BMMRO: WHALE ETC SIGHTINGS; BLAINVILLE’S BEAKED WHALES; WINTER NEWSLETTER


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Blainville’s Beaked Whale, Abaco, Bahamas

SIGHTINGS REPORT OCT – DEC 2012

The last quarter of 2012 produced relatively few open-ocean CETACEAN sightings, not least because of a reduction in spotting trips during the period, with some members of the team elsewhere in the world completing their research. SIRENIAN activity is thankfully on the increase, with reporting opportunities increased by the manatees’ preference for sticking close inshore, usually in harbour areas. Georgie has gained her first yellow spot as Abaco’s only resident manatee following her long trip over from the Berry Is. (and away from mother Rita) last summer. She has  taken up residence in Cherokee. She performed a worrying vanishing trick during Hurricane Sandy, holing up (presumably) in seagrass off-shore, and (definitely) in an inshore channel for some of the time. She went AWOL again before Christmas, but has returned to Cherokee in good condition after a short vacation. Having shed her tag (several times) it was not possible to track her. The big plus is that she has proved capable of independent living, and has not become reliant on proximity to humans and their offerings of cabbage leaves etc… This photo was taken at Cherokee a few days ago.

Manatee Georgie, Abaco, Bahamas

The other notable new entry is a manatee sighting in the Freeport area of Grand Bahama. A single photo exists – a head shot – but it hasn’t been possible to identify the creature as a known one. (S)he may be a new visitor to the Bahamas. People in the area are asked to report any further sightings in the area to the BMMRO – and if possible to get a picture!
BMMRO CETACEAN SIGHTINGS OCT:DEC 12

BLAINVILLE’S BEAKED WHALES

RANGE MAP                                                         IUCN RATING “DATA DEFICIENT”

        

Mid-frequency broadband sounds of Blainville’s beaked whales

Recent research has been carried out on the sound variations of this relatively little-understood species of whale. “Recordings from acoustic tags show that five Blainville’s beaked whales produced mid-frequency broadband sounds on all of their deep dives, with each sex producing two different sound types. These broadband sounds are atypical of the regular echolocation sounds previously described for this species. One male produced a total of 75 sounds over four dives, between the depths of 109 and 524 meters, and four females produced a total of 71 sounds over 18 dives, between the depths of 305 and 1289 meters. Ninety-six percent of the male sounds and 42 percent of the female sounds were produced before the onset of foraging echolocation sounds, and all were produced before the deepest point of the dives. These sounds may be candidate communication signals, with their production timed to mitigate the risk of both predation and hypoxia (oxygen deprivation).”

The report includes sample sounds from the 3 BBWs shown below, and the one heading the page. I haven’t found a way to embed the sounds, but I am working on it (there’s a time -consuming method involving conversion to MP3, but maybe another day…)

Blainville’s Beaked Whales, Abaco, Bahamas Blainville's Beaked Whale AbacoDA

Thanks to the prolific DEAR KITTY for a cross-reference to this topic on her website, featuring a fine video of  BBW in French Polynesia

Finally, the action-packed, information-filled, image-laden 4 page winter newsletter. Click below to open.

BMMRO WINTER NEWSLETTER 2012 (Jan13)

Georgie Manatee BMMRO SUPPORT LOGO

mantsw~1

THREATS TO SEA TURTLES: ABACO, BAHAMAS… IN FACT, EVERYWHERE


DCB GBG Cover Logo dolphin

THREATS TO SEA TURTLES: ABACO, BAHAMAS… IN FACT, EVERYWHERE

The Bahamas has breeding populations of 5 of the world’s 7 sea turtle species - Green, Loggerhead, Hawksbill, Leatherback and Kemp’s Ridley turtles (the other two are Olive Ridley – occasionally found in the Bahamas – and Flatback turtles). All are endangered. There’s no getting away from the fact that Man and Man’s activities are now the primary threats. The IUCN ratings below make for sad reading.

GREEN TURTLE  (Chelonia mydas)

.Photo of turtle swimming towards surface with diver in background

HAWKSBILL TURTLE (Eretmochelys imbricata)

Hunted almost to extinction for their shells

Photo of swimming turtle

LOGGERHEAD TURTLE (Caretta caretta)

A loggerhead sea turtle in an aquarium tank swims overhead.  The underside is visible. Photo of a loggerhead swimming above a reef.

LEATHERBACK TURTLE  (Dermochelys coriacea)

The largest sea turtle

A leatherback sea turtle digging in the sand

KEMP’S RIDLEY TURTLE (Lepidochelys kempii)

The smallest sea turtle

 

A helpful source of information about sea turtles and their protection is the BAHAMAS SEA TURTLE CONSERVATION GROUP Their excellent summary of the multiple threats to these creatures (below) puts the critical situation very well. Anyone who has watched a TV program about sea turtles and their breeding will be familiar with the vulnerability of turtle nests and hatchlings to predation – and that’s before they ever get to the sea. Despite that, all the species managed to flourish until human intervention (direct or indirect) tipped the balance of survival much further against them. So if we lose one or more of these wonderful species, at least we’ll know who to blame.

1. NATURAL THREATS
In nature, sea turtles face a host of life and death obstacles to their survival. Predators such as raccoons, crabs and ants raid eggs and hatchlings still in the nest. Once they emerge, hatchlings make bite-sized meals for birds, crabs and a host of predators in the ocean. After reaching adulthood, sea turtles are relatively immune to predation, except for the occasional shark attack. These natural threats, however, are not the reasons sea turtle populations have plummeted toward extinction. To understand what really threatens sea turtle survival, we must look at the actions of humans.

2. HUMAN-CAUSED THREATS
In many cultures around the world, people still harvest sea turtle eggs for consumption. Most countries forbid the taking of eggs, but enforcement is lax, poaching is rampant, and the eggs can often be found for sale in local markets. In these same areas, adult sea turtles are harvested for their meat. Turtle products, such as jewelry made from hawksbill shells, also create a direct threat to sea turtles. Lack of information about sea turtles leads many Americans to unwittingly support the international trade in these endangered species. Buying and selling turtle products within the U.S. is strictly prohibited by law, but turtle shell jewelry and souvenirs are the most frequent contraband seized by customs officials from tourists returning from the Caribbean. Indirect threats are harder to quantify, but they are likely causing the greatest harm to sea turtle survival.

Illegal turtle shells (IUCN)IUCN: illegal turtle shells

3. COMMERCIAL FISHING
The waters of the Gulf of Mexico and west Atlantic coast are a major habitat for turtles, but are also the main shrimping grounds in the U.S. Each year, thousands of turtles become entangled in fishing nets and drown. Worldwide, shrimp trawling probably accounts for the incidental death of more juvenile and adult sea turtles than any other source. At one time, as many as 55,000 sea turtles were killed each year in shrimp nets in the southeastern United States alone. Today, all U.S. shrimpers are required to put Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs) in their trawl nets. Unfortunately, not all fishermen comply with the law, and sea turtles continue to drown in shrimp nets.

Sea turtle entangled in a ghost net

4. INGESTION OF DEBRIS AND PLASTIC
Thousands of sea turtles die from eating or becoming entangled in non-degradable debris each year, including packing bands, balloons, pellets, bottles, vinyl films, tar balls, and styrofoam. Trash, particularly plastic bags thrown overboard from boats or dumped near beaches and swept out to sea, is eaten by turtles and becomes a deadly meal. Leatherbacks especially, cannot distinguish between floating jellyfish — a main component of their diet — and floating plastic bags (my italics).

One sea turtle’s accumulated ingested plastichttp://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2011/03/sea-turtle-plastic/Credit: http://www.wired.com/wiredscience

5. ARTIFICIAL LIGHTING
Nesting turtles once had no trouble finding a quiet, dark beach on which to nest, but now they must compete with tourists, businesses and coastal residents for use of the beach. U.S. beaches are rapidly being lined with seaside condominiums, houses and hotels. Lights from these developments discourage females from nesting and cause hatchlings to become disoriented and wander inland, where they often die of dehydration or predation.

Florida at night- NASA : ISSS

6. COASTAL ARMORING 
Coastal armoring includes structures such as sea walls, rock revetments and sandbags that are installed in an attempt to protect beachfront property from erosion. These structures often block female turtles from reaching suitable nesting habitat and accelerate erosion down the beach. Armoring is especially problematic along the east coast of Florida, where beach development is occurring in the very places where sea turtles come to nest by the thousands.

ProTec-Godfrey

7. BEACH NOURISHMENT
Beach nourishment consists of pumping, trucking or otherwise depositing sand on a beach to replace what has been lost to erosion. While beach nourishment is often preferable to armoring, it can negatively impact sea turtles if the sand is too compacted for turtles to nest in or if the sand imported is drastically different from native beach sediments, thereby potentially affecting nest-site selection, digging behavior, incubation temperature and the moisture content of nests. If renourishment is allowed to proceed during nesting season, nests can also be buried far beneath the surface or run over by heavy machinery.

Beach restoration WIKI

8. POLLUTION
Pollution can have serious impacts on both sea turtles and the food they eat. New research suggests that a disease now killing many sea turtles (fibropapillomas) may be linked to pollution in the oceans and in nearshore waters. When pollution kills aquatic plant and animal life, it also takes away the food sea turtles eat. Oil spills, urban runoff of chemicals, fertilizers and petroleum all contribute to water pollution.
Although the problems of habitat destruction and exploitation seem almost too big to overcome, there are many things within our control that can be changed. Greater public awareness and support for sea turtle conservation is the first priority. By learning more about sea turtles and the threats they face, you can help by alerting decision-makers when various issues need to be addressed.

“Look on thy works, ye Humans, and despair…”  [Gulf of Mexico]Sea Turtle / Oil Pollution Boston.com / ReutersCredits boston.com / Reuters

FURTHER REFERENCES (click logos)

 Bahamas Sea Turtle Research Logo            BAHAMAS SEA TURTLE RESEARCH

BSTCG logo green sea turtles       BAHAMAS SEA TURTLE CONSERVATION GROUP

Bahamas National Trust Logo                BAHAMAS NATIONAL TRUST (Factsheets)

seaturtle.org         SEATURTLE.ORG (image library)

Sea Turtle Conservancy http-:www.conserveturtles.org        SEA TURTLE CONSERVANCY

article-1369438-0B529C0E00000578-415_306x220

Credits: BSTCG; Wiki (images / IUCN tables); wire.com / wiredscience; Boston.com; Reuters; NASA; STC

“MANATEE MANIA IN THE ABACOS” BMMRO FALL 2012 NEWSLETTER


“MANATEE MANIA IN THE ABACOS” – BMMRO FALL 2012 NEWSLETTER

The BMMRO has just published the Fall 2012 newsletter, and it’s no surprise to find that the front page news is the arrival of young manatee Georgie on Abaco. After nosing and indeed grazing her way around Abaco and the Cays, she still appears to be contentedly moored in Cherokee after the best part of a month. Here’s the official map of her wanderings 

Besides the manatee there’s plenty more to read and look at including 

  • Charlotte Dunn’s ‘President’s Update’
  • Articles on whales, and a friendly bottlenose dolphin’s visit to Hope Town
  • Fall ‘cetacean sightings’ map
  • Students at ‘Whale Camp’
  • A quiz to make sure you have taken it all in…

To read the four-page document –  and admire the photos - CLICK BMMRO FALL 2012 NEWSLETTER

“GEORGIE” THE MANATEE MOVIE: ON LOCATION AT CHEROKEE, ABACO


UPDATE 17 OCT I gather that Georgie is so pleased with her new home at Cherokee, she’s still there. Not sure if she is with or without her tag, but I suppose if she has decided to stay put in one area, tracking her is not a priority. Maybe the sea grass there is a particularly good kind – or perhaps she has found natural springs to her liking. Maybe it’s the folk who live there… yes, I think it must be that. I’m hoping to get some more specific news soon, and some more photos.

UPDATE 7 OCT Kendria says that Georgie has managed to lose her tag yet again. She’s still at Cherokee, but if she decides to make a move, she can now be tracked only from reported sightings. Maybe she just doesn’t like to accessorise…

UPDATE 6 OCT Georgie has taken to life in Cherokee. She is still there – the longest she has stayed on one place during her epic journey. She’s a very popular guest, of course, and  has generated a lot of local interest and affection. Here’s a BMMRO photo taken yesterday of Georgie enjoying some quality algae browsing on the pilings in the dock

“GEORGIE” THE MANATEE MOVIE: ON LOCATION AT CHEROKEE, ABACO

The story of Georgie, the young female manatee currently undertaking a round trip of Abaco, has further raised the profile of these unusual and fascinating creatures in the northern Bahamas. Like many others who have been enthused by this important conservation and research project, I’ve been following her story since her release with her mother Rita in the Berry Is. earlier this year. In June she was weaned. In September she decided to set off to sea grass pastures new –  see GEORGIE for details

Yesterday she was still in the Cherokee area, but had lost her tag. The task was to locate her, find the tag and reattach it, and check her wellbeing. All were accomplished in the course of the day and the BMMRO posted: “Today was another day in Georgie’s ‘world according to Georgie’!!! A special BMMRO thank you and Manatee high five to Andrew Lowe, Cindy & Buddy, and the community of Cherokee! Georgie is lucky to have such caring people around! She is still parked at Cherokee and BMMRO will do their best to continue to monitor her health and habitat use in the area!”

Things have moved on a bit since then, and I am really grateful to Kendria Ferguson for finding the time to email me; and to Cindy James Pinder  for permission to use her excellent photographic material from her time spent with Georgie. Her latest news is that Georgie is moving south towards Casuarina. There are blue holes in the area where she can find fresh water. Cindy adds “She may show up in the canal in Casuarina today. If you see her please offer her fresh water from a hose.”

It’s time to showcase a short video taken by Cindy at Cherokee yesterday. In order to post it here I have had to make a derivative movie from the original. It’s like an uncontentious bootleg, i.e. made with the artist’s approval (for which many thanks!). The quality isn’t as good of course, but you will clearly see what is endearing about these inquisitive, gentle and trusting creatures – and why this makes them so vulnerable and in need of protection. Only today, a woman has been detained in Florida for riding a manatee – a strictly unlawful act that has been strongly condemned.

Here are some stills also taken by Cindy yesterday, who says “…in case you are wondering . . . a manatee feels like leather!”. They depend on having some fresh water, and these great pictures show various methods of supplying it. The top one is my favourite.

HELP NEEDED If you would like to support manatee research and conservation in The Bahamas, please email info@bahamaswhales.org or rollingharbour.delphi@gmail.com 
This is the perfect place and time to post the BMMRO September 2012 Whale, Dolphin and Manatee sightings map. Last month the cetacean count was very low – no whales at all, a solitary dolphin. However, manatees are starting to feature much more, and the Abaco sightings – presumably of Georgie as she progresses round the Islands  - are the first ones recorded there (I think) since manatee sightings began to be included towards the end of last year. A cause for breaking out the fresh water to celebrate.
*  *  *  *  *  *  *
MUSICAL AFTERNOTES The video music is Rizraklaru by Ralph McTell (before he arguably spoilt it all with the mawkish ‘Streets of London’) from ‘Spiral Staircase’ (credit / plug for RM). He wrote it in 1967 while living in an old caravan in deepest Cornwall. He and his mates had only mother nature’s ‘Rural Karzi’ to use, and the song title is an anagram. It’s a long story that ends, in RM’s words, “After he’d stopped laughing, Henry and I explained the title’s origin [to him] and he suggested an anagram, so we put the first letter last and spelt the whole thing backwards, and there you have it ! RIZRAKLARU !” 

ABACO MANATEE GEORGIE’S TRIP: HOPE TOWN TO CHEROKEE


ABACO’S MANATEE, GEORGIE, SWIMS  FROM HOPE TOWN VIA LITTLE HARBOUR TO CHEROKEE

GEORGIE UPDATE 2 OCT Cindy James Pinder has posted on Facebook “Oh no, Georgie the manatee has lost her tracking device. Be on the look out for it in the Cherokee area. We are going to go out and look for her tomorrow with BMMRO. We are hoping that she goes back to the dock area looking for fresh water.” 

BMMRO UPDATE 1 OCT I’ve just heard from Diane Claridge and Kendria Ferguson. They have kindly clarified the details of Georgie’s route, which makes her journey longer than my guesstimate (see below). Georgie has continued on her way, and after some resting and some quality sea grass munching, Kendria says (yesterday ) “…right now she is in CHEROKEE!”. I’m not sure where the fresh water springs are along the east coast, but I am beginning to think that Georgie may be on her way to check out Rolling Harbour and the Delphi Club, drawn by telepathic and symbiotic forces as yet unexplained, projected from the blogosphere… 

BMMRO FACEBOOK “Georgie the manatee is creating quit a stir in Cherokee! Thank you for the sighting reports! (get some photos please!) To everyone there please don’t feed her lettuce. Manatees become very dependent on humans-their fast learners! It also teaches them to come into marinas which is where their number one predator lives – BOATS!! We want to ensure Georgie’s safety whiles she is here! We are unfamiliar with the area-so if anyone knows of any natural freshwater resources (shallow water seepage/blueholes) please do share that info! It is ok to give her a hose, mainly because we are not sure if she’s getting adequate freshwater in the area. Please remember she is a toddler and her belly is never full so have a cut off limit!  See you tomorrow Cherokee!! Take care of Georgie!”

Georgie’s next stop?

BMMRO report 30 SEP Georgie the manatee continues to travel around the Abaco’s! Fitted with a new satellite tag, she is currently exploring LITTLE HARBOUR. Yesterday, scientists caught up with her by CORNISH CAY where she was taking a quick nap and feeding on seagrass. We will continue to update the public on her whereabouts. Thank you to everyone for all their assistance in locating Georgie and ensuring her safety whiles she takes a much needed vacation from the Berry Islands.

A short time ago I wondered (in print) when a manatee would next be seen in Abaco waters – the nearest candidates being the small Berry Is. population. The answer was quick. Now! Georgie – the recently weaned calf of Rita – had swum across from the Berrys to Abaco, explored the Marls, headed  north to Little Abaco, then travelled south on the eastern side of Abaco. She was spotted at Green Turtle Cay, but it had become clear that her satellite tag was malfunctioning, so locating Georgie and monitoring her progress depended on reported sightings.

The BMMRO reported yesterday “Georgie the manatee was sighted at the Sailing Club dock in Hope Town Harbour just after 2pm today! We’d appreciate any further sighting reports as to her whereabouts! Please drive carefully in and around Hope Town Harbour.” Hope Town resident Stafford Patterson was able to get 2 fine photos of Georgie. I contacted him about using them, and he has replied “Permission granted!! And we were happy to host Georgie yesterday.” So here is Abaco’s sole resident manatee (as far as I am aware) enjoying her visit to Elbow Cay.

A team was able to fit a new satellite tag to Georgie (see below), so following her adventures will now be much easier. But where will she go next? What this space or, better still, check out the BMMRO FACEBOOK page

STOP PRESS I’ve been wondering about the distance Georgie has travelled (remembering always that she was weaned only recently). So with the the help of an online map measuring thingy (Free! Cool!), here’s a calculation based loosely on more assumptions than you will find on ASSUMPTION ISLAND. For a start, I don’t know where in the Berry Is. Georgie officially set off from; nor where she was seen on  the Marls; nor how she negotiated Little Abaco and the Cays along the east coast of Abaco; nor how many times she circled round exploring as she went. However, taking the ‘as the manatee swims’ direct line approach and assuming no significant deviations, the gizmo reckons the journey was a minimum of 150 miles. With any luck the recovered defective tag will have recorded her exact route, and amply demonstrate that I have wasted 1/2 an hour on this. Still, I wanted to know…

 

And for anyone wondering about Assumption Island, it does indeed exist, located in the Indian Ocean north of Madagascar. And the spooky thing is… it is shaped remarkably like a manatee! Well, quite like one, anyway.

Assumption Island (geographically correct)  Assumption Island (manatee rotation)      Awww…Cute!!!

                                

Credit: savethemanatee.org

MANATEES: CONSERVATION, AWARENESS PROGRAMS & DISTRIBUTION MAP


MANATEES: CONSERVATION, AWARENESS PROGRAMS & DISTRIBUTION MAP

The “SAVE THE MANATEE CLUB” is a very active organisation that I have mentioned in previous manatee posts. These gentle creatures are in need of protection, and much effective conservation work is in progress. The BMMRO‘s wonderful work for the MANATEES OF THE BERRY ISLES is featured in this blog because of the proximity to Abaco (might those manatees visit one day?) – and of course because BMMRO HQ is at Sandy Point.

[ADDED 25 SEPT]…and lo, just as I pressed the ‘publish’ button, the BMMRO posted this news:

Georgie is currently exploring the Abacos. Help us monitor her movement patterns by reporting sightings!! 

“Earlier this year we tagged & released 2 West Indian manatees in Great Harbour Cay, Berry Islands. These were the same manatees from Spanish Wells that were captured after they swam to Nassau when hurricane Irene passed in late August 2011. After release at Great Harbour Cay in May 2012, they explored most of the Berry Islands but centered their use around Great Harbour. In September one of these manatees, a young female named Georgie, swam from the Berrys to Abaco, has traveled within The Marls, north towards Little Abaco & is now traveling south on the eastern side of Abaco. We received a sighting of her on 23 September at the Green Turtle Cay Ferry landing, just north of Treasure Cay. We anticipate she will continue to travel south and may venture into marinas and harbours along the way. We would like to make the public aware of her presence in the area. Although we believe she is in good health and is exploring new areas, the tag is not functioning properly now so sightings from the public will help us locate and monitor her progress. If possible, please share with anyone in the Abaco area or make an announcement encouraging people that see her to report any sightings”

[ORIGINAL POST CONTINUES] The SMC is a Florida-based organisation and it recently posted a new cheerful cover picture by Natalie Prayor on its FACEBOOK PAGE. I have recently noticed some searches on the blog such as ‘Manatees facts for Kids’, so this post might be helpful. You could  even (I can’t believe I even thought of checking this out!) knit one… Want a pattern? Click HERE In fact, I might even…

To see more of Natalie’s artwork, just search ‘Natalie Prayor in Facebook. She can be contacted at dracodawnstar@gmail.com

The SMC also posts Manatee facts and advice, from which I have selected the examples shown below

This map shows the world distribution of the 4 extant sirenian branches as well as the extinct STELLER’S SEA COW of the north Pacific. It is a melancholy fact that by 1768, a mere 27 years after its discovery by Europeans, this slow-moving, tame and easily-captured sea cow was hunted to extinction. 250 years on, the world’s sirenian population remains vulnerable and, as with whales and dolphins, in need of active monitoring and protection measures

Finally, I liked this manatee cartoon from Rachel Arnow, with its incongruous and enjoyably unfeasible suggestion of manatees in Loch Ness. Rachel has a great sirenian-centric website  http://mvsm.omnomzom.com/ featuring her excellent and charming cartoon series “MAN VERSUS MANATEE”. 

Credit: savethemanatee.org

A GLIMPSE OF ARTIFICIAL REEF NIGHTLIFE – ABACO, BAHAMAS


A GLIMPSE OF ARTIFICIAL REEF NIGHTLIFE

This very short time-lapse video was posted on the always informative ABACO SCIENTIST website administered by Craig Layman of FIU (Florida International University). The site benefits from the wide knowledge of a variety of contributors in many different fields. As it says, Abaco, just like all of the Bahamian Islands, hosts a wealth of natural wonders. From parrots to whales to blue holes to mangrove wetlands, it is no wonder that scientific research is thriving on the island. The Abaco Scientist is intended as your one-stop source for all things science on Abaco and throughout The Bahamas.

The coral reefs of Abaco and the Bahamas (as elsewhere) are vital yet vulnerable eco-systems. The adverse effects of global warming (or however you describe it if you shy away from that specific term) are increasingly evident. To that damage can be added a slew of other major threats to coral survival – and to the marine life that thrives on the reefs.  There are a number of research projects in progress in the Bahamas into the effectiveness of artificial reefs as a means of conservation of the ecology of reef waters. One of these is by FIU undergraduate student Martha Zapata. In her words, We have recently been capturing time lapse video of the artificial reefs at night. Many reef fishes, like grunts, will leave the reef around dusk to forage in the nearby seagrass beds during the night. We wanted to be able to observe the fish on the reefs without influencing their behavior, so we used infrared light (which fish cannot see) to illuminate the reef. The image sequences have shown a stark difference in fish abundance from day to night. Also, we have been able to observe some of the more cryptic organisms that have made these reefs their home. Usually masters of disguise, urchins roam about the surface of the reef. Look out for the banded coral shrimp and crab that crawl up the side of the reef to graze on algae and detritus while the fish are away. Even a moray eel makes an appearance near the end!

Besides specially constructed artificial reefs, other man-made objects provide  good foundations for an artificial reefs and marine life – in particular, wrecks. There are many of these in the low waters of the Bahamas, some centuries old, others recent. Fred and Melinda Riger of Grand Bahama Scuba, Freeport, take their diving schools to wrecks because of the profusion of marine life that gathers around – and indeed inside – them.

WEST INDIAN MANATEES: GOOD NEWS FROM BMMRO, BAHAMAS


GEORGIE THE MANATEE IS WEANED

It’s good to look beyond the immediate area of Abaco and the Cays when the occasion calls for it – for example, more good news about the BMMRO’s painstaking research and careful protective monitoring of the very small West Indian Manatee population in the Bahamas. I’ve written before about these gentle, unhurried, curious creatures and their vulnerability – particularly to man’s usage of their natural habitat CLICK ===>>> MANATEES 

Kendria Ferguson’s story below shows just one aspect of the BMMRO’s commitment to the conservation of the cetaceans and sirenians in the seas around Abaco and beyond. The Manatees have excited the interest of the whole local community including the schoolchildren. If you have ever been moved by the sight of dolphins in Marsh Harbour or whales further out to sea, you can be sure someone is keeping an eye on their well-being. You might even be moved to help this important conservation work, in which case CLICK ===>>> HERE

KENDRIA’S REPORT

Adult female manatees are considered sexually mature at 6-10 years of age and have a gestation period that lasts up to 13 months. The first two years of a calf’s life is spent with its mother. During this time they are taught where to find food, fresh water, warmth and shelter. Generally, after two years the calf separates from its mother. This separation is known as ‘weaning’.

On the 14th of June 2012 Argos satellite locations received from both Rita and Georgie’s satellite tags indicated that they were no longer traveling together. Georgie had been weaned. Georgie was born on the 25th June 2010, therefore Georgie was now old enough to survive on her own in the wild

Georgie fitted with a paddle belt around the base of her tail. A flexible nylon tether is then attached to this belt with the satellite tag, which floats when it’s near the surface.Photo provided by Jim Reid-USGS Sirenia Project

After tracking Rita and Georgie for the last three months, it was hard to fathom a two year old being old enough to take on the world. But like they say – mothers know best!

Rita and Georgie fitted with satellite tags

Rita and Georgie were released in Great Harbour Cay (GHC) on April 19th of this year. They travelled to Nassau during Hurricane Irene (late August 2011) from Spanish Wells, Eleuthera and ended up in Nassau harbour. Concerned for their safety, The Department of Marine Resources gave Atlantis-Dolphin Cay permission to capture the animals and house them until a decision was made as to their release. After spending over twenty-five weeks in captivity, scientists feared that Georgie would be weaned before she was returned to the wild and given the opportunity to learn how to survive in her natural habitat. The mother-calf pair was transported to The Berry Islands on April 19th, where they were released and fitted with VHF data log satellite tags.

A map showing areas visited by Georgie pre-weaning and post-weaning

There are four resident West Indian Manatees (Trichechus manatus) residing in Great Harbour Cay, Berry Islands. Notably, an adult female, “Gina” (known previously from Florida), has been residing in Great Harbour Cay since 1999. Since then she reportedly has had 3-4 calves and is currently accompanied by her female calf, JJ, which was born in the late winter of 2011.

Within Rita’s and Georgie’s first week of being released they travelled over 50 miles around the east coast of GHC to as far south as Ambergris Cays and back into the harbour where they were released. During the winter months, Floridian West Indian Manatees (Trichechus manatus latirostris) travel vast distances in search of warm waters. So it isn’t uncommon for these agile species to explore the shallow waters in which they inhabit.

Georgie is now re-visiting important habitat areas she visited in the past with her mother. Since their separation in June, Rita and Georgie have been seen together in the harbour by the local community.

Scientists will continue to monitor Georgie’s movement patterns around The Berry Islands throughout the hurricane and winter seasons. This data will assist us in developing a management plan for manatees in The Bahamas.

Story written by Kendria Ferguson, BMMRO’s resident manatee expert

FISH FRENZY AT FOWL CAY MARINE PRESERVE, ABACO, BAHAMAS


FISH FRENZY AT FOWL CAY MARINE PRESERVE, ABACO

This is the first short video from footage taken in June at Fowl Cay, 2000 acres of protected coral reef waters. This was the start of another great day out snorkelling and island-hopping with dive-diva Kay Politano of ABOVE & BELOW ABACO Marsh Harbour.  In due course there will be more videos of fish and coral. There is very slight evidence that lessons have been learned since last year’s erratic novice snorkeler / underwater photographer efforts. Still a way to go of course. The production process has been hampered by a major format problem between my camera chip thingy and the Mac I now use. It told me the data was unrecognisable / corrupted / damaged etc, which was massively disappointing. Then I thought of  <<techno-tip>> downloading to an old PC and transferring to the Mac on a memory stick. Problem solved.

This huge swirling mass of (tens of) thousands of small fish confronted me as I round one end of the reef. I’ve never seen anything like it before, except on TV. It was an astounding, dizzy-making spectacle. When I swam into the middle of the shoal, I expected to feel tickled all over – but despite the huge numbers of fish, their speed, and their sudden and apparently random direction changes, I wasn’t conscious of feeling them at all. I assume the commotion resulted from the presence of larger fish feeding on the small ones. Or possibly from my appearance…

Music credit: Gordon Giltrap (Hofner champion) ‘Fast Approaching’

BAHAMAS CONCH QUEST – GASTROPODS, SHELLS & CONSERVATION


BAHAMAS CONCH QUEST – GASTROPODS, SHELLS & CONSERVATION

Conchs are among the most familiar of all shells. On Abaco they are everywhere: in the sea, on the beach, used ornamentally in gardens, piled up wherever conch is on the menu… (basically, anywhere serving food)

Conchs have other uses besides being a staple food. They provide sought-after pink pearls.  Only about 1 conch in 10,000 has a pearl, so bear in mind that if you miss one during your search, you may have another 10,000 to wade through… Conchs can produce music, of a sort (such as when used enthusiastically by the famous ‘conch-blower’ home-team supporter during cricket Test Matches in the West Indies). They are undeniably decorative on a porch or on a shelf.

Conchs have featured in literature and film. In William Golding’s Lord of the Flies the conch represents power and order. A conch is blown to call meetings of the marooned boys. Its power is symbolised by the rule that you have to be holding it to speak at the meeting (an idea that many – all? – Parliaments could benefit from…)

Ian Fleming mentions conchs in several of the Bond books, all such references being totally eclipsed by the memory of the appearance, in the film Dr No, of Honeychile Rider emerging from the sea, conch in hand. Oh, I see. That’s just men is it? Or (good grief) just me? Anyway, may we all agree amicably that Ursula Andress was a most decorative conch carrier?

CONCH CONSERVATION

The supply of conchs is not infinite. Overfish them, take them before maturity  or pollute their habitat and this valuable marine resource depletes – and conchs, as with so many marine species, will become threatened. Fortunately there is a Bahamas-wide conservation organisation with a website packed with interest. 

COMMUNITY CONCH is “a nonprofit organization that aims to protect queen conchs in the Bahamas, a species of mollusk threatened by aggressive over-fishing. We promote sustainable harvest of queen conch through research, education and community-based conservation”

community conch logo

“Helping to sustain a way of life in the Bahamas”

Much of the research has been carried out in Berry Is, Andros and Exuma Cays. However the team has recently been based at Sandy point, Abaco. To see some of their work on Abaco CLICK LINK===>> ABACO EXPEDITION   

In many past posts I have listed ’10 Essential Facts’ about the topic discussed. In that spirit I have borrowed and slightly edited CC’s conch facts; and added a CC video of a conch’s stately ‘full speed ahead’ progress. NB No zoom… 

12 CONCH FACTS

  • The queen conch is a large edible sea snail native to the coasts of the Caribbean, the Florida Keys, the Bahamas, and Bermuda. Conchs are herbivores – they eat algae and other tiny marine plants
  • Main predators include nurse sharks, loggerhead turtles, other snail species, blue crabs, eagle rays, spiny lobsters, and other crustaceans
  • Mating aggregations may contain hundreds or even thousands of individual male and female conchs
  • Female conchs lay hundreds of thousands of tiny eggs in a sandy egg mass. The larvae emerge after 5 days and may drift on ocean currents for a month before settling in suitable habitat on the sea floor
  • In their first year conchs live under the sand during the day & come out to feed on the surface at night
  • A queen conch may take 5 years to reach maturity and can reproduce
  • They live an average of 7 years, but are known to live as long as 20 – 30 years
  • Conchs produce natural pearls that come in a range of hues, including white, brown, orange & pink
  • The conch is listed by CITES as a species which may become threatened with extinction if trade is not tightly controlled
  • It is now illegal to take queen conchs in the state of Florida due to severe overfishing
  • 80% of legal internationally traded conch is consumed in the United States. The smuggling of conch meat into the U.S. is a significant challenge to conch management in The Bahamas
  • Queen conch are vulnerable to overfishing because they are (1) relatively slow to grow (2) late to mature (3) aggregate to mate (4) easily harvested in shallow waters

A SPEEDY CONCH

(Conch photos taken by RH / Mrs RH at Sandy Point, Abaco)

LIONFISH: FURTHER RESEARCH INTO THE CARIBBEAN POPULATION EXPLOSION


LIONFISH – MARMITE DENIZENS OF THE OCEAN

A short time ago I posted in some detail about the poisonous LIONFISH. I included material about the rapid increase of this Pacific species in Caribbean and Floridian waters following accidental / deliberate releases in recent years. I also included videos from Grand Bahama scuba-expert FRED RIGER to balance the anti-lionfish orthodoxy, showing that the fish in fact do some good on the reefs. The post provoked a few comments, and had a surprising number of hits. Here is some further research courtesy of the excellent SEA MONSTER which adds a dimension to the debate and concludes with a very good point… Incidentally, in a recent morning snorkelling at Fowl Cay Marine Preserve, Abaco, I did not encounter a single one of these creatures (Mrs RH was unluckily stung by a jellyfish, though…). But I guess the Preserve is well policed against such intrusive species, which are otherwise found in large numbers in the area.

Why are lionfish populations exploding across the Caribbean?

Author: John Bruno on June 6, 2012

Lionfish are an exotic fish now found throughout the Greater Caribbean and eastern Atlantic that have become incredibly abundant on many reefs, especially in the Bahamas and off North Carolina. Lionfish are piscivores (fish that eat other fish) and were introduced from the Indo-Pacific by the aquarium trade in the late 1990s off Florida. Mostly likely, someone got tired of their fish and released them purposefully.

One hypothesis explaining their great success is the absence of natural enemies; predators, parasites and competitors.  This is probably compounded by the fact that few Caribbean reefs have any predators left that could eat them (thanks to overfishing).

Another – and I think much more likely explanation – is because there is so much to eat in the Caribbean! Not because there are more fish, but because it is so much easier to catch them. Unlike fish in the Indo-Pacific, native Caribbean fishes do not appear to recognize lionfish as a potential threat.  So the lionfish gobble them up, grow faster, make more babies, spread to new islands, etc.

Case in point: My lab group was working in Belize last week on the lionfish invasion. One of the things we were doing was collecting the otoliths and gonads from lionfish that we speared on a number of reefs to compare their fitness across the Caribbean (e.g., on reefs with and without native predators, etc).  We also looked at stomach contents and many of them had parrotfishes in their tummies or still in their throats!  The photo above is of the eggs from one lionfish we caught near Glovers Reef Atoll and the partial contents of it’s stomach (a juvenile striped parrotfish)!

Lionfish appear to be little more than machines that convert parrotfishes to baby lionfishes. Which is pretty much the purpose of all animals (consuming others and transforming them into your own genotype and species).  But jeez, couldn’t those aquarium hobbyists have released a herbivore that could be converting macroalgae to fish biomass? That would have been much more useful.

TRAVEL TRIVIA & WORLD OCEANS DAY


We rebooked our storm-tossed flights. We spent an extra night at Delphi and one in Marsh Harbour. We went to check in online. Zilch. Nada. Niente. No trace of Mr & Mrs Harbour. One hour on the phone and it’s sorted, and with an upgrade to World International Club Class Traveller Special Plus or similar ( = more leg room? An extra bacon roll? We’ll see…)

More importantly, though, today is WORLD OCEANS DAY

20120608-081748.jpg

You can find 100 Ocean-related quotes to sprinkle into your conversation if you tune in to the excellent BEACH CHAIR SCIENTIST from whom I have ‘borrowed’ this sea-loving image

20120608-083300.jpg Quote 33 is slightly disturbing…

Apologies for premature publication omitting title and later tweaks. Posting on an iPhone is a fiddly business.

INTERNATIONAL MARINE BIODIVERSITY DAY – MAY 22


INTERNATIONAL MARINE BIODIVERSITY DAY – MAY 22

Yesterday was an important day in the marine conservation and research calendar. Me neither! I had a heads up from the redoubtable SEAMONSTER late last night. So at least I found out on the right day. I am posting the excellent logo to help to raise awareness retrospectively… I ‘get’ everything depicted in this clever sea creature globe – except for the tiny dinosaur… or is it a sea otter?

CLICK this large logo to link the the relevant website, where there are articles catering for every conceivable marine interest

LIONFISH: FACTS, VENOM & CRISIS CONTROL IN THE BAHAMAS – & A COUNTER-VIEW


LIONFISH: UNINVITED GUESTS IN THE BAHAMAS

I recently put some lionfish details and images on my MARINE LIFE page. I wrote: “…their existence and rapid increase in the waters of the Bahamas is a cause of great concern, and they are keenly hunted. Last year’s inaugural Lionfish Derby on Green Turtle Cay brought in more than 1400 of these creatures in the day, ranging in size from  a 57mm juvenile to a 349mm fish. Here, from THE ABACO SCIENTIST is where in the world the 2 species of Lionfish ought by rights to be. Well away from the Caribbean, that’s where!

 Photo credit: Brigitte Carey of Tilloo Cay

Two great lionfish photos from GRAND BAHAMA SCUBA  (thanks to Fred & Melinda Riger )

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LIONFISH Pterois

1o UNCOMFORTABLE LIONFISH FACTS

  • A genus of  spiny venomous fish indigenous to the Indo-Pacific area, of which there are 9 species
  • In the mid 1990s 2 species were introduced to the US Atlantic coast and Caribbean (see below)
  • Unaccountably popular as aquarium fish; cooked and eaten by people (though not by me)
    For recipes see LIONFISH HUNTER
  • An adult can weigh 1/2 kilo and may live up to 15 years
  • They have ‘complex courtship and mating behaviour’, presumably to avoid each other’s spines
  • Females release two egg cluster bombs every month containing up to fifteen thousand eggs…
  • Lionfish prey voraciously on small fish, invertebrates and molluscs which they gooble up in one gulp
  • They have bilateral swim-bladder muscles to alter their centre of gravity to attack their prey better
  • Apart from a tendency to species cannibalism, they have very few predators. The spines work well…
  • Sharks are not affected by the venom, and attempts have been made to train them to feed on lionfish 

LIONFISH STINGS are painful and can take several days to resolve. Tests on frogs, clams and rabbits… well, you don’t want to hear about those. In humans the venom causes systemic symptoms ranging from nausea, vomiting, fever, breathing difficulties and dizziness to convulsions and paralysis. For the very young, the elderly, the allergic or those with immune system weakness the sting can be fatal. TREATMENT: If stung it is recommended that you remove the spine(s) if possible and immerse the wound in hot water for at least 15 minutes… and seek medical treatment as soon as possible

THE CARIBBEAN INVASION supposedly started in the mid-1990s, perhaps following hurricane damage to an aquarium in southern Florida. A few earlier sightings had been recorded, possibly the result of  deliberate aquarium releases. Two of the 9 species are involved: the red lionfish P. volitans (93%) and the common lionfish P. miles (7%). It’s a measure of their rapid breeding, habitat adaptability and near-immunity from predation that the first recorded lionfish in the Bahamas was as recent as 2004. A mere 8 years later they’ve spread throughout the region. 

POPULATION INCREASE AND CONTROL The population is increasing exponentially despite efforts at control. Their voraciousness and territorial aggression must certainly be affecting the indigenous populations of reef marine life. The problem is already extreme. It is now unlikely that lionfish can ever be eradicated. Even to confine the population to its current level would require more than a quarter of the adult population to be killed monthly. Lionfish are able to reproduce throughout the year, so there is no seasonal respite. In this conservation-minded era,  official encouragement of  organised hunting bucks the trend towards creature protection. Lionfish do have food value, if natural human reluctance to eat a venomous species can be overcome, and there are now many lionfish recipes. Whether killing lionfish for sport or for food, humans are their only effective predators. Below is an example, from Oceans Watch, of the sort of campaign that will surely become commonplace throughout the region. Time to reach for the speargun…

THE COUNTER-ARGUMENT

The above is the orthodox view, widely held throughout the region. Some will ask whether the arrival of the lionfish in the Caribbean has any positives; whether they actually make a contribution to the ecology of the area; whether there is a convincing case to put forward in favour of the species; whether there is evidence to back it up. So to redress the balance I commend these 4 short videos from the enormously experienced Grand Bahama diver Fred Riger, in which he cogently demonstrates the value of this imported species. In short, the videos reveal that the adverse effect on endemic fish populations is not merely overstated but wrong; that the spreading menace to the coral reefs of choking algal growth is actually reversed by lionfish; and that important grazing crab species are thriving as a result. 
I posted the bad lionfish stuff last night; by this morning Fred had rightly taken me to task for only giving one side of the story: “Far from being a pest, lionfish are solving a huge problem created by the mother of all invasive species HUMANS, who have over fished the ocean, wiped numerous species out of existence, killed most of the world’s coral, the very stuff we in the Bahamas live on. Targeting lionfish sets conservation efforts back thirty years or more and contributes to the decline of the coral reef”. So here are the videos giving the case in favour of lionfish, and they certainly provide a fresh perspective and plenty of food for thought…
 
“LIONFISH IMPACT: THEY ARE NOT SO EVIL AFTER ALL”

BAHAMAS MANATEE UPDATE – CHECK OUT RITA & GEORGIE’S PROGRESS


The BMMRO’s brilliant new  charting the progress of mother Rita and calf Georgie after their release (and showing wonderful pictures) is becoming addictive. How far have they ventured this week? Are there any more out there? 

Here, Rita and Georgie are wearing their tags. I really recommend a visit to the  for the full reports, but here’s a quick review of the highlights of weeks 2 and 3 since their release:

WEEK 2

  • Rita & Georgie are beginning to attract a bit of a following
  • During the week their confidence grew and they undertook a longer expedition (see map below)
  • During their travels they were joined by 2 other manatees, first a juvenile male, then an adult male
  • Rita’s tag became disconnected. It was retrieved, the data downloaded, and it was successfully reattached
  • Audio recordings were made of underwater manatee communication
  • At one stage there were six manatees seen together, with manatees Gina and JJ joining the 4 others

Rita nurses Georgie

                  

WEEK 2 ADVENTURES

A far more complicated pattern than the simple explorations in WEEK 1

WEEK 3 

  • Continued careful monitoring of more complex (= braver) exploration
  • A great deal of local interest generated. 
  • A ‘Save the Manatee’ campaign started
  • Presentations for groups of school students, including involving them in actual monitoring. 
  • The juvenile male has stayed with Rita and Georgie.

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Rita examines the camera. Meanwhile Georgie checks out the bottom of the BMMRO boat…    

                                               A tender moment between calf and mother                                                                   

 WEEK 3 EXPEDITIONS 
Confidence growing, and more interest in investigating to the south


BONEFISH RESEARCH: THE IMPACT OF HOOK RETENTION


THE IMPACT OF HOOK RETENTION ON RELEASED BONEFISH

Anyone committed to catch and release for bonefish will have wondered about the hooks that from time to time are left in a fish. The issue has now been the subject of a detailed scientific report from ELSEVIER highlighted in the ever-useful THE ABACO SCIENTIST (thanks to Craig Layman). The report’s main conclusions can be summarised as follows:

  • Hooks, especially shallow ones, are expelled fairly quickly
  • For deep-hooked fish, barbless hooks are significantly easier for the fish to deal with
  • The presence of a hook does not appear to interfere with feeding
  • Hook size is not a material factor
  • All the test sample fish survived
Overall, therefore, this is a vindication for the policy of barbless hook use for C&R. The report concludes that it’s best simply to leave a difficult-to-remove hook in the fish. Here, guide Ishi prepares to remove a barbless hook from one of my fish caught on the Abaco Marls.
I have included a clip of the report’s front page and Abstract; and the link to a PDF of the full report for those interested in checking out the detailed scientific aspects of this research. To go direct to the general Fisheries Research section click ELSEVIER. The astounding photo is courtesy of Abaco’s conservation organisation FRIENDS OF THE ENVIRONMENT

REPORT PDF

NEW in June 2012 see later post + video CATCH & RELEASE DEMO ON THE ABACO MARLS for a quick release method with a barbless hook involving minimal contact with the fish. It isn’t suitable for deep-hooked fish or large ones, but it shows how quick the operation can be

BAHAMAS MANATEES: INTRODUCING RITA & GEORGIE – FOLLOW THEIR BLOG


BMMRO MANATEE BLOG

A couple of weeks ago I posted about the Manatees of the Bahamas, including the news that a female manatee and her calf had recently been reintroduced into the wild. To see that post CLICK===>>> RITA & GEORGIE

The BMMRO have now set up a Rita and Georgie blog so that the news of their progress and tracking reports can be seen by all. This will be a regular feature on the BMMRO site, and I reproduce with permission the first report below so that you can see what is involved. 

To follow the tale of Rita and Georgie CLICK LOGO===>>>     I will repeat this logo link in future monthly cetacean sighting reports, with a short summary, so you can get the latest on the sirenian situation. At the end of this page is a map showing their movements for the last week. Here also is a clip of the blog headings so you can see what is covered. Hint-laden note: there is a way to help this valuable research by means of adoption. You don’t get to keep one (or both) in the bath, of course, but you get a certificate and you will know you are helping to protect a species that is all too rare in the Bahamas

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RITA AND GEORGIE ARE RELEASED!

This blog was created to allow the public to follow two manatees, Rita and her calf Georgie, as scientists track them after their release back into the wild. Please return for weekly updates

NOTES FROM THE FIELD – WEEK 1
19-April-2012
At 10:30 am, Rita and Georgie arrived at the Great Harbour Cay Marina in Bullock’s Harbour on the Atlantis vessel Sea Keeper. High school students and interested locals had gathered at the marina for this exciting event. At 11:00 am, Dolphin Cay-Atlantis Animal Rescue Team carefully lowered Georgie into the water, and then Rita followed as quickly as possible. Both animals immediately paired up underwater and surfaced swimming towards the mangroves at the east end of the marina.
During the time of the release, two male manatees were observed in the marina and later paired up with the tagged animals. All four manatees were observed socialising as they slowly travelled out of the marina. Jim Reid (USGS) set up the VHF tracking gear and the tracking team started to track Rita and Georgie from land.
After a few detours through the bush, we found all four animals at the northern end of the T-canal; which is a ‘T’ shape cut in the harbour. We observed both males interacting with Rita while Georgie milled nearby. All four were seen feeding on algae on the canal wall. We left them at 4:30 PM.
20-April-2012
In the early morning, the juvenile male was seen in the marina and came very close to one of our vessels. The single animal remained in the harbor for more than 3 hours. This was a great opportunity for Matt McCoy (Loggerhead Productions) to get underwater footage of the juvenile male, which will be used in an educational film about ‘Manatees in The Bahamas.’
Rita and Georgie were later found in the marina but Rita’s tag was missing! Jim successfully placed a temporary tag on Rita and the original tag was found and later reattached. Kendria Ferguson (BMMRO) made acoustic recordings of both animals, which will be used to identify individuals from their vocalisations.
Later Jim collected genetic samples from both the adult and juvenile males. These samples will be used to determine if these individuals are both offspring of Gina and help to develop a family tree of Great Harbour Cay manatees.
21-April-2012
At 8:30 am GPS locations from the tags showed that Rita and Georgie were in Shark Creek along the west side of Great Harbour Cay, about 2 miles south of the harbour. When the tracking team arrived they found mother and calf both in good health and feeding on seagrass beds in the creek system.
22-April-2012  
With winds up to 20 knots the weather was not favorable for the tracking team to hit the open waters in search of Rita and Georgie so we decided to put up manatee warning signs. These signs were provided by Florida’s Save the Manatee Club, along with other educational material that will distribute throughout the island to raise awareness of the local population of manatees.
The tracking team was able to track them by land and both animals were found on the east side of the island swimming along the beach. The tracking team stayed with them for over 3 hours and monitored their breathing and movement patterns. We also got some underwater photos!!
23-April-2012
At 10:40 am local residents of Great Harbour Cay notified the “manatee lady” (Kendria) that four manatees were in front of the marina office. Gina and her calf JJ were both observed feeding on algae on the pilings and JJ was seen nursing occasionally. Both the adult male and juvenile male were there and remained close to Gina and JJ during their stay in the marina.
Jim was able to collect a genetic sample from JJ and also confirm that she is in fact a female calf. Both males continued to remain close and watched Jim constantly!
GPS locations from Rita and Georgie tags showed that they traveled as far south as Ambergris Cays. During the night, the tracking team closely monitored their movements as they were received via satellite. They entered Shark Creek shortly after 6pm from the west side of the island and remained there for approximately 5 hours. During this time, scientists believe that they were feeding and resting, as this area has extensive seagrass bed coverage. The tracking team continued to monitor their movements throughout the night and hoped that they turned to head back north very soon!
24-April-2012
At 4:30am, GPS locations showed that Rita and Georgie took ‘the channel’ cut and headed back north into the harbour of Great Harbour Cay.
At 8am we located both mother and calf under Al’s dock (our local fish provider). Both animals were resting and Georgie was observed nursing. The tracking team obtained photos, videos and acoustic recordings of both animals during this 3.5 hour encounter.
From their departure from the harbour early Sunday morning to their return Monday morning, they managed to complete a 50 mile trip around Great Harbour. A very happy ending to a very long journey!
25-April-2012
Rita and Georgie remained in the marina overnight and at 7:15am were found just a few houses down from the tag team’s home. Both animals swam towards our tracking vessel, “Feresa” and remained in the area for 15 minutes. Georgie has quite the personality! She began sucking on Feresa’s inflatable tubes and eating the algae off another inflatable boat a few feet away.
Both animals remained very close and traveled under the docks towards the end of the marina towards the mangroves. The local residents occasionally report seeing Gina and the other manatees at these mangroves and believe there is a fresh water discharge. This is also very close to the area of Rita and Georgie’s initial release back into the wild.
WEEK 1
‘An Awfully Big Adventure’ (© P.Pan)

BMMRO WHALE, DOLPHIN & MANATEE SIGHTINGS MARCH 2012


BMMRO WHALE, DOLPHIN &amp; 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…. I wonder what the likely candidates are for ‘large’ besides sperm and humpbacks?

BMMRO BAHAMAS FISHERIES REPORT 2011 EXTRACTS & LINK


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

HUMPBACK WHALES IN THE BAHAMAS: TWO SIGHTINGS & AN ENTANGLEMENT


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