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MEXICAN WHALE WATCHING REGULATIONS

Whale Watching Regulations: NOM-131-SEMARNAT-2010

There are three basic rules for whale watching:

  1. Cause the minimum impact over the whales.
  2. Be patient.
  3. 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

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ECOTOURISM AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

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.

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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.

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OUTREACH AND ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION

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Conservation

RABEN

conservacion

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

RABEN

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).

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Research

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

Our partners:

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.

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Banderas Bay

Dear friends of ECOBAC:

Some of you will remember that in the season 2011-2012 our beloved humpback whales surprised us by feeding in Banderas Bay.

Humpback whales feeding in Banderas Bay, winter season 2011-2012.

 

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 prey resources 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.

With the Mexican humpback whale population now classified as “Threatened” and the Central American population as “Endangered” (NOAA, 2016), it is essential that this phenomenon of regional feeding be investigated, to aid in the successful population management and to better understand global consequences of 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.

http://lajamjournal.org/index.php/lajam/article/view/691

We thank the co-authors Nicky Ransome, Oscar Aranda and Fernando Romo.

 

Feces of a whale about to dive, February 8, 2012.

 

Thank you, until next time!

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Rescuing Whales, Dec 2019

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.

Televisa interview with RABEN

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!

DONATE HERE

Participants of the 3 RABEN Rescues

Banderas Bay:
8ª. Zona Naval
Capitanía de Puerto de la Cruz de Huanacaxtle
CONANP
Protección Civil y Bomberos de Puerto Vallarta
PROFEPA Delegación Jalisco
ECOBAC
Ecotours de México
Explora Vallarta
Vallarta Adventures
Dolphin Adventure

Los Cabos:
PROFEPA Delegación Baja California Sur
Juan Alonso Montaño
Cabo Trek
CONANP

San Blas:
CONANP
6ª. Zona Naval de San Blas

Visit RABEN

¡Thank you for helping us rescue WHALES!

ECOBAC wishes you a very Happy New Year!

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Whales feeding off Banderas Bay

Dear friends of ECOBAC:

Some of you will remember that in the season 2011-2012 our beloved humpback whales surprised us by feeding in Banderas Bay.

Humpback whales feeding in Banderas Bay, winter season 2011-2012.

 

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 prey resources 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.

With the Mexican humpback whale population now classified as “Threatened” and the Central American population as “Endangered” (NOAA, 2016), it is essential that this phenomenon of regional feeding be investigated, to aid in the successful population management and to better understand global consequences of 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.

http://lajamjournal.org/index.php/lajam/article/view/691

We thank the co-authors Nicky Ransome, Oscar Aranda and Fernando Romo.

 

Feces of a whale about to dive, February 8, 2012.

 

Thank you, until next time!

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Season 2019 is over and we want to share the good news!

This season 2019, was very productive, with many whales, many vigilance trips and environmental education … This is our end of season bulletin 2018-2019! We want to thank everyone for your support and for making possible to help our whales of Bahia de Banderas! 

PROTECTING WHALES IN BANDERAS BAY
For the 8th consecutive year and thanks to the support of Opequimar Marine Center, we could give continuity to “The Program of Prevention, Information, Vigilance, and Monitoring of Humpback Whales in Banderas Bay.” We managed to make 10 successful vigilance trips , thanks to the financing of the BIOMAR Foundation and the donation of Thalía Martinez, during the vigilance trips, we promoted good practices to avoid accidents and harassment of whales and provided information regarding the NOM-131-SEMARNAT-2010 that establishes The guidelines for whale watching The trips were made in collaboration with the 8A Naval Zone and PROFEPA, Jalisco and Nayarit.

As in previous seasons, the highest percentage of whale sightings were those without any vessels around, which means that the vessels seek agglomerations of boats rather than whales, to find the whales easier. However, more effort should be made to search for whales to reduce the pressure of many vessels observing only one group of whales.

The most observed group were the mothers with calves and since they are the most vulnerable group, we invite the people to let them rest and to look for other groups of whales. Also courtship groups are very attractive for boaters because of the high level of surface activity of the whales, but it is very important not to interfere in their reproduction activities.

With the support of the CCTM of API, several radio announcements to remind vessels of slowing down to avoid any possible collisions. We also made advertising on social networks.

Sadly, many boats were observed performing abrupt maneuvers and sailing at high speeds near whales. It is important to take precautions to avoid collisions with the whales and any possible accidents! 

On december 28th we received the report of a calf that got ran over. Although the wounds seemed shallow, weeks later the calve was very parasitized, so we do not know if it will survive.

Jet skies continue to perform whale watching activities, which are illegal because of the type of noise generated by this activity since they disturb the whales, and also endanger their own lives and that of their companions.

Although there was a considerable increase in vessels sailing in the Bay, both from the private fleet and those authorized for whale watching, the overall behavior of the fleet has remained constant throughout the 8 years of the program, which is a cue of the success of this program, together with other environmental education programs carried out by ECOBAC and other institutions. This is why it is very important to continue monitoring and monitoring the fleet that sails in Banderas Bay to reduce the number of vessels that violate the whale watching regulations.

Other activities focused on environmental education about whale watching regulations involved in the distribution of flyers “Watch Out! Whales in the Ocean” at the gas station of Opequimar Marine Center.Other activities focused on environmental education about whale watching regulations involved in the distribution of flyers “Watch Out! Whales in the Ocean “at the gas station of Opequimar Marine Center.

Exhibition of the posters “Watch Out! Whales in the Ocean” at the Opequimar Marine Center, Puerto Vallarta and the Marine of “La Cruz de Huanaxactle”.

RESCUING WHALES
This season, thanks to the support of the whale watching fleet, 8 reports of whales were received in the Bay of Flags, of which one was false and two did not merit action, because they did not affect the life of the whale. The Network of Assistance to Entangled Whales (RABEN) at the national level successfully released 7 humpback whales in Loreto, Manzanillo, Los Cabos, Bahia de los Angeles and La Paz. Congratulations to all RABEN teams. One more season of an active one, safely and with success!

Successful rescue of a humpback whale by RABEN Bahía de los Angeles team. February 23, 2019

OTHER ACTIVITIES
Screening of the documentary “Sonic Sea” , in the Navy of the Cross of Huanacaxtle, February 18, 2019.

On April 3, 2019 we gave a talk about Humpback Whales in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle. As part of the event children from the Marine made sushi and the sales went to support the ECOBAC projects.

We are very grateful to Katherina Liana and Michael Danielson
https://www.pvsailing.com/


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LEFTY, A REAL HERO
The FIBB (Fotoidentification of Humpback whales in Banderas Bay) Catalog is ECOBAC first project and 23 years later, it has over 2,000 different whales identified. We share this valuable information with national and international catalogs because we are aware that it´s very important to learn more about our beloved whales in order to be able to protect them. A few years ago we started collaborating with HAPPYWHALE.org and we are proud to say that we are one of the collaborators that have contributed with more whale photos. Thanks to this collaboration we have been able to discover stories like the one of LEFTY.

This is our hero LEFTY, his FIBB code is 5BB567 and he was seen in Banderas Bay in a mating or competitive group in December 2010.

LEFTY earned his nickname since he is missing his left pectoral fin, most likely he lost it due to an entanglement. He was sighted for the first time in 2008 in California, his feeding grounds. Actually, he was seen feeding last week! The reason we say that he´s a hero is that he interfered in an Orca attack to Gray whale, Mom and calf group.LEFTY earned his nickname since he is missing his left pectoral fin, most likely he lost it due to an entanglement. He was sighted for the first time in 2008 in California, his feeding grounds. Actually, he was seen feeding last week! The reason we say that he´s a hero is that he interfered in an Orca attack to Gray whale, Mom and calf group.

Check out this BBC video, you can see a group of Orcas, known as Bigg´s or Transient, attacked a Gray whale mom with its calf and LEFTY along with another humpback try to save the calf.

COMING SOON, DON´T MISS IT!
As many already know, the International Festival of Altruism in Puerto Vallarta is close. Only two weeks and we still have tickets…if you would like to support us…Come! you will have fun, eat delicious food and win prizes! Plus, you will help many organizations. ECOBAC will use the fundings raised to purchase new tools for rescuing the whales. Help the whales and come and have fun on May 5th in the Marriot Hotel!

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Thanks to the volunteers we are able to perform many of our projects, we especially want to thank Frank Mc Cann, Iyari Espinoza, Jorge Morales, Fabiola Flores, Monserrat Servin, Erik Servin, Artemio Martinez, Katie Lavery.
We greatly appreciate the invaluable support of the 8th. Naval Zone, PROFEPA, Jalisco and Nayarit Branches, and Opequimar Marine Center.
We thank the Maritime Traffic Control Center of API for the support issuing warnings to protect the whales and take precautions when sailing.
We thank Biomar Foundation for financing the fuel used for the rescue trips and RABEN rescues.
We thank all members of the RABEN teams for their work in rescuing entangled whales.
Finally, we thank all the donors for their valuable support.

¡Gracias!

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XV International Festival of Altruism- Ecobac

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Te invita al XV Festival Internacional del Altruismo

Marriott Puerto Vallarta

6pm-9pm

5th of May, 2019

Join us in the most important altruism event in Puerto Vallarta. With your participation, we will be able to HELP 20 organizations including ECOBAC.

The Goal is to sell at least 50 tickets!
With your donation, we want to renew the CUTTING TOOLS for the whale rescues of the Mexican Whale Dissentanglement Network (RABEN)
We count on your participation!
Spread the word …..

#15 Edition!
20 benefited organizations
43 restaurants 4 hours of entertainment

+1,500 assistants

Come here and have fun with your family, helping!

 

Tickets $400 pesos
In the purchase of >10 Tickets,
tax-deductible invoice

Acquire your tickets in:
ECOTOURS DE MEXICO
Whats 322 131 8474
Proa S/N Loc. 20 Condominio Marina del Rey, Marina Vallarta

We can also bring them close to your home. For more information contact us
2937851 o whats Diana  55 36 59 98 64

Thank you!

 

 

 

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