Opportunities and Current Local Action for cetaceans

Marine Conservation International (MCI) in collaboration with the Cayman Islands Department of Environment (DOE) has been conducting research since 2009 on locally occurring Cetaceans around the three Cayman Islands.

The main objectives were to determine baseline population data on resident cetacean species, whilst cataloguing all species occurring in Cayman waters. The relative abundance is very small, with ten cetacean species confirmed from scientific survey methods, public sightings and strandings. The occurrence of several strandings over the past five years led to an investigation into threats facing locally occurring cetaceans; these have been identified above. From data collected by the different methods described above, the spatial and temporal occurrences of cetaceans are mapped and analysed to determine seasonal patterns and congregator areas.

Further on-going activities include educational programs involving local schools, businesses, sport groups and natural history societies. Talks and presentations on cetaceans and their importance to the Cayman Islands are given. Incorporated in the awareness campaign is the production and distribution of educational materials including leaflets and identification charts. Several short televised interviews on cetacean conservation have been released on national television, promoting the project, educational awareness and encouraging the public to participate in reporting sightings. Although cetaceans face little negative stigma, there is a general lack of understanding as to cetacean vulnerabilities to environmental and anthropogenic threats.

A public sightings scheme set up by the DOE and MCI has been of great importance in generating occurrence data for many species. It encourages member of the public to become involved in on-going research work, helping to raise awareness.

FURTHER READING for Cetaceans

Bearzi, G. P. (2006). Prey depletion caused by overfishing and the decline of marine megafauna in eastern Ionian Sea coastal waters (central Mediiterranean). Biological Conservation 127, 337-382.

Chivers, S. (2002). Cetacean Life History. In W. W. Perrin, Encyclopedia of Marine Mammals (pp. 221-225). San Diego, CA, USA: Academic Press.

De Carvalho, C. D. (2008). Heavy metal distribution in two setacean species from Rio de Janeiro State,south-eastern Brazil. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, Vol. 88 No. 6, 1117-1120.

IUCN, I. U. (2011). red list. Retrieved 11 22, 2011, from The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: http://www.iucnredlist.org/

IWC, I. W. (2011, 10 6). Ship strikes. Retrieved 11 24, 2011, from International whaling commission: http://iwcoffice.org/sci_com/shipstrikes.htm

Jensen, A. S. (2004). Large Whale Ship Strike Database. Silver Spring, Maryland, US: U.S. Department of Commerce; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; National Marine Fisheries Service.

Leatherwood, Stephen, and Randall R. Reeves. The Sierra Club Handbook of Whales and Dolphins. Paintings by Larry Foster. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1983. 47.

Mead, James G.; Brownell, Robert L., Jr. (16 November 2005). “Order Cetacea (pp. 723-743)”. In Wilson, Don E., and Reeder, DeeAnn M., eds. Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed.). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2 vols. (2142 pp.).

Read, A. D. (2006). Bycatch of marine mammals in U.S. and global fisheries. Conservation Biology, Vol. 20. No. 1, 163-169.

Rice, Dale W. (1998). “Marine mammals of the world: systematics and distribution”. Society of Marine Mammalogy Special Publication Number 4: 231pp.

taxonomy, C. o. (2009). List of marine mammal species and subspecies. Retrieved 11 23, 2011, from Society for Marine Mammalogy: www.marinemammalscience.org

UNEP, U. N. (2008). Action Plan for the Conservation of Marine Mammals (MMAP) in the Wider Caribbean Region. UNEP.