ABACO WHALES & DOLPHINS: BMMRO SIGHTINGS & NEWSLETTER
I haven’t posted Abaco whale, dolphin & manatee news for a while. Time for a catch-up. Georgie the young manatee that left her mother Rita and came to Abaco from the Berry Is. alone, is no longer here. She survived a very long journey, and investigated various coastal areas of Abaco – all the while being tracked. In the end she settled down in the Cherokee area. There were anxious times during Hurricane Sandy when she went missing (having by now shed her tracking device) but she eventually reappeared at Cherokee having found a safe haven from the storm. Sadly, however, her condition deteriorated and in the New Year she was relocated to Atlantis Dolphin Cay Marine Mammal Rescue Center. Some weeks ago a healthy Georgie was moved to a sea-pen to acclimatise her for release back into the wild.
The Bahamas Marines Mammal Research Organisation (BMMRO) is based at Sandy Point, Abaco. A number of research projects are underway, and recently these have involved work on Andros. The team are now back, and encountering Abaco’s own dolphins and whales. The main photos on the page have all been taken in the last week or so. [The header is "art" by Rollin van Haarboor]
BMMRO CHART OF CETACEAN SIGHTINGS FOR MARCH 2013
Sperm whales. Humpbacks. How big are they? This useful chart shows the average lengths of various whales. I grabbed it off the internet a while ago, but regrettably forgot to mark the source. So, apologies to the originator for using it uncredited, a cyber-sin I try to avoid.
Finally, the BMMRO’s latest 4-page Newsletter contains a wealth of information about their current activities, some great pictures, and even a quiz – check out BMMRO NEWSLETTER_Apr13
BMMRO WHALE & DOLPHIN SIGHTINGS ABACO JULY 2012
Last month there were bottlenose dolphins for Abaco; manatees for the Berry Is. [Hi, Rita & Georgie! - check out their progress on FACEBOOK BMMRO] with a first manatee sighting (I think) off the west coast of Long Island; and quite a few whale reports off the east coast of Andros. I wonder why the whales are all in that area at the moment? Maybe the reports are high for that area because that’s where the whale spotters congregated in July…
STOP PRESS Georgie the Manatee is now weaned – for details CLICK===>>> HERE
STOP PRESS 21 AUG As a sad coda to these sightings, the BMMRO has posted news of the stranding and death of pygmy sperm whale on Eleuthera
Stranding Event: August 19th, 2012
A blackfish stranded in Eleuthera:
Photos confirmed the species to be a pygmy sperm whale. The animal stranded alive but later died. Many thanks to Tom Glucksman and his wife for their efforts in providing pictures and getting a skin sample, which will allow us to get even more information about this animal
BMMRO WHALE & DOLPHIN SIGHTINGS ABACO JUNE 2012
Actually, I say ‘Abaco’ but the most activity - and the most varied, species-wise – is off the southern coast of Grand Bahama. Abaco sightings are also confined to the south, with shows from a PIGMY SPERM WHALE and a BLAINVILLE’S BEAKED WHALE and dolphins in the arc between Rocky Point and Hole-in-the-Wall. To see recent aerial photos of this section of coast CLICK HERE
The manatees of the Berry Is. are no longer shown on this map. Their happy story (and their fame) has spread and they now have their own entries on the BMMRO FACEBOOK PAGE, like any self-respecting stars. You can reach it anytime direct from the Sidebar if you you want to keep track of the story of Rita and her calf Georgie’s rehabilitation – and the other manatees they have encountered as they get used to their freedom.
The latest BMMRO quarterly newsletter has just been published – highly recommended for anyone with an interest in active whale / dolphin research, or in the latest news of the manatees of Berry Is. To see it CLICK===>>> BMMRO NEWSLETTER JULY 2012
The BMMRO has just published two online reports that will interest anyone who follows the news about Whales, Dolphins and Manatees in the Bahamas.
The first concerns the reintroduction of manatees to the wild – and offers the opportunity to adopt one of them in order to support the continuing work of the conservation of the small manatee population of the Bahamas. You could have a guess now at the number of recently recorded manatees: the answer is right at the bottom of the page. If you have followed this blog’s cetacean posts, you will have noticed my own interest in the continuing monthly sightings (mainly off the Berry Is.) I have had to reduce the size of the article, but if you click on it once – or twice – it enlarges to make it more legible.
To see the article on the BMMRO website CLICK==>> BMMRO MANATEES
To go directly to my manatee page CLICK==>> ROLLING HARBOUR MANATEES
BMMRO REPORT SPRING 2012
I have summarised past BMMRO quarterly reports, highlighting particular features and photos. This time I’ve put in the whole report in (I hope) legible format. To see it on the BMMRO site CLICK===>>> BMMRO SPRING 2012
BMMRO WHALE, DOLPHIN & MANATEE SIGHTINGS MARCH 2012
Hard on the heels of the BMMRO’s Fisheries Report for 2011 – see previous posts – comes the map of last month’s sightings. First, let’s hear it for the manatees, featuring for the 4th consecutive month off the Berry Is. The 2 reports of an ‘unknown large cetacean’ off Elbow Cay are the puzzles of the month. There was a sperm whale in that area in January, but presumably it would have moved away in the meantime….
The BMMRO has recently published its Fisheries Report for 2011. The report is comprehensive and covers a far larger area than the waters around Abaco. Extracts are shown below (thanks as alway to Charlotte Dunn for use permission). The full report can be seen in pdf form at BMMRO FISHERIES REPORT
1. First, here is the table of all field data for the 2011 season, from which the incidence of the particular cetacean types can easily be seen. To a layman (me), the most significant reading on the previous year is the increase in sperm whale sightings and animal numbers, up from 14 / 69 in 2010 to 38 / 148 in 2011. I wonder why the difference?
2. Here are results specifically relating to South Abaco, where the majority of cetacean activity is observed (see ‘green’ map). I have included a larger image of the cetacean species so that the key is easier to read
From an Abaconian point of view, the news is of Dolphin activity in the Marsh Harbour area / nearby Cays and northwards from there. No whale reports last month, though. Further afield, another manatee report from the Berry Is makes three consecutive monthly reports of sirenians. There was a humpback to the south but other reports are concentrated further away
HUMPBACK WHALES – BMMRO REPORT JANUARY 2012
The BMMRO has posted recent whale news on its site – an entanglement off Elbow Cay with a happy ending, a sighting off Long Island in January, and another in February with images (CLICK LOGO for BMMRO website)
1. An Entanglement 30.12.11 During the winter months the Bahamas occasionally get a sighting of a humpback whale migrating northward. For some reason a few of the migrating whales take a route a little closer to our islands and allow us the wonderful experience of seeing them.
On the 30th December 2011 Joseph Strickland and his crew who had been staying on the Highlander in Hope Town harbour, came across an entangled humpback whale. Due to the courage and calm response of Joe and his team, they managed to release the 40′ humpback. The whale had been entangled in a thick rope of approximately 600′ in length attached to a fishtrap. The animal was found off Sea Spray marina in 40 feet of water off Elbow Cay, Abaco. They managed to free the animal of the fishpot which it had been dragging… as well as freeing the animal of the majority of rope, with only 20′ of line remaining on the whale. We would sincerely like to thank Mr & Mrs Strickland and their family for their extrodinary effort to free this animal, and also to report the encounter in detail.
Unfortunately as humpbacks are one of the more coastal whales, they often end up entangled in fishing gear, and come into contact with fishing pots, as well as being susceptible to vessel strikes. However, this species have made a remarkable recovery since the whaling era and in the North Atlantic abundance estimates are now approximately 12,000 humpback whales.
2. A sighting on 14.01.12 A better start to the New Year provided us with a single humpback sighting on Saturday 14th January off of Cape Santa Maria, Long Island.
3. A sighting on 8.02.12 Finally, on Wednesday 8th February, a mother-calf humpback pair were spotted off of Dutch Bar, Spanish Wells, providing us with these beautiful pictures! Report and Image Credits BMMRO 2012
ABACO CETACEANS AND SIRENIANS BMMRO SIGHTING REPORTS JANUARY 2012
For the second month in succession MANATEES have been seen in the area: again in the Berry Is region, and additionally off Grand Bahama. With luck they will now be a fixture on the BMMRO monthly sightings map. The main reported Abaco activity, including a sperm whale, was on the ocean side of Elbow Cay. Thanks to Charlotte Dunn / BMMRO for permission to use their material
The NOAA (National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration) has produced a short video with the conclusions from recent research into the effects of extraneous (i.e. non-natural) noise on the habits of whales. The cooperative project involved a number of organisations including the BMMRO and Florida State University and lasted two years.
The study concentrated on beaked whales, pilot whales, and melon headed whales. Using readings from tagged whales, the scientists created animations showing the whales behavior before, during, and after being exposed to low levels of a variety of sounds; including sonar. The results showed that beaked whales, known for diving to extreme depths, were much more sensitive to sonar than other species. Even low levels of these sounds disrupted their diving, vocal, and likely feeding behaviors.
The complete report including a VIDEO and a transcript can be found by clicking LINK==> Sounds Under the Surface | Science and Technology | Ocean Today (I haven’t been able to embed the Video, so you’ll get the whole page)
BMMRO WHALE, DOLPHIN & MANATEE SIGHTINGS AND WINTER REPORT DECEMBER 2011This was an interesting month. For a start, a humpback whale was reported off Elbow Cay, and a sperm whale further out to sea to the east. There were several cetacean reports between Sandy Point and Hole-in-the-Wall. Perhaps best of all, West Indian manatees – mother and calf – were reported in the area at the end of December, just off the Berry Islands – photo below, and further details in the BMMRO Winter Newsletter via the blue link.
THE WINTER NEWSLETTER contains much of cetacean interest, as always. It features articles on the effects of climate change of the declining Sea of Abaco bottlenose dolphin population; manatees in the Bahamas; ‘Life after Death’ – the importance of whale carcasses on the deep sea eco-system; sonic body-length measurement of sperm whales; the false killer whale stranding on Guana Cay (see POST); educational news update; and much more besides
ABACO DOLPHIN & WHALE SIGHTINGS NOVEMBER 2011 ‘VERY DIFFERENT FROM OCTOBER’
October was a good month for bottlenose dolphins, with sightings both north and south of Marsh harbour – however, no reported whales off Abaco at all. In complete contrast, in November no bottlenose dolphins were reported, nor any other cetaceans on the east side of Abaco. Instead, the observed activity was all around Sandy Point, with sperm whales in particular returning to the area. Increased sightings off Andros were also reported
STRANDED FALSE KILLER WHALE
Charlotte Dunn also reports that on December 2nd 2011, BMMRO was alerted that a whale had live-stranded on Guana Cay. After attempts to re-float it, it was seen heading north past Dolphin Beach. The animal “had numerous lacerations and fresh scars, and appeared very weak with labored breathing”The whale was later found beached at No Name Cay (north of Green Turtle Cay). At that time it was reportedly “still alive but just barely”. Unsuccessful attempts were made to get the animal back in the water. Sadly, by evening it was dead. Photo ID confirmed it to be a FALSE KILLER WHALE Pseudorca
For the full report on the BMMRO Facebook page CLICK STRANDED WHALE
The BMMRO has just published the Bahamas whale and dolphin map of reported sightings for last month, showing a significant amount of bottlenose dolphin activity in the Marsh Harbour area, extending north and south. Also new on theBMMRO website are details of recent research into the Abaco dolphin population. Here are two great dolphin images taking during the trips
BAHAMAS MARINE MAMMAL RESEARCH ORGANISATION NEWSLETTER OCTOBER 2011
The BMMRO’s fully illustrated Fall Newsletter has just been published. The newletter is as always an eclectic mix of cetacean-centric material, with a headline article about the summer whale poop project. I have lived my life and had a professional career of sorts without once giving the remotest thought to whale poop, yet here I am immersed in the stuff yet again… But there’s plenty more besides that. The newsletter gives you an overview of the current work of the BMMRO and articles including the following:
- A stranded Fin whale on the Berry Islands
- News of the Irene effect at Whale HQ in Sandy Point
- An Orca sighted off Eleuthera
- Education program update
- A quarterly chart of the summer whale and dolphin sightings – 82 reports for 10 species.
Thanks as ever to Charlotte Dunn for permission to link to BMMRO material. To see the newsletter CLICK LINK===>>> BMMRO newsletter Oct 2011
To visit the informative BMMRO website CLICK LOGO===>>> Supplementary info: without going into details of the consistency of the output etc, I’ve just found the suggestion online that whales can excrete 3% of their body weight in a day. And a large whale could weigh? Mind where you swim…
HMPBACK WHALES: MOTHER & CALF CHEAT WARNING: This photo has little to do with Abaco
On the other hand I like it. And took it. This mother and calf were on the STELLWAGEN BANK, a National Marine Sanctuary about 25 miles off Boston. The tenuous link with Abaco is that this is a north Atlantic whale page. Anyway it’s a nice family photo. It’s grainy because it was taken a while back, when having a 2 mp digital camera was a sophisticated luxury. Remember? The link above clicks through to the Sanctuary site, which is well worth a visit if you are interested in cetaceans
The BMMRO has just posted its sightings chart for September 2011. There are more sightings than in August (when the boats didn’t go out, and Irene interposed herself somewhat assertively). I am not sure that the research boats went out much last month, but Bahamas-wise there were clearly a few more reports of sightings, including another Fin whale. Here is the chart:-
Charlotte Dunn has posted a report of events at Sandy Point in August on the BBMRO site. Her account includes photos of Hurricane Irene as it passed over Sandy Point, and of some of the damage in the aftermath
Press Association / guardian.co.uk Wednesday 28 September 2011 18.06 BST
The world’s most endangered sea dolphins are sliding towards extinction in the face of damaging fishing methods, experts are warning. Hector’s dolphins are found only around New Zealand, where the population has fallen from 30,000 to around 7,000 since nylon fishing nets came into use in the 1970s, a conference on marine biodiveristy in Aberdeen will hear on Thursday.
The country’s North Island population, a subspecies known as Maui’s dolphin, is down to fewer than 100 mammals. Research suggests commercial fishing gear known as gillnets – which create a wall of netting to catch fish – are drowning 23 Hector’s dolphins a year on the east coast of the South Island. The sustainable limit for the area is about one dolphin a year, and at the levels currently seen the population would fall by at least a further 14% by 2050.
Gillnets are only part of the problem. Other fishing methods not included in the research calculations are also killing Hector’s dolphins, including the recreational use of gillnets, along with pollution, boat strikes and marine mining.
Trawl nets, which are pulled through the water from boats, were likely to kill as many endangered Hector’s dolphins as commercial gillnets, bringing the number of deaths due to fisheries to 46 along the east coast. ”An annual loss of this size will wipe out 62% of the population by 2050. Only a scattering of animals will survive, potentially pushing the population beyond the point of no return. Absolute protection against commercial and recreational gill-netting and trawling is the only way to prevent their demise”.
Dr Maas, who is speaking at the international marine conference organised by the Universities of Aberdeen and St Andrews, is urging the New Zealand government not to bow to industry pressure, and to ban the fishing methods in waters up to 100m deep to save the species. She suggests more selective fishing methods, such as hook and line fishing, or fish traps, which do not catch dolphins, could be used instead.
BAHAMAS MARINE MAMMAL RESEARCH ORGANISATION NEWSLETTER JULY 2011
NEWS OF 1ST BAHAMAS FIN WHALE SIGHTING, ABACO
The BMMRO, based at Sandy Point, Abaco, has published its latest newsletter: 4 pages of lavishly illustrated news and info about recent research and other cetacean-related matters. Thanks as ever to Charlotte Dunn for permission to link to / use material from the BMMRO website. To see the newsletter CLICK LINK===>>> BMMRO Newsletter_Jul11
If you want to immerse yourself in the extremely interesting details of past and ongoing research, with wonderful whale and dolphin photos and past sightings and stranding details, go to the main BMMRO website CLICK LOGO===>>>
WHALE AND DOLPHIN SIGHTINGS AUGUST 2011
After the prolific sightings in July, especially around the Grand Bahama Canyon on Abaco’s southwest coast, it’s a surprise to post last month’s sightings taken from the BMMRO site. There has been Hurricane Irene to contend with, of course, but I have now had an email from Charlotte Dunn with a bulletin from Sandy Point: good post-Irene news and the explanation for the chart below:
“For the month of July, BMMRO focused on collecting feces from free-swimming beaked and sperm whales. The feces will be tested for reproductive and stress hormones.
BMMRO is collaborating with the infamous Right whale research team from the New England Aquarium who have been using dogs to help sniff out Right whale feces. For our whales, we found the animals visually and then towed in the water behind them, waiting for them to poop! Read all about it on the aquarium’s blog.
DOLPHINS MAKING RINGS AND PLAYING WITH THEM
This is one of several amazing short videos of aquarium dolphins ‘making their own entertainment’. Nothing specifically to do with Abaco, of course, but worth a quick look – even in captivity these dolphins seem to be enjoying themselves.
WHALE & DOLPHIN SIGHTINGS, ABACO JULY 2011
As with the June Sightings Map below, it’s worth noting the huge concentration of cetaceans to the south-west of Abaco – the site of the Great Bahama Canyon. These include at least 8 sperm whales (or the same one 8 times?). Closer to home is the bottlenose dolphin sighting in Cherokee Sound.
As with all research organisations, finding funds for new equipment can be difficult. The BMMRO at Sandy Point urgently needs some 1TB hard drives of a particular ‘rugged’ sort on which to store all the photos taken during research trips. These provide a valuable archive of data for ‘mark and recapture’ studies. The safe (and I imagine waterproof) storage of this material is vital for researching the population ecology of all the different species studied in the area.
Donation information is available on the BMMRO CONTACT page, but in brief if you would like to make a donation towards hard drives, please send a USD cheque to this address:
P.O. Box AB-20714
GLOBAL EXPLORERS: NEAQ & BMMRO in the BAHAMAS
Here is the link to the section of the New England Aquarium website (also found in BLOGROLL) which specifically covers Bahamas Whale and Dolphin research in conjunction with the BMMRO: CLICK==>> WHALES & DOLPHIN RESEARCH
DOLPHIN RIDING A BOW WAVE – MARSH HARBOUR
Here is a (very) short video of a dolphin at the bow of a boat near Marsh Harbour. It’s the first time I’ve seen the ‘blow-hole’ (if that’s what it is called) of a dolphin CLICK===>>> DOLPHIN VIDEO (bow and indeed wave to Woolamaloo)
It’s worth commenting on the cluster of sightings on the south-west coast of Abaco between Sandy Point and Hole-in-the-Wall. This is the site of the Great Bahama Canyon, one of several extremely deep rifts that divide the generally shallow sea-floor of the Bahamas Islands. This deep trough provides a habitat and feeding ground for a huge variety of inshore and oceanic species, with an abundant supply of food. How convenient that the BMMRO HQ should be so close to this area…
Chart courtesy of Click logo!
A poster by artist Uko Gorter depicting all known species of the order Cetacea. A total of 91 illustrations including all known species of whales, dolphins and porpoises, and a few subspecies. All the cetaceans are drawn to scale at average adult lengths. The baleen whales (mysticetes) face right and the toothed whales (odontocetes) face left. Next task – to make enlarge with a click… Credit Uko Gorter / American Cetacean Society
HUMPBACK WHALE SONG – 4 SHORT CLIPS Here are 4 x 10 second clips of whale song. rh (who, disgracefully, comes from ignoble whaler stock) was a bit “whatever” before hearing these – but they are extraordinary – especially the echo-effect. Credit: Ocean Mammal Institute
BOTTLENOSE DOLPHIN SOUNDS – 1 SHORT CLIP
CLICK LINK Dolphin chat
Friendly sonar to everythingdolphins.com
If you are wondering about the possibility of an expedition to see whales and dolphins, rh can supply the answer direct from Charlotte Dunn, President of the BMMRO. By arrangement it may be possible to accommodate one or two Delphi guests during a day’s research trip by boat.
Here are Charlotte’s comments on what is involved: “…long hot days with no shade, no toilet, no iced drinks etc… but a wonderful experience. If we are going in the field anyway, and we usually know the evening before, then it would not affect us to have one or two additional people on the boat, and the extra eyes are always a help! We would of course ask for some contribution towards the cost of the day, ie fuel … so could you suggest this as a possibility on your blog?” She is also hoping that Sandy will go for a ‘guinea pig’ trip, so that he can describe the experience from first hand knowledge…
And if you do see dolphins or a whale during another trip – a ferry ride perhaps – Charlotte and the BMMRO would appreciate a ‘Sighting Report’ which can be made with this link: http://www.bahamaswhales.org/sightings/index.html
Our Island-hopping trip with Kay – see previous posts [links later] – held the chance of an encounter with dolphins. The frankly dodgy weather – rain, cloud etc – seemed to have dashed that hope. As we entered the approaches to Marsh Harbour, we (I) had given up all thought of seeing any dolphins when suddenly… dolphins to starboard. A small pod, not very close, of 3 or 4 adults and at least one calf. They did what dolphins do for a short time, while gradually moving away from us into the murk. There was naturally huge excitement on board at this unexpected sighting.
So as Marsh Harbour came into view, we had ticked off the full day’s list: reef-snorkelling at Fowl Cay; island-hops to Lubbers (with lunch), Elbow and Man o’ War Cays; and rounded off with the dolphins. Without going overboard in any sense, this was 6 hours of wonderful adventure, and highly recommended as a top quality day’s outing. And you can even get an Abaco Above and Below t-shirt at the end of it all to prove you have done it.
* * *
I have been uncharacteristically reticent, I notice, about showing the proof of the dolphin encounter. And for a very good reason. These may be the worst quality images of dolphins you will EVER see. You may in fact be better off looking at a cartoon… For what they are worth, here are two photos (of several worse ones…)
DELPHI DOLPHINS You don’t have to go out in a boat to see dolphins. They have been seen from the verandah at Delphi, quite close to the beach – as have turtles and large rays. It’s worth having an occasional scan with the amazing autofocus binoculars that are kept in the Great Room
FIN WHALE PHOTOS AND REPORT – CLICK TO SEE EXCELLENT PHOTOS OF A FIN WHALE TAKEN EARLIER THIS YEAR OFF THE SOUTH ABACO COAST
[Note: the fish are bonefish, not sharks... and show the main Delphi fishing areas]