Cetacean Society International
Whales Alive! - Vol. XV No. 1 - January 2006
By William Rossiter
Sort of an Annual Report: To be honest the year has been a blur of issues and activity for some of us; we simply get ourselves involved in too much. CSI board members attended many conferences and meetings of specialists, helped produce a wide variety of conservation and education materials for specific applications, and worked with a large number of NGOs on projects and issues. We'd appreciate your suggestions and comments on how we're doing and what you think we should be doing. As you plow through this Whales Alive! consider that we're as active as we can be in many of the issues in this newsletter. We appreciate your willingness to stay active as well.
CSI supported 73 projects in 2005, mostly to young scientists for cetacean-related work benefiting Latin America and Caribbean cetaceans and the marine environment. We haven't taken the time to count, but over forty were represented at December's biennial conference of the Society for Marine Mammalogy, and many more if you include all the people we've helped a bit over the last 25 years. Here are samples of the projects and people we have supported this year:
This photo shows Cristina Castro of Quito, Ecuador, presenting her observations of orca attacks on humpbacks at Machalilla National Park.
This photo shows the humpback skeleton on display at the new education center created by FEMM, Fundacion Ecuatoriana para el Estudio de Mamiferous Marinos, Guayaquil, Ecuador. (Photo: Ben Haase)
Effective Conservation Begins With Cooperation
By Elsa "Yayais" Cabrera, of Centro de Conservación Cetacea, Santiago, Chile, http://www.ccc-chile.org/
Since its creation in 2001, Centro de Conservacion Cetacea (CCC) has actively promoted the concept that effective marine conservation begins with the development of a cooperative work among all social sectors at a national, regional and international level. After four years, "cooperation" has become the fundamental key of the goals achieved and the foundation of projects to come.
CCC National Marine Sighting Network is the main example of what can be obtained through cooperation. Established in February 2003 to gather information about the remnant southeast Pacific population of southern right whales present in Chilean waters, the network involves a wide variety of people with different interests in marine life. From the official support of the National Marine Navy to the invaluable information collected by coastal fishing communities, the network has not only increased the number of annual sightings of southern right whales from 2 to 7, but has also provided significant information about the presence of other great whales near the Chilean coast.
Thanks to the information collected with the cooperation of network members, the costs and efforts involved in the never ending quest of finding whales along the Chilean coast has been effectively reduced to a minimum, while maximizing the results and generating opportunities for developing new whale conservation projects in the country.
One of the main achievements of the network so far is documenting that the blue whale feeding ground previously described in the Corcovado Gulf extends up to the northern area of the Great Chiloé Island, and the discovery of the presence of sei whales in the same area for two consecutive years. The important presence of both whale species, as well as the interest of the local community in developing sustainable alternatives related to marine ecotourism, have caused CCC to initiate a new conservation and research project in the area known as "Alfaguara Project".
The project, using the name old whalers gave to blue whales, seeks the conservation and recovery of the region's blue whale population through the development and implementation of effective marine conservation measures. To do so the activities included in the project are oriented to strengthen the concept that "effective conservation begins with cooperation".
With the official support of the National Marine Navy, the project will continue to develop aerial and marine inspections essential to our knowledge of the distribution of whales in the area. A cooperative sighting network will collect important information about the presence of live and stranded individuals.
The active participation of coastal communities in the design of effective marine conservation measures that consider and include solutions to their concerns will guarantee the compliance of these measures and the effective conservation of the area, through a sound Marine Protected Area. Also, the cooperation of coastal communities in the development of responsible marine ecotourism activities will be a significant opportunity to promote their natural patrimony while benefiting socially and economically from the conservation of their marine environment.
The assistance of international marine mammal scientists like Dr. Carole Carlson and Dr. Robert Brownell Jr., will be a valuable opportunity to promote international scientific cooperation and strengthen a national scientific platform committed to marine conservation.
The collaboration of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other governmental agencies related to marine management will be indispensable to solve current problems related to Marine Protected Areas and will allow the development, promotion and implementation of national, regional and international measures oriented to guarantee the conservation of blue whales and their habitat.
The valuable support of international organizations such as Cetacean Society International, Rufford Foundation and other regional organizations will allow the successful development of the project and the promotion of its results at a regional and international level, raising awareness about the importance of the conservation of the South East Pacific marine biodiversity.
Finally, the Alfaguara project, as well as other projects developed by CCC will continue to actively promote the cooperation among national NGOs as the only effective way to guarantee the conservation of whale species that are an irreplaceable part of Chile's Natural Marine Heritage.
Bottlenose Dolphins: Guardians of the Cagarras Archipelago, Brazil
By Liliane Lodi, Instituto Ecomama, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
The Cagarras Archipelago comprises small islands and rocky outcrops off the coast of Rio de Janeiro, near the famed Ipanema beach, in the transition zone between tropical and subtropical temperate regions. As a result animals like those from the tropical Caribbean to cooler waters off Argentina can be found. Orcas appear in late spring and early summer, probably related to prey availability. Humpback and Southern right whales use the archipelago as a rest area, and groups of up to 30 bottlenose dolphins are often observed nearby.
By virtue of its extraordinary biodiversity, the Cagarras Archipelago is of major interest to scientists, conservationists and tourists alike. From a distance the islands seem to be well preserved, but there are many environmental pressures that could lead to irreversible degradation of the ecosystem. Many of the problems derive from pollution from raw sewage swept out with the tide from the city and surrounds of Rio. Unmonitored and unregulated tourism may be the most serious threat, with destructive fishing, snorkelling and diving.
The Cagarras Archipelago, if properly utilized, offers a rare opportunity for the study and observation of bottlenose dolphins and other life forms in their natural environment, but this had never been done. In August 2004 the Institute Ecomama study began to collect information on the behavior and ecology of the dolphins and to develop strategies for their conservation.
Dolphin interactions with visitors around the archipelago often had a negative outcome, because people lacked the knowledge and consideration to prevent irreparable damage to the dolphins and to their environment. Boats caused injuries and altered behaviors, and there was evidence of vandalism.
With the support of The Cetacean Society International, a one-year educational programme concerning bottlenose dolphins was implemented in August 2005 in the archipelago. This programme, known as Preserving Co-Habitation (Preservando a Convivência), implemented conservation strategies for the local bottlenose dolphin population and motivated groups of people to study and conserve all cetaceans.
This programme has three main activities. Descriptive pamphlets are distributed to visitors, and advisory stickers are being fixed to tourist boats. On board the vessels explanations of the importance of preserving the marine biodiversity in the archipelago and of maintaining the habitat of the bottlenose dolphins are provided as part of the usual audio commentaries. In addition, lectures are being given to diving teams and to tourist agents that operate in the area. The team and their messages are generally well received; people agree that such activities are important for the conservation of the environment. The goal is to minimize damaging and irresponsible behavior, and to convey to visitors the idea that the dolphins must be considered with admiration, care and respect.
The Cagarras Archipelago is considered a jewel of the Brazilian coast and deserves to be recognized as a protected conservation area (Unidade de Conservação). Such recognition would facilitate the implementation of a regulatory policy regarding the control of the marine resources in the archipelago.
Furthermore, marine life experts, divers, environmentalists and students will be provided with a practical method to the identification and knowledge of southeastern Brazil marine biodiversity. The geographic localization of the archipelago and the constant stream of recreational visitors, due to the proximity to Rio de Janeiro coast, underline its appeal to conservation.
However, successful management of such a designated conservation area will depend on the existence of a consistent plan that must be subject to periodical revision. This objective can only be achieved through the availability of financial resources that would permit the assembly of an adequate staff responsible for monitoring and supervising the archipelago.
The project team educating program tourists at the Cagarras Archipelago