By: Katherina Audley, Founder
The Whales of Guerrero research/education project was started in 2013. The objective of this project is to identify and chart the population of humpback whales that visit the coast of Guerrero each winter. Although their presence here has long been known, no scientific study has ever taken place.
So far, we have found that the humpback whales of Guerrero spend the summer and fall along the west coast of the United States, but a few of our whales have been spotted as far north as Washington state during the summer and as far south as Nicaragua during the winter.
This winter, for the second year, teams of expert whale scientists will take to the water every day to spot and photograph whales and dolphins. Their work will include a population count, fluke identification, counting cow/calf pairs, noting behavior and movement and recording songs and vocalizations.
Fluke identification? Every humpback whale in the world has a fluke, or tail, with a shape and pattern as distinct as a human fingerprint. We are going to photograph individual fluke prints, catalog them and share them with scientists along the entire west coast of North America from British Columbia to Oaxaca (the state south of Guerrero) who are studying the same whales, so that we can get a better sense of where whales travel and how often they move between different grounds.
Every humpback whale in the world has a fluke, or tail, with a shape and pattern as distinct as a human fingerprint. The project includes cataloging the whales for counting and tracking purposes.
The team of scientists and educators will also be training local boatmen in the strict non-invasive protocols for approaching these whales in order to build friendlier and more trusting relationships. Additionally, local commercial and sport fishermen have formed a network to assist the scientists in whale-spotting. Along with obtaining scientific knowledge, concurrent goals of the project are to certify boat operators to run informed, responsible marine wildlife tours and to run educational workshops in local communities. Everyone interested in supporting the project can make a tax-deductible contribution at http://www.whalesinmexico.com/donate.htm.
The project has attracted the attention and support of the Oceanic Society that is sponsoring a series of natural history tours to the area where participants can join the scientists on the water and learn hydro-acoustic recording and whale fluke identification techniques, as well as tour the eight biomes that comprise the Playa Blanca area with trained naturalists. There even will be a night tour of a crocodile lagoon.
Go to our website for detailed information on the Whales of Guerrero Research Project and links to the Oceanic Society natural history tours: www.whalesinmexico.com. You can also find us on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/whalesinmexico.
For more information about Ixtapa Zihuatanejo and surrounding areas, see: