POPA cetacean, seabird, and sea turtle sightings in the Azores area 1998-2015

POPA: Azores Fisheries Observer Programme

Dataset credit

POPA: Azores Fisheries Observer Programme


Primary contact Miguel Machete Department of Oceanography and Fisheries
Data entry Connie Kot


Machete, M. 2016. POPA cetacean, seabird, and sea turtle sightings in the Azores area 1998-2015. Data downloaded from OBIS-SEAMAP (http://seamap.env.duke.edu/dataset/704) on yyyy-mm-dd.
Amorim, P., M. Figueiredo, M. Machete, T. Morato, A. Martins and R.S. Santos. 2009. Spatial variability of seabird distribution associated with environmental factors: a case study of marine Important Bird Areas in the Azores. ICES Journal of Marine Science. 66: 29-40.


POPA was launched in 1998 with the main goal of certifying the tuna caught around the Azores as a “dolphin safe product.” This label is attributed by the non-governmental organization Earth Island Institute to catches made without mortality of cetaceans. POPA has built an extensive database with information collected by the observers on board the tuna fishing vessels. This database includes information on tuna fisheries (e.g., location of fishing events, catches, and fishing effort), weather conditions (e.g., sea surface temperature, wind and visibility), live bait fisheries (e.g., location of fishing events, catches, gears used), cetaceans (e.g., occurrences, interaction with fishing events and association with other species), birds and sea turtles (e.g., occurrences). POPA is also responsible for “Friend of the Sea” tuna fishery certification.


In the late 1990’s, it became clear that the tuna industry would be seriously penalized with the absence of a “dolphin safe” certification which instigated new measures from the government and the fisheries sector.

In order to achieve this certification, the Azores Fisheries Observer Programme (POPA) was funded in 1998, ensuring the absence of dolphin mortality or injury in tuna fishery. Since then, fishery and fishing products are certified by the Earth Island Institute, through the results presented by POPA. Besides that, the tuna fishery is also certified as “Friend of the Sea” which means that it is extremely selective, doesn’t harm the surrounding environment and is quite sustainable. It became the first tuna fishery in the world achieving that certification.

The Programme results from an agreement among Regional Administration, Earth Island Institute, the Tuna Canning Industry Association (Pão do Mar), the Fishing Boat Owners Association (APASA) and IMAR – Instituto do Mar - through the University of The Azores Center (IMAR-DOP/UAç), which carries out the programme. Until 2003, the Programme was supported by regional funds. Between 2003 and 2005 it became co-financed by the European Commission through the INTERREG IIIb Programme/ ORPAM project. Since then it has been exclusively supported by the regional government through the Regional Secretary of Fisheries.

Supplemental information

[2020-10-01] The following invalid species names were corrected according to the Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS).
Sooty Tern: Sterna fuscata (176894) => Onychoprion fuscatus (824105)
Puffinus assimilis baroli (174560) => Puffinus baroli (824117)

[2016-04-20] The data from 2010 to 2015 were appended.
The species originally recorded as Delichon urbica was assigned to Delichon urbicum.
The accuracy of the time in this period was up to minutes.
For the new and existing records with no group size recorded, the group size column was empty, which means a presence-only sighting.

Records that did not have time recorded were filled with 00:00:00 and noted in the [NOTES] field. Records that did not have group size recorded were filled with 1 and noted in the [NOTES] field. When an estimated range of animals was sighted, the median value (rounded down) was used as the observed count; when a minimum number of animals was recorded, the minimum number was used as the observed count (i.e., >100 = 100 animals).


Machete, M. and R.S. Santos. 2007. Azores Fisheries Observer Program (POPA): A case study of the multidisciplinary use of observer data. Proceedings of the 5th International Fisheries Observer Conference, Victoria, Canada. McVea, T.A. and Kennelly, S.J. (ed). 114-116.



This section explains attributes included in the original dataset. OBIS-SEAMAP restricts the attributes available to the public to date/time, lat/lon and species names/counts only. Should you need other attributes described here, you are encouraged to contact the data provider.

Attributes described below represent those in the original dataset provided by the provider.
Only minimum required attributes are visible and downloadable online. Other attributes may be obtained upon provider's permission.

Attributes in dataset

Attribute (table column)Description
oidUnique ID number (generated by OBIS-SEAMAP)
obs_dateObserved date
obs_timeObserved time (local time)
latitudeLatitude of observation in decimal degrees
longitudeLongitude of observation in decimal degrees
sp_obsSpecies observed
species2Additional species observed
sp_tsnTaxonomic Serial Number added by OBIS-SEAMAP
group_estEstimated number of animals recorded
obs_countEstimated number of animals
boat_courseBoat course
sight_courseSighting course
boat_distanceDistance to boat in meters unless the unit is written
notesDetails for when more than one species was recorded, when time was not recorded, or when count were not recorded (generated by SEAMAP)
geomGeometry field added by OBIS-SEAMAP
Marine mammals26,022
Sea turtles3,723
Rays and sharks0
Other species25
Non spatial32
Non species274
Date, Begin1998-05-15
Date, End2015-09-24
Temporal prec.111110
Latitude26.86 - 40.61
Longitude-39.23 - -15.09
Coord. prec.6 decimal digits
Data typeAnimal sighting
Traveled (km)0
Contr. through
Sharing policy Permission required
Shared with None
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