Account of the first summer season

Amina, Marina and Madda. Copyright L.Poggesi/HEPCA

Three Italian researchers, a total of eight interns from all over the world, visitor scientists and colleagues, amazing and enthusiastic volunteers.

46 days at sea, 3522 km sailed between Marsa Alam and the Sudanese border, 151 hours spent actively scanning the sea surface looking for dolphins’ dorsal fins on board the M/Y Red Sea Defender, more than 7.000 pictures collected useful for the photo-identification, other 2.000 images to carry good memories. A Silky sharks, a couple of Manta rays, green turtles, thousands of terns and sea gulls, two dugongs. And 90 encounters with cetaceans. 90. Beyond all expectations. 6 species sighted, bottlenose dolphins (both common and indo-pacific – Tursiops truncatus and T. aduncus, respectively), spinner dolphin (Stenella longirostris), pantropical spotted dolphin (Stenella attenuata), Risso’s dolphin (Grampus griseus) and humpback dolphin (Sousa chinensis).
These are, in outline, the figure of the first Red Sea Dolphin Project field season.
More detailed results will be published as soon as possible on HEPCA website, check it out.

Today, from our desks in Hurghada, surrounded by papers and forms filled with data gathered on the field, working hard on the pictures trying to identify as many individual dolphins as possible looking at their dorsal fin, running the basic analysis to pull the strings of the effort and the preliminary findings of our expeditions, our minds go back to those days and memories pop up.

As biologists and conservationists, for many reasons we are incredibly astonished by the cetacean communities found during the summer cruises, first of all by the unexpected high rate of encounters, but also for some ecological aspects such as the tendency of some dolphins to associate with other dolphin species, the evident existence of a summer reproductive peak, the geographical segregation found in the deep south, apparently exclusive kingdom of the Risso’s dolphins.

Having started our Egyptian experience a few years ago in Samadai, we are particularly sensitive to the duo “spinner dolphins/tourist impact” and we tried to invest more effort in Satayah Reef, with the aim to describe the status of the population and then understand possible trends. Human pressure is likely to become higher and stronger there, we reckon that actions to address operators and tourists behaviour should be undertaken as soon as possible.
We found the waters of the Southern Egyptian Red Sea extremely rich in biodiversity and pristine reefs still exist: we had the chance to apply data collection protocols to assess their health status and the presence of coral reef specialists on board was a valuable opportunity to learn more on this field: thank you Ameer, Tony, Dania for your patience and availability.

On a personal level, we are grateful to all the people met on the path that made this happen. First of all our interns: Ali, Maha and Anna, Catherine, Vicky, Nevin, Ian and Johannes..you did a great job indeed! We also thank the crew of the Red Sea Defender for its availability and kindness, but most of our affection goes to the volunteers who, as pioneers, decided to put their trust in us and this newborn project and eventually joined us. Willie (check his website), Michele, Mary, Antonella, Susan, Amina, Ombretta, Ghia and Amr, Luca we had a great time with you and we are glad we are still keeping in touch!

We realised that we have too many stories, pictures and faces to show, tell, share and spread, this is the reason why we are launching this blog  which means to be a public diary of our expeditions but also a platform for conservation, awareness and education purposes.
Guys, this blog is also yours, feel free to contribute!

Cheers,

HEPCA Team (Marina, Amina, Maddalena)

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