It’s been a very busy but rewarding few months as I’m almost at the end of the 1st year for a new cetacean research project here in Fiji. The major aim of this project was to document the different species of whales and dolphins present in waters proximal to our two land-based study sites. However, particular focus was given to the Endangered Oceania humpback whale due to historical records for the area as well as the timing of our surveys with their peak migration. In addition to these land-based surveys, time was spent on the water collecting dorsal fin and fluke images, and recording song. There was also a strong emphasis on building national capacity, engaging volunteers, and raising awareness.
More than 250 hours were spent conducting land-based observations with over 60 volunteers engaged in this work. One of the highlights of the survey was the documentation of more than 80 Endangered humpback whales, including numerous mother-and-calf pairs. These numbers represent an increase on previous reports. The team was also pleased to record the first sighting of a pygmy sperm whale in Fijian waters. In addition, minke whales, short-finned pilot whales, resident spinner dolphins, and sperm whales were also observed by the survey team.
WDCS International is partnering with the Fiji Government Fisheries Department, WWF and the University of the South Pacific for this 3-year project. Funding for the project is coming primarily from the Australian Government’s Indian Ocean and Pacific Islands Cetacean Conservation and Research Fund. Partnership and additional support for this year’s project came from FIVS, Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Program, and Flinders University. In all, it was a very successful project. Once I catch up on sleep … I’m sure that I’m probably looking forward to next year!