Thursday, 11 December 2014

A Whale of a Time

Imagine standing next to a life sized Orca. For some of us we have been lucky enough to be on a boat, big or small, when one of these magnificent marine mammals surfaces nearby. The moment is inspirational, breath taking and one that many do not forget. Even then you only see a small part of the animal. Perhaps the head, back and enormous dorsal fin towering above the waves. Occasionally you might be really lucky to see one leap clear, throwing themselves out of the water and crashing back down with an almighty splash. But not everyone is so lucky, whether they cannot afford to go, or are not near any prime Orca habitat. So again imagine standing next to a life sized Orca. It is big, reaching almost 10 m in length and its tall, to the tip of its dorsal fin it towers over you, your mum, even your really tall dad! It’s bold, black and white with huge paddle like flippers. It is a view very few would ever see in a wild animal, and who wants to see the shadow of a wild Orca that is those subject to a life in captivity. 

A wild and free Orca

There were so many wonderful things at WhaleFest 2014, things that really inspired kids, parents, students and anyone else who ventured to the world’s biggest festival of whales and dolphins. And it wasn’t just Steve Backshall (although he was pretty inspirational!). For our little Morgan what really stuck in her mind was things like the life sized humpback whale, based on a real, known whale off America called Niall and the release of a life sized Orca into the sea off Brighton. Of course (and unfortunately) it was not a real Orca, but it looked pretty realistic. Such items have a massive impact. So imagine being able to have a life sized Orca to use year after year at WhaleFest and to take on the road to events around the country? Imagine being able to inspire hundreds, thousands of people by bringing them into close contact with a life sized whale, inspiring them to care and to protect these incredible creatures.

Morgan at WhaleFest 2014, with the life sized inflatable Orca

WhaleFest has fantastic support from those people who currently own such incredible replicas. But to be able to really make this work the team needs their own replica. Their own inflatable life sized Orca. And to do that they need help. Overall the funds needed may seem overwhelming, a large sum of money. But break it down into small chunks and ask your friends, your friends friend, your mum, your dad, your aunty, your work colleagues, everyone and anyone to make one small donation and very soon that large sum is reachable. And that is the idea behind crowd funding. 

And so WhaleFest has launched a crowdfunding appeal backed by Monty Halls, Gok Wan and supported by The Body Shop Foundation, to raise enough money to build a life sized replica Orca. But more than that it is supported by general people who have pledged their support for this inspirational idea. Our little Morgan has pledged her support, and would ask will you too?

There are only 21 days left and still 50% of the funds to go. Will you pledge, share and support the WhaleFest Team? Will you help bring to life an idea that will inspire generations to love and protect whales?

Friday, 5 December 2014

Surveying Cetaceans in Portugal

From enjoying Humpback Whales in Hawaii and Panama, Morgan was back across the Atlantic and participating in a survey for cetaceans and turtles with WCA partner AIMM – Marine Environment Research Association in Portugal. AIMM conducts research in partnership with universities, research centres and other Non-Governmental Organisations, to increase the knowledge of marine ecosystems in Portugal. 

On board the Portuguese Navy vessel the Creoula

Andre Cid from the organisation and Morgan took part in scientific survey off the coast of Portugal to establish what biodiversity exists off the coast and where. While the survey looked a range of marine life, Morgan and Andre Cid were there to survey for cetaceans and turtles.   

Working with the scientists on board

On board the beautiful Creoula, originally a cod fishing boat used in the North Atlantic and now a training ship of the Portuguese Navy the team recorded all the whales, dolphins, porpoises and turtles they saw. This data will go towards identifying which species occur in the area, estimating the spatial distribution and relative abundance (i.e. where they occur and how many are there), assessing habitat use and population structures and towards comparing photo-identification pictures (photos of the dorsal fin that allow individual animals to be recognised) with existing catalogues.  

Looking out for whales and dolphins!

In addition to conducting visual surveys the team also monitored for whales and dolphins acoustically using a hydrophone, which is basically an underwater microphone that will pick up the clicks, whistles and any other vocalisations that the whales and dolphins may be making. By plugging the hydrophone into a computer these vocalisations can be recorded and also visualised on screen. 

Click to discover more about the work of AIMM!

The acoustic monitoring system