We hope you are all fine and healthy, staying positive in these difficult times, which also allow us to reorganize and tune in for a new and better return.
This whale season was a very busy one, with lots of whales and activities. We hope you enjoy this summary with our most relevant activities.
Thanks to all of you for your support! We really appreciate your constant interest and help. Thanks to you, we can proudly share these results!
RABEN to the rescue: 9 WHALES SUCCESSFULLY RELEASED
41% released & 23% not necessary = !64% SUCCESS¡
This was the season with more entanglement reports in Mexico by far, but also one of the most successful in our history. We attended 24 reports, out of which 2 reports were taken care of by 2 different teams, meaning that one RABEN team started the rescue and the second team in a different location finished them. Out of 22 entangled whales, we successfully rescued 9 and 5 whales didn´t need to be disentangled since the gear was not life-threatening and will fall on its own; we were unable to confirm 2 more cases, meaning that we didn´t find the whale and there were no photos or video, so we´ll never find out if the reports were true or false. The rest of the whales that we couldn´t release was due to different factors like bad weather, we got the report too late in the day, the whale was very aggressive of evasive. In summary, we had 64% SUCCESS in our operations and we saved at least 14 whales, which is an outstanding result.
Out of 24 reports, 11 were in Banderas Bay, as every year, the busiest team of all our 10 RABEN teams. There are several reasons for this, most of all it´s an indicator of humpbacks migratory routes and the importance of this region as a hot spot mating ground, it also reflects the entanglement problems and is also a result of our outreach efforts, because every year we have more trained eyes that know-how and where to report, don´t forget that RABEN has been working in Banderas Bay since 2004. Also, this season we got lots of reports tru out WhatsApp available at our websites www.rabenmexico.org and www.ecobac.org, another good tool at work!
Why were we so SUCCESSFULL?
Help, help and more help!! This year, particularly at Los Cabos and Banderas Bay, the local whale watching and sailing fleet got more involved and helped us by reporting, but also by staying with the whales until the RABEN rescue team arrived, believe it or not, is very hard to find an entangled whale. Whales are indeed big, but the ocean is much bigger!!!
GOODBYE Surveillance and HELLO New Humpback Research!
With pride, we communicate that our 8-year program (2012-2019) “Prevention, Information, Monitoring and Surveillance of Humpback Whales in Banderas Bay” concluded. We accomplished our objective of promoting good navigation practices and the Mexican Whale Watching Regulation during whale season, avoiding boats crowding and whale harassment, as well as dangerous situations for persons. Our system worked so well that Bahia Unida nonprofit and PROFEPA Jalisco decided to adopt it and took over this season.
This season we started a new “Humpback whale research program” with the main objective of studying changes in their distribution and temporality, and in order to do this, we did several outings before, during and after the whale watching season and also in the areas within the Bay when usually fewer whales are seen. This information will be very useful to promote conservation actions to protect this beloved specie.
Knowing for CARING!
As usual, in the past 12 years, we continued with our “I care for the whales” campaign and with the support of our great team of volunteers, we gave out flyers with the Mexican Whale Watching Regulations to boaters. Marina Riviera Nayarit also participated by printing more flyers to have them available for all the boaters that visit them, big Thank you for them!
We also placed banners announcing for navigation with caution and also banners with the Mexican Whale Watching regulation at Marina Puerto Vallarta, Marina Riviera Nayarit, Marina Nuevo Vallarta, Centro Marino Opequimar gas station and other piers and places of the Bay. We are very grateful to Bahia Unida and Marina Nuevo Vallarta for sponsoring the printing of the banners so we could reach more persons.
We participated in 6 environmental education events, with conferences and documentary projections at Marina Riviera Nayarit at La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, including the premiere of our video Cases of Success 2019-2020.
Yes, we have one very special camel in the Bay, he is one of our favorite humpbacks. His code is 4BB010 and he got the nickname of Camello in Mexico and Bactrian in the States, because of his peculiar dorsal fin, which resembles a dromedary. We know him since 1999 and since then, he has never missed a Winter; we have heard him singing and seen him fighting, so we expect him to be the father of several calves by now. His feeding ground is the area of Monterey Bay in California, where hopefully he´s already replenishing. He´s just gone and we already miss him and of course looking forward to seeing him this next season so we can continue writing his story.
THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!
It´s a pleasure to have to thank more persons, institutions, donors, volunteers, companies and foundations every year, adding to our efforts to learn, protect and preserve our natural resources. It´s hard to mention everyone and I hope not to miss anybody.
Thanks to our amazing team of volunteers: Frank, Azucena, Olivia, Paulina, Karina, Bárbara, Isabel, Katie, Monse & Abraham for their endless enthusiasm and support, without you we couldn´t have done all these activities.
We are very thankful to 8a. Zona Naval de Puerto Vallarta, 6ª. Zona Naval de San Blas, 6ª. Región Naval de Manzanillo, PROFEPA, Bomberos & Protección Civil de Jalisco for their valuable participation and support for the RABEN rescues.
We thank all the persons that reached out to promptly and efficiently reported whale entanglements, especially to the sailing fleet and whale watching tour operators that help us keeping track of entangled whales, particularly to Francisco Javier and Gustavo.
It was very complicated to attend so many entanglement reports, mostly if we consider that RABEN members are volunteers or do this activity as an additional task to their Jobs; nevertheless, RABEN teams had an outstanding response, so we thank ALL RABEN MEMBERS for their great work. We also thank Opequimar Centro Marino for joining as a new RABEN member at the Banderas bay team.
Thanks to Jorge Morales y Faby Flores for our Success Cases 2019-2020 video, that by the way was a great success!
Thanks to Maritime Traffic Control and Harbor Masters for their support with radio announcements to navigate carefully when whales were in heavy traffic areas.
Our research surveys were done thanks to BIOMAR and Stanly W. Ekstrom Foundations funding and to Opequimar Centro Marino and Ecotours de México support.
We deeply thank the donations by The Cape Thompson Hotel, Vinos Torres, Thalía Martinez, Katie Lavery Niekamp, Greg Pennington, Vicky McCann & Helga Baitenmann for our ECOBAC & RABEN projects.
Thanks to Katrina Liana & Michael Danielson of PV Sailing for organizing conferences and events at Marina Riviera Nayarit for a second consecutive year, a great success!
We also thank Yoga & Somatics and professor Ramiro that organized yoga classes with donations for RABEN and whale entanglements. Ramiro planned everything for 4 Saturdays, but the actual situation forced us to cancel, but we´ll resume soon this great initiative.
To all and each one of you, we dedícate this newsletter.
Banderas Bay is one of the main congregation areas for Humpback Whales in the Mexican Pacific Ocean, visiting each season 500 individuals. This has led the Bay to be one of the main tourist sites for observation. This year, according to the official season of Whale watching started on December 8th, 2019 and will end on March 23, 2020, according to the notice issued in the Official Gazette of the Federation by SEMARNAT.
As always we recommend you to do whale watching activities only with the authorized vessels, which can be distinguished with the official flag.
If you have your own vessel REMEMBER to keep 800 ft (240m) away from the whale. Yo can consult and download the guidelines for whale whalewatching activities here:
Our catalog FIBB has a database with more than 7,000 records of which 2,272 are unique whales. As always, we count on the valuable contributions of our collaborators, season after season, so we can continue expanding the catalog. In fact, every year we receive over 1,500 pictures of our collaborators, whereby it is a challenge to keep the catalog updated. Thanks to the support of Happywhale´s software we are moving forward rapidly and expect to be able to update until 2017 very soon.
We thank all the collaborators of season 2018-2019: Biocean, Ecotours de México, Orca de Sayulita, Vallarta Adventures and Vallarta Natours.
Collaborations with other catalogs, nationals, and internationals like HappyWhale allow us to obtain more information regarding the distribution and general state of our whales. ¡This year we had the great surprise that at least ten of our whales have been in Russia! As was the case of FIBB-4BB293, a whale that swam 5000 miles from Banderas Bay to Kamchatka, Russia.
48 Rescued Whales
To date, the Whale Disentanglement Network (RABEN) has received 123 reports of entangled whales, from which 48 whales have been successfully released (since 2004). Only last season (2018-2019) 23 reports were attended nationwide and this starting season 2019-2020 we recently had two more cases. Banderas Bay is still the leading team with the highest number of entangled whales, 43 cases attended (2004-2019).
ECOBAC, as RABEN´s coordinator nationwide, wants to thank all members for their invaluable help with this complex labor. We hope that all the rescues during this season are safe and successful! We can do this!
This is the reason why it is essential that all the teams are constantly training. On October 9th and 10th we had the “Whale Disentanglement Workshop” taught in Los Cabos, BCS where it was possible to train 26 people.
The Workshop was possible thanks to the support of the “Priority Species for Conservation Department” by CONANP, PROFEPA y WWF.
The teams from Oaxaca (NOV 9th, 19), Banderas Bay (NOV 19th, 19 and DEC 10th,19) and Mazatlán (DEC 10th, 19) were not far behind and also carried out their respective practices and training. The better prepared we are, the greater the likelihood of having successful rescues!
¡THANK YOU! COCKTAIL THE CAPE
This year we hotel The Cape organized a cocktail in Los Cabos, BCS October 24th for raising funds for RABEN. They made an excellent organization and diffusion job to raise funds for RABEN.
¡We thank hotel The Cape and Vinos Torres for this great support!
ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION AND “I CARE FOR THE WHALES” CAMPAIGN
Environmental education and “spreading the word” is very important to preserve the whales and our seas, that’s why we share some of the activities we did this last semester.
First Rescued Whale this Season
Saturday, December 14th, our team RABEN Los Cabos released the first whale this season. It was a juvenile of approximately 8mts that was completely entangled in a gill or chinchorro net. After 6 long hours of maneuvering, this whale was released free of charge. We thank Pelagic for the support following the whale until the arrival of the RABEN team. We need your support, so RABEN can keep up rescuing entangled whales in Mexico.
This season we will greatly appreciate any contribution either donation or in kind, as the number of cases we attend is growing…
This whale season is not over yet, but it has been one of the most complicated but at the same time successful seasons for the teams of RABEN, The Whale Disentanglement Network.
We have rescued 8 whales nationwide and at the time of writing this newsletter, our RABEN Manzanillo team is in action looking for a whale…
Two of the successful RABEN rescues, winter season 2020: A) Entangled mother, case shared between San Blas/ Banderas Bay teams, released on Dec. 26, 19; B) Entangled calf attended on 5FEB20 in Banderas Bay.
We are receiving more reports than in previous years, but it is probably because people already know how to report, our WhatsApp icon on the websites www.ecobac.org y www.rabenmexico.org is giving very good results.
The new WhatsApp icon allows you to communicate at the moment to report an entangled whale with the RABEN team.
We share our new VIDEO with the success stories of this season, we know that this is not over yet and we are all ready for when the whales need us again.
New RABEN Video – Success cases 2019 – 2020
These successes would not be possible without the valuable support of the people who take the time to report properly, even more with the people who help us to relocate the whales or not lose sight of them.
The best example is the rescue case on 22DIC19, where an authorized whale watching tour operator in Punta Mita found and REPORTED the entangled whale, waiting for the first relay to arrive, which was the park ranger of the Marietas Islands National Park. Then came the second relay with another whale watching tour operator of Punta Mita that took one of the RABEN team members to the site.
Finally, 1 hour and 30 minutes later, the rescue boat and the rest of the RABEN team arrived. Since the whale was outside the Bay and it was late we requested support from the 8th. Navy Zone, which assisted us with a boat and personnel of the Captaincy of Puerto de la Cruz de Huanacaxtle. We only had 2 hours of light to perform the maneuvers and without all this support, that time would have gone away in trying to relocate to the whale.
So the moral is that thanks to the effort and support of everyone, RABEN can succeed and we all can save the whales.
RABEN works through donations and volunteers who give their time and money, so your contributions are very important!
Thank you so much!
As we talked about in our last newsletter, each rescue costs an average of $500 American dollars and in one of the rescues, we lost an extension knife and adapter with an approximate cost of $250 dollars. The tools we use are very specialized because they are designed not to hurt the whales and make quick and efficient cuts.
Do you want to do an in-kind donation? We need knives like this one:
Only go whale watching with boats or companies that have a whale watching permit.
However, as a conscious ecotourist you should know that:
The minimum distance that should be kept from whales is 800 ft for boats without a whale watching permit.
Only a maximum number of 4 (four) boats can remain around the same whale or a group of whales.
For authorized boats, the minimum observation distance between any boat and a whale, or group of whales, is 60 meters for small boats (less than 10 meters in length) and 80 meters for medium and larger boats (more than 10 meters length).
When whale watching, it is very important to try to keep a constant cruising speed with a maximum of 9 km/hr (5 mph, 5 knots), in all cases cruising speed should be slower than the slowest whale in the group.Fast acceleration and deceleration should be avoided.
Avoid drastic changes in speed and direction within 300 mt. (990 ft.) to the closest whale, because this scares them and can cause a colision.
If whales avoid you, change direction, breathing rhythm or modify their activity don’t approach them or move away slowly.
The correct way to approach a whale is from its side and slightly from the back, never from the front, or encircling them because this could be threatening to them.
Mothers with calves are very sensitive, so it is very important to be extremely careful when approaching them.
It´s forbidden to cause the dispersion of a group or to interrupt its activities.
Don´t throw anything into the water, especially plastic, cigarrettes or synthetic material that can cause problems to the animals if they accidentally swallow them.
Neither commercial or sport fishing should be conducted in an area where a group of whales have been identified.
Activities such as swimming, snorkeling, sea kayaking, jet skiing, parachuting,or scuba diving shouldn’t be done in the area where whales are found. It could be dangerous and can also affect and change the natural behavior of the whales.
It is forbidden to tow dinguis or any type of object, nor to drag ropes, lines, nets, ropes, hooks or any other similar accessory during whale watching to avoid accidents.
For your own safety always wear a lifevest while in a motorboat
If you want you can download and print this format with the mexican whale watching regulations so you can keep it handy on your boat
Ecotourism is a very important tool in the development of local communities and it promotes sustainable development. In addition, it can be a very useful platform for research and environmental education.
ECOBAC seeks to promote the development of ecological tourism, through consultant services in the following areas: specialized training for guides, regulations, route designs and services and facility certifications.
ECOBAC seeks the benefit of those companies that participate with concrete actions in the conservation of natural resources and promotes the economic and social development of local communities.
We collaborate extensively with Ecotours de México, a pioneer ecotourism company in Mexico, which offers a different option for those interested in having a unique experience, where in addition to having fun they can learn about the places they visit and support our research and conservation projects.
TRAINING WORKSHOPS FOR WHALE WATCHING TOUR OPERATORS
Since we can´t really care for things we don´t know it´s very important to train whale watching tour operators.
As a first step towards training, in 2002 we organized the 1st. Humpback Whale in Banderas Bay Workshop, were research, regulation and conservation issues were discussed. Since then, we regularly give training courses and workshops to Whale Watching Tour Operators all over the Mexican Pacific coast.
Environmental education is a very important tool that allows us to approach and teach the general population (locals, foreigners and tour operators) about the importance of protecting the natural resources our Bay offers, and especially humpback whales. Through workshops, talks and festivals we can share the singularities and needs of this charismatic cetacean, as well as the results of our research projects and the status of the local stock.
I DO CARE FOR THE WHALES
This campaign started in 2012 to complement the “Navigate with Caution” campaign and due to the good response it had, it is still going on. “I Do Care for Whales” campaign promotes good navigational practices as well as the Mexican Whale Watching Regulations (NOM-131-SEMARNAT-2010) during the whale watching season. As part of the campaign activities, bilingual leaflets with information about the NOM-131-SEMARNAT-2010 are distributed, also outreach actions are carried out throughout different media, and mechanisms are generated to acknowledge responsible and most outstanding whale watching tour operators or companies that abide the whale watching regulation but also participate in research or conservation projects
Interaction with fishing gear represents one of the most significant threats to whales worldwide.
In Mexico, in order to address this crisis, Ecología y Conservación de Ballenas, AC (ECOBAC) created the Whale Disentanglement Network, known as RABEN, with support of CONANP (Mexico’s Park System). RABEN is an interagency team of people trained to perform rescues of whales entangled in fishing gear. RABEN network comprises 15 trained teams of disentanglement experts with 180 members along the Mexican Pacific Coast and Baja California Peninsula all equipped with specialized gear to assist in the rescue of entangled whales.
If you want to learn more about RABEN and attention to reports of entanglements visit our alternate site www.rabenmexico.org
HOW CAN I HELP AN ENTANGLED WHALE?
CALL the local authorities (Navy, Harbor Master, CONANP). If possible provide geographic location with GPS coordinates. Please leave your NAME and MOBILE so we can contact you.
DOCUMENT, if possible, take photos and video from a safe distance (no closer than 200ft.)
STAY IN THE BOAT. Never get into the water to help a whale.
WAIT FOR AUTHORIZED RABEN PERSONNEL. Do not attempt to free the whale on your own. The removal of trailing lines or buoys diminishes the chances of freeing the animal of all gear, leaving lethal wraps behind.
Getting too close or swimming with whales can pose risks to humans and the whales and may alter the whale´s behavior. The Mexican whale watching regulations allow authorized vessels to approach whales no closer than 200ft (330ft for blue and fin whales). Vessels with no whale watching permits have to keep 800ft distance.
Do not get in the water or try to release an entangled whale, it´s very dangerous!
If you find an entangled whale report it to the local authorities (Navy, Harbor Master, CONANP).
In 1996 we started the Banderas Bay Humpback Whale Photoidentification Project, known as the FIBB Catalog. Until 2017 season, the catalog has 2,686 different photoidentified individuals and a database of more than 7,800 records. We are still working on the 2018-2021 seasons.
Photoidentification is a technique used to identify one humpback whale from another. This is based on taking photographs of the ventral side of the caudal fin or tail, which presents a color pattern that can range from completely white to completely black, and which can also present scars, spots, and notches that all together make every adult individual unique.
Humpback whale photoidentification work is very important for the study and conservation of the species, through photoidentification it is possible to estimate population abundance, study their behavior, their migratory routes, birth rate and much more information, hence its importance.
The FIBB Catalog collects data and photographs from various collaborators who believe in the importance of sharing this information for the benefit of knowledge and protection of this wonderful species. If you want to check out our FIBB Catalog visit: www.whalephoto.org
Since all the various collaborators embark from different places witihin Banderas Bay (Puerto Vallarta, Nuevo Vallarta, Cruz de Huanacaxtle and Punta de Mita) at least 60% of the Bay´s extension is sampled daily, with a minimum effort of 12 sailing hours, this during each whale watching season (December 8 to March 23).
In 2020, thanks to the support of Biomar Foundation, we started the Humpback Whale Monitoring Project in order to register any significant variation in their distribution, temporality and/or abundance in Banderas Bay. We are sampling the central and south areas of the Bay during the months of November and April, areas and months usually not studied; besides the regular whale watching months and areas. This information, among other things, will enable us, if necessary, to suggest to the corresponding authorities about changes in the whale watching dates, as well as precautionary measures for the protection of this species.
We would like to thank all the people and institutions that have supported us in these projects, especially all the social service, internship, and thesis students along with the numerous volunteers who have participated.
Some of you will remember that in the season 2011-2012 our beloved humpback whales surprised us by feeding in Banderas Bay.
As is well known, humpback whales feed during the summer at high latitudes and in the winter they travel to more tropical latitudes to their breeding grounds, such as Banderas Bay, where they rarely feed. During the breeding season, the whales are not hungry thanks to their large layer of blubber, so when we saw them for the first time feeding, we immediately took the task of gathering as much information as possible to have a complete picture of what was happening.
We never thought that we would be registering the longest intensive feeding episode of humpback whales in a breeding ground in the world.We recorded a total of 26 different feeding occasions over a period of 79 days between December 2011 and March 2012. Sightings of 1 to 50 whales were observed eating in the same area, involving mostly adults.
This is not the first time that whales are observed feeding in breeding areas, occasionally they have been seen in the Gulf of California, Oaxaca, Brazil and Nicaragua among other places. However, they are usually solitary whales, mostly juveniles and usually these are spaced feeding events.
Due to the relevance of this information, we decided to write a scientific articlye, which was published in the Revista Latin American Journal of Aquatic Mammals
on September 30th, 2019.
In the article we conclude that the Eastern North Pacific humpback whale population will feed opportunistically feed when preyresources are available, changing migration and behavioral patterns to successfully exploit food resources to survive.
This is the anchovy from which the humpback whales were feeding.
Humpback whales can provide insight into the biological consequences of inter-annual climate fluctuations, fundamental for ecosystem predictions related to global climate change.
If you want to learn more about this interesting case you can consult the article:
Frisch-Jordán, A., Ransome, N.L., Aranda-Mena, O and Romo-Sirvent, F. (2019) Intensive feeding of humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) in the breeding ground of Banderas Bay, Mexico.
Did you know that rescuing a Whale can cost around 500 dollars?
Humpback Whale Season just started this December but also the work of the National Network of Assistance to Entangled Whales, RABEN. So far this season there have been 3 successful rescue events:
1) December 14th: RABEN team Los Cabos released a juvenile humpback whale that was completely entangled with a gill net.
2) ) December 22nd: RABEN team Banderas Bay released a female Humpback Whale with a gill net in her rostrum. the female was with her calf, which was estimated to be only a few weeks old.
3) December 24th and 26th: RABEN teams San Blas and Banderas Bay attend the report of a female Humback Whale, also with a gill net in her rostrum and dragging more than 300 ft of the net.This female also had a calf with her. Team RABEN San Blas started rescuing efforts on the day of Christmas Eve. Nevertheless, due to the behavior of the female and the difficulty and risk that represents releasing a whale with a calf, they couldn´t release her completely. As usually happens in these situations, the other close RABEN teams were alerted and finally the whale appeared at Puerto Vallarta on December 26th where the Team Banderas Bay concluded successfully the rescuing efforts.
This is a good example of how our RABEN team network operates!
Both ECOBAC (RABEN´s National Coordination) and all RABEN members normally keep a low profile and avoid social networks and the press in general, since we do this work selflessly and in order to help these wonderful cetaceans. However, the rescue of December 26th was carried out very close to the coast so there was no way to go unnoticed, as we normally do. We gave several interviews and we gladly share the link to the documentary made by Televisa.
In all three rescues RABEN members, which are trained for these risky maneuvers participated. We thank all RABEN members, not only those who participated in these rescues since all 180 members of the 15 RABEN teams are ready and in the best disposition for when the whales require their help.
We also want to especially thank the tour operators that helped us by not losing sight of the entangled whales meanwhile RABEN´s vessels arrived at the rescue. We thank the Secretaría Armada de México (SEMAR), Capitanía de Puerto, Civil Protection and Puerto Vallarta´s firefighters, PROFEPA delegations Jalisco and Baja California Sur, the Comisión Nacional de Áreas Naturales Protegidas (CONANP) and Opequimar Centro Marino.
If this year you want to support us please do so with a donation, since the tools we use and rescues are very expensive. Thank you!
8ª. Zona Naval
Capitanía de Puerto de la Cruz de Huanacaxtle
Protección Civil y Bomberos de Puerto Vallarta
PROFEPA Delegación Jalisco
Ecotours de México
PROFEPA Delegación Baja California Sur
Juan Alonso Montaño