Welcome to the Marine Mammal and wildlife Research and Community Development Expedition blog where you can keep up to date with all the happenings and information from Kenya

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Southwest Indian Ocean Whale Watchers

In 2009 GVI started to collaborate with a group of whale enthusiasts whose aim is to track the Humpback Whales traveling along the SW Indian Ocean. Thanks to our volunteers, GVI is lucky enough to be able to carry the marine mammal research every week days, all year around.

Humpback Whale tail fluke in Funzi Bay

This allows us to gather important information, not only on dolphins and turtles but also on whales that visit the Kisite-Mpungutti Marine Park and surrounding waters, from June to November, every year. Little is known about this migratory species behavior in the Indian Ocean and the information gathered by the many whale watchers in the eastern Africa region is making a positive contribution to better understanding these routes, the numbers of whales and the threats to their survival.

Mother ad calf cross the Wasini Channel

GVI has just received the annual report prepared by Matt Richmond & Nicole Bisang (Samaki Consultants Ltd. P.O. Box 77143 Dar es Salaam). In 2009, 30 whale watchers participated in this study, from northern Kenya to southern Mozambique, who provided 168 sightings that recorded at least 509 Humpback whales including 71 calves, in 34 different locations.

Humpback Whale breaching in Kisite Mpunguti Marine Park

GVI and other organizations, diving centers, lodges and whale and dolphin watching companies, gathered the information collected on whales in their area, GPS coordinates of their location, number of animals, behavior and photographs. As these annual results came out, we found that GVI had the first whale sighting of the season, from all the participants. Our first whale was spotted on the 3rd of July 2009.

August seemed to have been the month with the higher number of sightings (257) and 2009 was also a good year for the little ones; of all sightings, 71 were adult and calf. Breeding and suckling of young is the main reason that Humpbacks visit the warm Indian Ocean waters.

The report also mentions the main threats to these animals in the SW Indian Ocean. Deepwater gill-nets have trapped several whales traveling along the coast and efforts should be done in order to reduce or coordinate the use of this gear away from peak whale routes or seasons. Also, dynamite fishing, oil spills and uncontrolled dolphin & whale watching tourism can have long term negative effects in the marine mammal population.

As for us, we will keep our sharp eyes on the Ocean and continue to contribute with information and pictures, and spreading the word about these amazing animals.

Thank you all – We meet again in 2010!
Asanteni sana - tutaongea tena mwaka 2010
& Obrigado a todos - até 2010 !

Good team effort!