Subject: MMS newsletter - Cetacean Survey in Southern Morocco (fwd)

Michael Williamson (pita@whale.simmons.edu)
Wed, 19 Feb 1997 12:19:33 -0500 (EST)

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J. Michael Williamson
   Principal Investigator-WhaleNet <http://whale.wheelock.edu>
   Associate Professor-Science
   Wheelock College, 200 The Riverway, Boston, MA 02215
voice: 617.734.5200, ext. 256
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---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Wed, 19 Feb 1997 04:20:55 -0800
From: MARMAM Editors <marmamed@UVic.CA>
Reply-To: Marine Mammals Research and Conservation Discussion
     <MARMAM@UVVM.BITNET>
To: Multiple recipients of list MARMAM <MARMAM@UVVM.BITNET>
Subject: MMS newsletter - Cetacean Survey in Southern Morocco

Taken from Marine Mammal Society Newsletter
Spring 1997, Vol. 5, No. 1
World Wide Web Page: http://pegasus.cc.ucf.edu/~smm/
News, Issues, Opportunities, and Topics of Interest
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Cetacean Survey in Southern Morocco

Between 20 January and 14 February 1996 a field expedition to the
coastal waters of Southern Morocco, a former wintering ground for
right whales (Eubalaena glacialis), was organized by the Tethys
Research Institute (Milan, Italy) in cooperation with the Rabat-based
Groupe d'Etudes des C=E9tac=E9s et Pinnip=E8des du Maroc, and funded by t=
he
Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society. The cruise, conducted aboard
the Tethys' 20 m auxiliary ketch "Gemini Lab", had the following main
objectives: 1) verify if right whales could still be found in the
area, 2) evaluate the environmental conditions of the region and
assess its suitability as a right whale habitat, 3) investigate the
status of other cetaceans living in the area, and 4) establish a
long-term cetacean sighting and stranding reporting mechanism in
cooperation with the local authorities. A 750 km-long survey yielded
no cetacean sightings except inside Dakhla Bay, where communities of
bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) and Atlantic humpbacked
dolphins (Sousa teuszii) were found to coexist. During the survey in
open ocean waters between Dakhla and Cintra Bay, as well as during
the off-effort navigation during the night, the research vessel was
surrounded by an astonishingly high number of large fishing ships:
vessels could be seen in every direction for the entire period, and
the radar confirmed the presence of other ships well beyond visual
range. It was very surprising that no cetaceans were sighted in the
waters outside Dakhla Bay, in spite of the excellent weather
conditions encountered during part of the survey. By contrast, large
numbers of sea birds were seen, which attested, together with the
huge quantity of fishing vessels encountered, the remarkable
secondary productivity of these waters. Within Dakhla Bay bottlenose
dolphins and Atlantic humpbacked dolphins were seen ten times, with
bottlenose dolphins ranked highest in relative abundance. Twenty-one
individual bottlenose dolphins were identified from photographs, six
of which were seen on at least two different occasions, suggesting
the Dakhla Bay community is rather small. Four cetacean carcasses
were found and inspected during this expedition: two bottlenose
dolphins, one humpbacked dolphin, and a newborn Bryde's whale
(Balaenoptera edeni). Two of the dolphins bore clear signs of lines
and nets on their bodies, suggesting that mortality might have been
caused by interactions with fishing activities. Local knowledge of a
regular, predictable presence of large whales in the coastal zone was
lacking. On such grounds the hypothesis that the area still serves as
a winter concentration site for the remnants of an eastern North
Atlantic right whale population, although not falsified by this
study, seems rather unlikely. The dearth of cetaceans in the shelf
waters of Southern Morocco, as well as the possible over-exploitation
of the fishing resources in the region, should raise concern, and
warrants further investigation. Finally. with the objective of
increasing baseline information on the local cetacean fauna, and
particularly concerning the possibility that right whales may be
sighted in the future, a procedure was established for the long-term
reporting of cetacean sightings and strandings by the Royal Navy of
Morocco to the Groupe d'Etudes des C=E9tac=E9s et Pinnip=E8des du Maroc.

Submitted by Giuseppe Notarbartolo di Sciara,
gnstri@imiucca.csi.unimi.it

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