There are approximately 80 described species of cetaceans worldwide, all of which are listed in the IUCN Red List and in CITES Appendix I. Approximately 30 species, including 9 baleen whales and 21 toothed whales and dolphins, are known or thought to occur in coastal and pelagic waters around Madagascar. All of them without distinction are strictly protected under Malagasy fisheries law 93-022.
The Blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus) is the largest of the whales with a length of up to 33 m and a weight of 180 tons. Currently there are two sub-species recognized in the Indian Ocean, the pygmy blue whale (B. m. brevicauda), and the Antarctic blue whale (B. m. intermedia) which summers in Antarctic waters. A pygmy blue whale population occurs on the Madagascar Plateau in the austral summer, and it is suspected that they may winter in waters of the Seychelles. The waters to the south of the Madagascar, the Madagascar Plateau and Ridge support possibly one of the world’s largest concentrations of pygmy blue whales.
Blue whales were hunted intensively until the 1970s, during which global populations were reduced to less than 1% of their former levels. In November 2012, a pair of blue whales was sighted by the WCS team in the Ankivonjy MPA in the Northwest of Madagascar, representing a very rare documentation.
Further, WCS work in Ankivonjy will focus on examining blue whale presence and potential impact of planned Oil and Gas exploration on this critically endangered species.