The Caribbean is an essential habitat for 33 out of 90 known species of whales. (Alexis Rosenfeld photo)
PHILIPSBURG–A three-month whale and dolphin research expedition with the objective to register the number of whales, specifically sperm whales, and the routes they take in the Caribbean started May 15. The results will be used to determine what is needed to protect these large mammals.
The expedition is coordinated by the Caribbean Cetacean Society in partnership with the Worldwide Fund for Nature Netherlands WWF-NL and the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance (DCNA).
The name of the research project “Ti Whale An Nou” is a mixture of Creole-French and English and it means “our little whales”.
In the Caribbean, 33 of the 90 known species of whales have been documented, which is more than a third of the world’s total diversity. This makes the Caribbean an essential habitat.
The main objectives of this study are to assess population size, distribution, movements, social structure and vocal clans of Lesser Antilles sperm whales, as well as improved knowledge on other species.
Vocal clans are social groups of whales that sound acoustically similar. The biggest threats to whales are noise from ship traffic or coastal development, pollution, hunting and bycatch.
The research during this expedition could make an important contribution to a better understanding of the population size and distribution of whales. Similar research has been conducted in previous years.
The difference with this expedition is that the research area is extended and includes the region from Saba to Anguilla. Mammal presence and absence will be monitored in Yarari Marine Mammal and Shark Sanctuary, around Saba, in the Saba Bank, and around St. Maarten and St. Eustatius.
By comparing the results of this expedition with previously gathered data, concrete follow-up actions for the protection of whales can be planned.
This research mission receives support not only from DCNA and WWF-NL, but also from Corail Caraibes, French telecom company Orange, Électricité de France (EDF) Group Foundation, Animal Welfare Institute and Parc Naturel Régional de la Martinique.
The research is to provide an understanding of the migration routes of marine mammals and an opportunity to improve the protection of these animals.
A stable population of whales and dolphins is an indication of healthy oceans. In healthy oceans, fish stocks are stable, which is important for the fisheries and the economy on the islands.
Furthermore, whales play a significant role in capturing carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere. Each great whale isolates an estimated 33 tons of CO2 on average, thus playing their part in the fight against climate change.
Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/whale-and-dolphin-research-expedition-in-the-caribbean