Through education, training and vital research, Whales Alive is working to educate people about the whales fascinating natural history and what threatens their survival.
Surveying cetaceans in Palau
The tiny Micronesian island of Palau, in the North West Pacific Ocean, will conduct its first dedicated investigation into the status of cetaceans in the region, after the Government of Palau declared a new national marine mammal sanctuary in Palau’s exclusive economic zone in October 2010.
While little is known about the abundance and distribution of cetaceans in the country, anecdotal information from a pilot study conducted by Whales Alive in 2010, suggests that at least 15 species may occur here, including Bryde’s whales, endangered species such as sperm whales, and deep-diving beaked whales whose distribution is relatively unknown.
The Palau Marine Mammal Research Project aims to address this knowledge gap by developing a cetacean species list and defining areas of important habitat for cetaceans in Palau waters using visual and acoustic survey methods. Species and habitat information generated from this survey will be used to inform the management and conservation goals of the Palau Whale Sanctuary, and the growth and sustainability of whale and dolphin watching tourism in Palau. Such scientific information is needed before management strategies such as zoning, tourism licensing, and potential fishing restrictions, can be developed to better protect and manage cetaceans within the Palau Whale Sanctuary, particularly species of conservation concern such as sperm whales.
The project will include a training workshop for survey volunteers and collaborators, such as government personnel, tourism operators, non-governmental organisations, students, and private boat owners, to build local capacity and expertise in marine mammal research. The workshop will cover research and data collection techniques, biology and behaviour of common species of marine mammals, and vessel operations in relation to marine mammals.
The research team will also work with local partners to conduct a public education program over six weeks, involving weekly public presentations, school visits and floating classroom sessions for senior science students, who will be offered an opportunity to work first hand with the survey team.
The collaborative project involves Whales Alive, the Palau Government, and local non-governmental organisation Sustainable Decisions, with support from the Indo-Pacific Cetacean Research and Conservation Fund.
PICTURES from WHALES ALIVE research IN PALAU
PICTURES FROM WHALES ALIVE RESEARCH IN NIUE
Whales Alive recently took part in vital research in the pacific island country of Niue,
Fakaalofa atu all,
Niue Whale Research Project team have just returned from a challenging field season in Niue which was a series of extreme highs and lows for our little team. Fiafia, Vanessa, Cara and Ben were tirelessly stalwart and managed to keep their leader in good humour throughout the setbacks. THANK YOU GUYS!
In addition to working from many different boats, the whales were very few, and the conditions averaging 20knots and over with 2m swell. The humpbacks that did come through were very skittish and 2 out of 3 were rounding out instead of fluking! We were only able to complete half of the line transect survey but I think it’s miraculous that we did achieve 130 miles of track lines in the conditions and with half the boat hours.
Whale stats: In total, over 6 weeks, we saw 45 humpbacks including vessel and land observations. Of these there were 3 cow/calf pods. We got 18 individual fluke ID’s, 3 sloughed skin samples, and 21 song recordings notably with a distinct song change brought by one individual we called Mr Curly.
We documented a new cetacean species for Niue when we had a very interesting encounter with 2 Sei whales 12 miles off shore near a sea mount. Photos attached. We also recorded the first sighting of a live sperm whale in Niue (only sighting was a standing event many years ago).
The team did multiple presentations on marine mammal biology and natural history to both the primary and high schools and got senior biology students on the water with the researchers. We also did weekly public presentations to locals and yachties at different venues. The highlight of this season was the Oma Tafua` (treasured whales) show case. Attended by 200 people and raising $1500, the night was opened by a breaching humpback in the sunset in front of the venue, Matavai Resort. Dozens of traditional dance and music groups from all around the island performed stories and songs about whales and the team presented the Fisheries Minister Pokotoa with the SPWRC award for leadership in marine mammal protection from Ocean Voices. The whole event was televised nationally multiple times. Pics attached.