Sperm whales feed mainly on large squid, which they find plunging down to more than 2km depth, where they can stay for over an hour! Sperm whales are the largest of the Odontoceti (toothed whales), measuring up to 18m long and weighing 40 tons.
They have a very prominent head that can account for as much as a third of their length and that contains a special oil known as ‘spermaceti’. The spermaceti varies in density depending on the temperature. In the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries sperm whales were hunted for their spermaceti and blubber, highly valued for the production of candles, soap, cosmetics, specialized lubricants, lamp oil, pencils, crayons, leather waterproofing, rust-proofing materials and many pharmaceutical compounds
Sperm whales live in the open sea or above the continental shelf, alone or in small groups (five at most). They can be easily recognized when their tail is seen over the sea surface, just before beginning a deep dive. Due to their deep and long dives, sperm whales are very difficult to sight, so no tourist activities target sperm whales. However, these animals have been occasionally seen in the Sanctuary Area, of which Protofino is part, during general whale-watching trips. In the Strait of Gibraltar they are semi-resident, and are usually located mostly in the deeper areas of the Strait of Gibraltar, where probably the largest squid are located. In the Canary Islands they can be seen year-round around all islands, although they are more abundant around Gran Canaria, Tenerife and South of Fuerteventura.