16th International conference of American Cetacean Society took place in Newport Beach, California. The society includes seven regional departments on both West and East Coast and four students’ coalitions. The theme for 2018 is Whales&Us: Next generation.
Two hundred people interested in life and destiny of whales took part, including Svetlana Glinkina, specialist of the Commander Islands Reserve Environmental Education Department.
“For the Commander Islands Nature and Biosphere Reserve the conference opens new perspectives in development of educational activity along with research and monitoring of cetaceans. For example, to identify humpback whales scientists usually analyze the pattern on the downside of the fluke. One can see it, when a whale dives vertically and raises the fluke up. The US catalogues will give new possibilities to track migrations of the Commander Islands whales as well, as humpback whales go for breeding to the warm Californian waters and later return with the young to Alaska and Commander Islands. Whales know no boundaries,” said Svetlana Glinkina.
Photo by Svetlana Glinkina
Dr. Joy Reidenberg, Professor at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York and expert in documentary films such as Inside Nature’s Giants spoke about the way cetaceans use air. She shuttered the myth that we already know everything about whales’ anatomy. Some aspects are still a mystery for the science.
Dara Orbach presented the delicate theme of dolphins and whales breeding rituals research with passion and humor. Recently, modern devices such as drones opened new perspectives on this part of their life.
Mark Webber, co-author of Marine Mammals of the World: A Comprehensive Guide to Their Identification published in 2015, conducts researches of whales on San-Francisco Bay. He could not hide his joy of the fact that whales came back to the bay. In 2016, whales were spotted 454 times! One can see humpback whales under the Golden Gate Bridge for the first time in decades after the closure of the last whaling station in 1966. The bay is a very active transportation hub with large vehicles, boats, yachts and even kayaks, so people will have to adapt to their new neighbors. Local entrepreneurs easily understood the situation though and organized whale watching tours.
Another person dealing with the neighboring issue was researcher and founder of Cascadia Research Collective John Calambokidis. From 1980s, the number of blue and humpback whales on the West Coast of the US has increased significantly and stabilized in the recent years. The researchers has been maintaining fluke catalogue for humpback whales since 1986, where they store data on more than 1000 individuals seen and pictured by scientists and whale-watchers on the West Coast. Another option to collect and share data is HappyWhale.com or flukebook.org where everyone can post photos of flukes to help scientists track migrations.
Photo by Svetlana Glinkina
Unfortunately, routs of whales frequently pass along with large marine and fishing vehicles, which may cause damage, provoke collision or ensnaring. John shared accidents statistics and suggestions on how to solve this problem.
The second half of the day was consecrated to panel discussion Cetaceans at the Edge of Eternity, which gathered biologist and writer Brook Bessesen, Canadian biologist Shein Gero, Tomas Jefferson scientist who influenced a lot the identification and systematization marine mammals, Italian Doctor of marine sciences and representative of IUCN Important Marine Mammals Areas Giuseppe Notarbartolo di Sciara (http://www.disciara.org/), environmentalist Zeck Smith and professors Chris Parsons and Bernd Würsig (http://tamug.edu/mmbeg/).
The starting point of the discussion was the disappearance of a relatively small marine mammal – the vaquita (less than 30 left). This problem relates to many other sore spots like interaction with authorities and with local fishermen, who depend on fish and wildlife of the sea and who use the nets killing vaquitas.
The issue of plastic pollution became an undersong of the conference and the scientists believe that we should start with local changes in families in day-to-day life – to become the first example of no-plastic way of life in your community, to talk to colleagues, friends and relatives about massive plastic use and its hazards. By the way, no plastic bottles or paper cups were used during the conference. The participants used their own bottles, cups or could use glasses and ceramic cups.
“The most surprising and wonderful participant of the forum was 7-years-old Aeon from Minnesota, who created Aeon for Ocean. His parents surely help him but it was Aeon’s initiative, which has a magic power. The organization promotes school lectures and beach clearings, speaks about safe seafood and finding alternatives to single use plastic products. Children share with children – it is simple and genius!” said Svetlana.