2013 in a post

Another year has gone, the project sees the end of its fourth season, and we dawdle around memories while planning future activities. We decided to conform to the tradition and put together a few dolphin events that characterized 2013, a great year indeed.

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2013 IN EGYPT

> RSDP summer season

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The team from the last survey in Satayah is back to Hamata and ready to disembark. Copyright HEPCA.

We spent the summer in the field to collect data for Amina’s and Madda’s PhD projects.
It felt awesome to be back after a period abroad and we are extremely thankful to everybody at HEPCA, Mohamed Ismail, field assistants, dive centres, the crew of Aquarius 12 and Aqua Blue, and friends in Hurghada and Marsa Alam for endless help, support and availability. The work was supported by HEPCA, the Rufford Small Grant Foundation and the University of Otago. More here.

> And the management of Samadai goes to…HEPCA

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HEPCA personnel and local youth onboard a speedboat in Samadai. Copyright HEPCA.

What a thrilling start of the year with the Governor of the Red Sea entrusting the management of Samadai to the NGO! A resident team was established to handle bookings, enforcement and daily routine; workshops addressing dive guides to better communicate the value and potential of Samadai were delivered: a sort of first step towards the establishment of a certification scheme. Do not hesitate to get in touch should you have ideas, material or skills to contribute to future activities! More here.

> NO GO for Fanus and Shaab El Erg

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Tourist boats approaching indopacific bottlenose dolphins in Hurghada.

Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins in these two coastal reefs are exposed to an unacceptable pressure from commercial and private operations. HEPCA filed a report to the authorities and the Governor of the Red Sea decided for the temporary closure of the two sites to all vessels and the subsequent implementation of a management plan. Everyone familiar with the area knows how popular these two reefs are, conservation of natural resources sometimes can win over economic interest! We look forward to working more closely with operators to improve compliance to regulations. More here.

> The world meets in New Zealand: HEPCA research team goes international

Maui masquerade, just one of the events organised within the conference.

Maui masquerade, just one of the events organised within the conference.

The 20th Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals was attended by 1,200 delegates from all over the world willing to meet fellow marine mammal researchers and network, debate, share experiences, results and frustrations. This is the international showcase for marine mammal research, and we were there! Our works attracted the attention of a few colleagues investigating similar topics and more opportunities for collaborations are taking shape. More here.

 

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> No more “possibly”

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Striped dolphins swimming through oil from the Deepwater Horizon/BP spill. Credit: Ron Wooten, NOAA.

“According to these findings, we conclude that the factor x could have possibly caused the observed phenomenon y, although other factors could have intervened. These are preliminary results and we recommend more studies on the topic”.
Sometimes scientists’ precautionary diplomacy is incredibly annoying!

But then someone stands out:

  • acoustic stimuli (air guns, multi-beam echosounder system, etc.) DO trigger dolphin stranding events
  • human activities DID cause the extinction of the Yangtze River dolphin
  • BP oil spill DID catastrophically affect dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico

Clear powerful conclusions. Funny enough, they never really change the course of history: either they come too late or are not backed by political will. Unfortunately, we live in an absurd world that puts an enormous pressure on scientists to produce robust evidences about correlations and causalities –process that inevitably requires long term projects (with related funding-personnel-support difficulties)- playing a waiting game that ends up favouring that industry that nobody dares to halt. In this absurd world, we (citizens, consumers, voters, parents) still have the power to make informed responsible choices: choose to know things, be aware of best practices and code of conducts, join campaigns, engage, share information, and select products, experiences, politicians according to conscience. More here.

> Thanks but no tanks (1) : Blackfish

Blackfish playbill

Blackfish playbill

Blackfish premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January and, since then, has gone viral in social and traditional media shaking public opinion… as well as SeaWorld reputation. The movie retraces the story of Tilikum, a performing killer whale come to the fore for causing the death of three people in the last 20 years. Blackfish depicts the ugly truth about the captive industry, from capture in the wild through imprisonment in various theme parks. Campaigns and protests against SeaWorld (still an 11-million-visitors-a-year company) and orca captivity have taken place throughout the year, enhanced by the broadcasting of the movie on CNN (20 million views).  More here.

> Thanks but no tanks (2): India at the forefront

Protests against dolphinaria

Protests against dolphinaria.

India bans captivity. A ministerial decree states that dolphins are highly intelligent and sensitive creatures and have to be seen as non-human persons with rights. On these bases the Indian Ministry of Environment and Forests bans captivity for commercial entertainment, private or public exhibition and interaction purposes whatsoever.
More here.

> Taking a puff at a puffer fish

A young dolphin chewing a puffer fish

A young dolphin chewing a puffer fish.

BBC show “Dolphins: Spy in the Pod” is going to disclose many secrets from the life in the pod. The cameras, disguised like sea creatures (they look so real!), have been deployed in several locations all over the world to witness some of the most incredible events occurring in nature. This is the first one of a long series: dolphins “getting high” on pufferfish.  Basically, young animals do chew the fish and pass it on, each of them ending up in a trance-like state. This is caused by a neurotoxin that the fish release as defence mechanism. The substance could actually be intoxicating (lethal to humans), but can make dolphins “began acting most peculiarly, hanging around with their noses at the surface as if fascinated by their own reflection” (Rob Pilley, zoologist and producer)…or, simply, showing the first stages of toxin-induced paralysis and hovering on the surface to breathe. More here.

That’s all for now!
We hoped you enjoyed the reading and wish you a happy new year full of new interesting stories!

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