Pacific Whale Foundation Provides Major Sponsorship of Latin America Marine Mammal Conferences

As part of its work to protect whales throughout the Pacific, Pacific Whale Foundation will be a major sponsor of two upcoming Latin America marine mammal conferences: the 11th Reunion of South America Marine Mammal Specialists and 5th Congress of The Latin American Society on Marine Mammals.

The conferences will be held in Quito, Ecuador from September 11 – 17, 2004. More than 700 scientists and students are expected to attend, to share new developments in marine mammal research.

Pacific Whale Foundation’s Ecuador research team, lead by Project Director Cristina Castro, will conduct workshops and present a number of scientific papers at the conferences. Pacific Whale Foundation will also host an in-field training program for whale researchers at Ecuador’s Machillia National Park from September 16-17.

"Our staff is pleased to work with Latin American researchers to help them collect data about the whales in this region," says Greg Kaufman, President of Pacific Whale Foundation. "Our aim is for local governments to have the necessary data to devise effective management plans to protect the humpback whales along their shorelines."

Kaufman will be traveling to Ecuador to assist with the workshop.

Pacific Whale Foundation’s Ecuador research takes place primarily at Machalilla National Park, a 136,000 acre protected area along the Ecuadorian coastline that encompasses dry tropical forests, white sand beaches and islands, and is home to dolphins, sea lions, whales, and a number of unique bird species. The team is documenting the population levels, distribution, abundance and social dynamics of the whales in this area.

Research to date has demonstrated that some South Pacific humpback whales migrate from feeding grounds near the Antarctic to mate and give birth in Ecuador’s warm waters from June to October. The whales return to their feeding grounds during the southern hemisphere’s summer months (November-May).

Pacific Whale Foundation’s researchers are currently conducting shorebased observations of whales in the vicinity of a small island approximately 25 miles offshore from Ecuador’s coast. They are also working aboard cooperating whalewatch boats to obtain fluke identification photographs and data about individual whales. This data will be added to Pacific Whale Foundation’s catalog of more than 350 previously identified individual whales in Ecuador. The researchers will compare their fluke identification photos and data with those of other researchers in Ecuador and Colombia to document how whales move along South America’s west coast.

The researchers are also documenting marine mammal strandings in Ecuador, assessing the impact of whale watching vessels on whales and recording songs from male humpback whales.

To learn more, visit their website at www.pacificwhale.org