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Field Research and Outreach to Support Conservation of Marine Mammals in The Bahamas


December 2014

From mid-September to mid-December, Bahamas Marine Mammal Research Organisation (www.bahamaswhales.org) staff, Charlotte Dunn and Diane Claridge, conducted vessel surveys to search for marine mammals off southwest Abaco Island in the northern Bahamas. During this time one Bahamian intern, Luanettee’ Colebroke, who was hired during the summer, assisted with surveys until her departure late September. Jack Lucas, an undergraduate student from the University of Plymouth in UK also participated as an intern during this time.

Four vessel surveys were conducted, covering 130 nautical miles along the coastal areas of SW Abaco Island, primarily in the pelagic waters of Northwest Providence Channel. There were three different species sighted: sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus, 3 sightings), dwarf sperm whales (Kogia sima, 3 sightings) and Cuvier’s beaked whales (Ziphius cavirostris, 2 sightings). During the sperm whale encounters, we collected four fecal samples (for analyses of stress and reproductive hormones) and one sloughed skin sample (for genetic analysis).

HIGHLIGHTS:

During the last half of September, BMMRO had two encounters with Cuvier’s beaked whales. This species occurs year-round in the Bahamas, and although sightings are common in some parts of the archipelago, they are not regularly found off SWAbaco. So we were surprised to find two different groups over multiple days. This is the species that has stranded most often worldwide as a result of navy sonar exercises, so learning about their lives has become one of our priorities. They are found in small groups, often comprising a single adult male and one or two females with their young. Males have only two teeth, located at the very tip of the rostrum and these are used as tusks to fight other adult males for access to females.


Meet Our Blogger - Felicity Burrows

The Nature Conservancy

Felicity Burrows works as the Marine Conservation Specialist for The Nature Conservancy, Northern Caribbean Program, and is the Atlantis Blue Project Coordinator. Ms. Burrows collaborates with conservation partners, government agencies, and local communities to identify priority conservation areas, assist with the development of strategies to manage, protect, and restore The Bahamas’ marine resources, and promote sustainable use of our natural resources. She also works with partners and community members to develop outreach and education techniques that inform and promote the importance of our marine environment as well as emphasize threats to our natural resources.