine, and the consensus is clear - these are female Gervais beaked whales, the first time this species has been recorded on an ORCA survey!
In particular, the dark eye patch and shape of the melon both suggest this species, and there is also distinctive banding on the back which is unique to female/juvenile Gervais.
Gervais beaked whales are a deep diving species about which very little is known. They are closely related to other species such as Sowerby's and True's beaked whales, and identifying these species at sea is one of the most difficult challenges in monitoring cetaceans. As a result, we have very little data about their behaviour, population and distribution which makes this sighting particularly exciting.
ORCA teams will be travelling to known beaked whale hotspots through 2020, including areas such at the Canary Islands, and so they will be keeping their eyes peeled to hopefully spot more and help grow our understanding of this mysterious animal.