Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Fakaalofa atu all,
Niue Whale Research Project team have just returned from a challenging field season in Niue which was a series of extreme highs and lows for our little team. Fiafia, Vanessa, Cara and Ben were tirelessly stalwart and managed to keep their leader in good humour throughout the setbacks. THANK YOU GUYS!

Quiet whales:
In addition to working from many different boats, the whales were very few, and the conditions averaging 20knots and over with 2m swell. The humpbacks that did come through were very skittish and 2 out of 3 were rounding out instead of fluking! We were only able to complete half of the line transect survey but I think it’s miraculous that we did achieve 130 miles of track lines in the conditions and with half the boat hours.
Whale stats: In total, over 6 weeks, we saw 45 humpbacks including vessel and land observations. Of these there were 3 cow/calf pods. We got 18 individual fluke ID’s, 3 sloughed skin samples, and 21 song recordings notably with a distinct song change brought by one individual we called Mr Curly.

We documented a new cetacean species for Niue when we had a very interesting encounter with 2 Sei whales 12 miles off shore near a sea mount. Photos attached. We also recorded the first sighting of a live sperm whale in Niue (only sighting was a standing event many years ago).

Public Education:
The team did multiple presentations on marine mammal biology and natural history to both the primary and high schools and got senior biology students on the water with the researchers. We also did weekly public presentations to locals and yachties at different venues. The highlight of this season was the Oma Tafua` (treasured whales) show case. Attended by 200 people and raising $1500, the night was opened by a breaching humpback in the sunset in front of the venue, Matavai Resort. Dozens of traditional dance and music groups from all around the island performed stories and songs about whales and the team presented the Fisheries Minister Pokotoa with the SPWRC award for leadership in marine mammal protection from Ocean Voices. The whole event was televised nationally multiple times.

We did weekly interviews with BCN broadcast on national news and introduced 2 whale films, What to do About Whales and The Humpback Code

Thank you Volunteers and sponsors
SO despite the setbacks the project was very successful in achieving most of its aims and we look forward to going back to ‘The Rock’ of Polynesia in 2011.

Koe kia and Monuina
<;))>< <;))>< <;))><
Olive Andrews
Program Director, Whales Alive
Project Leader, Niue Whale Research
South Pacific Whale Research Consortium
P: +64 226879050
E: whaleology@gmail.com

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