Second whale and dolphin research program in the Caribbean

Saba / Sint Eustatius / Sint Maarten

The whale and dolphin research program  Ti Whale An Nou started March 25, 2022 and the objective is to study the diversity, distribution and quantity of whales and dolphins in the Caribbean. Six scientific expeditions of 15 days will take place between March and September 2022. The results will be used to determine what is needed to protect these large mammals. This expedition is coordinated by the Caribbean Cetacean Society (CCS) and is made possible thanks to several partners. 

Fraser’s dolphin. Photo source: Caribbean Cetacean Society

First sightings

The name of the research project Ti Whale An Nou is a mixture of French and English Creole and it means ‘our little whales’. The first expedition of this year was recently finalized. In 12 days CCS encountered 9 species from Martinique to Grenada. The research team followed a group of orcas in St. Vincent and they could also study Fraser’s dolphins, pantropical spotted dolphins, pilot whales, humpback whales, sperm whales, dwarf sperm whales, pygmy killer whales, beaked whales.

Unfortunately CCS also took notice that 18 pilot whales were killed in St. Vincent on the last day of the expedition. This horrifying news affirms the importance of protecting marine mammals. The next expedition will take place from the 15th until 27th of April and will focus on the islands from Martinique to Montserrat.

Orca. Photo source: Caribbean Cetacean Society

Capacity building

The third expedition will be from May 17 to June 1 and it is open for candidates from the Dutch Caribbean to participate. Inhabitants from the Caribbean are invited to make use of the unique opportunity to join the research team of Ti Whale An Nou onboard for the expedition to learn more about their work and to contribute to this important research project. The team will study the zone from Montserrat to Anguilla, covering Sint Maarten, Statia, Saba and the Saba Bank. The goal of the expedition is also to do capacity building to improve the skills of local people to study whales and dolphins.

Importance for other Caribbean islands

This research program will provide an understanding of the migration routes of marine mammals and therefore 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.

This research mission receives great support by the World Wide Fund for Nature – The Netherlands, Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance, Corail Caraibes, Orange, the EDF Group Foundation, Animal Wellfare Institute, and Parc Naturel Régional de la Martinique, Région Guadeloupe and Collectivité Territoriale de la Martinique

Sperm whale. Photo source: Caribbean Cetacean Society

Results 2021

Last year this research project was conducted for the first time. 17 species were identified, 191 visual detections recorded, more than 10. 000 individuals studied and 29 families of sperm whales were encountered in 2021. Furthermore, there were acoustic recordings of killer whales (Orcinus orca) in the West Indies and first photo identification of this species in Martinique. CCS also observed the rare species pygmy killer whales (Feresa attenuata) in the Yarari Marine Mammal and Shark Sanctuary, around Saba, Saba Bank, St. Maarten and St. Eustatius. This study was a first step to shed light on cetaceans in the Caribbean.

All results can be found at https://www.ccs-ngo.com/ti-whale-an-nou.

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