Pilot whales are a large deep diving dolphin species. In fact they are the second largest of the dolphin family; only the orca is bigger.
Two different pilot whale species are recognized at the moment, namely the short finned and the long finned pilot whales.
Generally the short finned pilot whales inhabit warmer waters than the long finned pilot whales, although they are seen in the same waters occasionally.
High concentrations of short finned pilot whales are observed around the Hawaiian islands (in the Pacific ocean) and the Canary islands (in the Atlantic ocean).
Pilot whales dive alongside islands at deep drop offs and are usually spotted on the surface in waters of over a thousand meters deep, while they recover from their dives.
At these times they will slowly swim or they are stationary on the surface, but they can also be observed socializing with their pod.
To get the images for this photostory we freedived with them at the Southern edge of the island of Tenerife.
Pilot whales are easy to find because they are very particular about their habitat, most probably due to prey abundance in a specific area (they eat mostly squid).
This makes them an ideal target species for whale watch companies. Whale watching therefore has become a very popular pastime on the busy tourist island of Tenerife.
More and more whale watch vessles (both legal and illegal operators), jet-ski's and giant highspeed ferries plow through this cetacean habitat daily.
Recently researchers have taken up the task of finding out how much impact accoustic polution and human pressure in general have on the stress levels of this population of pilot whales.
Since pilot whales rely largely on sound, especially for finding their prey in the deep sea, they might be more affected than other species.
We are very curious as to what the results will be!
Interested? Follow Asociacion Tonina that is running this research.
Images of this portfolio have been published in the September 2017 edition of Duiken magazine.
All images have been taken under permit.