The Bahamas Marine Mammal Research Organisation (BMMRO) hosted its annual Whale Camp on July 23rd through August 3rd. The camp consisted of three campers from Abaco, three campers from Grand Bahama, four campers from New Providence, and three campers from Long Island.
During camp, Bahamian high school and university students are given the opportunity to observe and assist with Marine Mammal Research. This research is conducted on a small motor vessel on the shallow banks and above the deep ocean canyons of South Abaco. Students assist scientists with the collection of behav-ioural and environmental data while observing resident populations of marine mammals.
Fortunately, despite the breezy weather, both groups of campers were able to observe the local resident population of Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) and a Sperm Whale (Physeter macrocepha-lus).
Searching for marine mammals in breezy weather was not an easy task, but both groups were determined and had success. Finding the dolphins on the shallow bank is much easier than finding the whales. In order to find the whales, campers had to learn to utilize the hydrophone, which is an underwater microphone that listens to the whales as they feed.
After collecting data in the field, campers were also given the opportunity to input and analyse data in the research office. During the field work, BMMRO collects photographs of the dolphin and whale fins in order to get population data. Data analysis consists of comparing the photo ID’s of the animals seen to determine how many are in the area and listening to underwater re-cordings of the animals to link their behaviour to the sounds that they make.
All of this data can then be combined to determine the status of the population and how well it is doing. This data is very important because it relates directly to our fishing industry. If our waters are not able to support marine mammals, more specifically, the dolphins, then our wa-ters cannot support our local fishermen.
Additionally, BMMRO scientists assure that camp is very educational and encourages individ-ual development in the marine field. Campers enjoy snorkelling local reefs and wrecks in order to gain confidence swimming and observing marine species. Every evening, BMMRO scientists present to campers on various topics such as on-going research at BMMRO, past findings due to studies conducted by BMMRO, dolphins, manatees, whales, and the effects of land and sound pollution on marine mammals.
Whale camp 2018 was a huge success. BMMRO would like to extend special thanks to the Abaco Rotary, the Cable Cares Foundation, the Lyford Cay Foundation, and Dolphin Encoun-ters of Blue Lagoon Island for their generous donations in order for Whale Camp 2018 to be a possibility.