Marine mammal census underway

POSTED: 01/9/13 11:07 PM

GREAT BAY – The St. Maarten Nature Foundation is once again conducting its marine mammal monitoring project which will last from January until May. Together with Dolphin Defenders the foundation will conduct a wide scale census of all marine mammals found in the island’s territorial waters, including the Man of War Shoal Marine Park.

“Many might not be aware that we have a relatively significant marine mammal population in the surrounding waters, including numerous species of whales and dolphins. St. Maarten lies within the area of the Western Atlantic where various whale species come to give birth to their young. From February to May several hundreds of humpback whales migrate from the northern Atlantic to areas within the Caribbean to give birth and nurse their young before heading back up north,” the Nature Foundation said in a statement.

Numerous other species of whale and dolphin, including sperm whales and several types of dolphins, make their home in local waters. The study looks at most numerous species, migration routes and dates, and the feasibility of regulated wild whale and dolphin watching trips. The Nature Foundation partners with Dolphin Defenders to bring greater awareness to the public about issues facing the wild marine mammal population.

The most abundant species recorded in 2012 was the humpback whale, with 41 individuals, including calves. The second most abundant species was the bottle nose dolphin, with 21 individuals, ahead of the long snouted spinner dolphin with 15 individuals. During research conducted in conjunction with the French Marine Reserve and the Agoa Marine Mammal Sanctuary, the Nature Foundation also observed numerous sperm whales including mothers with young. Using acoustic research and visual observations researchers are now trying to determine if there is a sperm whale travelling route in the deep waters between St. Maarten and Saba.

The Man of War Shoal Marine Park had a considerable number of recordings of both whale and dolphin species which adds considerably to the park’s biological value. Acoustic recordings of singing male humpback whales were also taken at various points. Local whale songs and video footage and photos of marine mammals are accessible on the YouTube clip Nature Foundation Marine Mammal Research 2012.

People who are interested in participating in the census can send an email to and ask for a sighting form. They are also available at various charter boat and dive operators.


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