Whale Watchers Needed

Will you be in the South Pacific in August and September? From our CW Reckonings for May 13, 2010

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Participating in the S.P.W.R.C survey will get you up close and personal with these magnificent mammals.Courtesy Of O. Andrews, Whaleology

Researchers from the South Pacific Whale Research Consortium hope to conduct whale-sighting surveys of the southbound migration of humpback whales off the Polynesian island of Niue, and they need willing cruisers to help.

For cruisers who volunteer, this consists of travelling on a set path with researchers onboard who will record sightings and take photos to ID individual whales. If possible, samples from whales will also be taken using non-invasive methods. The surveys will be undertaken in calm seas and the boat would need to move at a speed of 5 to 6 knots. Fuel and anchorage are provided.

Niue is important for researchers due to its remote location in the middle of the Pacific. It's thought to be a possible area where Humpback whales from the eastern and western Pacific meet and mix. And, as in many other South Pacific countries, there's a lack of knowledge of the whale and dolphin species that are present.

A preliminary survey was undertaken in 2008 and over 50 humpback whales were sighted over a ten day period. However this survey was constrained due to the lack of a proper platform to venture farther offshore than a small dinghy could safely go.

The project time frame is approximately 2 months (August and September) and volunteers will be asked to commit one week to the project. One or two days will be required to train the skipper in survey methods and how to approach whales in a safe manner. This is an outstanding opportunity to see whale research in practice and learn more about cetacean conservation in the South Pacific.