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March wildlife sightings from Nick Davies and other news from Hebridean Whale Cruises.

Cetaceans around the world

28 March 2009

Hello again to our regular and new readers.

I've been doing a bit of cetacean watching myself over the winter! Starting in South Africa targeting the Heaviside's Dolphin which I managed to find in Lamberts Bay on the west coast. Then on to Australia to hunt for the newly classified Snubfin Dolphin which was a bit trickier to locate as there aren't any boat trips for these animals, but I saw a small pod from the shore just south of Broome on the northern coast of Western Australia.

Then the most difficult ones on this trip – the Hector's and Maui's Dolphins native to New Zealand. My luck was in on a trip from the Banks Peninsular on South Island as we encountered a pod of four Hector's even though the sea state was atrocious!

Now, the Maui's Dolphin is only found on the west coast of North Island and to make things worse there are only about 100 animals left. The Maui's is the rarest marine dolphin in the world. This is mostly due to set net fishing as these are coastal dolphins and commonly get caught in these indiscriminate gill nets along with other non target species. These accidental catches are known as "bycatch".

After two days searching their hot spot around Raglan south of Auckland I was unsuccessful. If I'd only been there two days earlier they were in Manu Bay where I was staying. A surf instructor I was talking to actually swam with a pod of eight animals while waiting for a wave including a tiny calf! This was the first time she'd seen them in a year! I was so jealous.

Bycatch is a huge problem worldwide and not just for cetaceans it also kills seals, dugons, marine turtles, sea snakes, otters and many members of the shark family and should be banned.

While I was away I learned of Iceland's decision to murder 150 Fin Whales and 100 Minkes annually for the next four years! What is wrong with these people? Add to that Norway's self-allocated annual slaughter of 1052 Minke Whales and the Faroe Island's traditional drive hunt/mutilation of untold numbers of Pilot Whales and Risso's Dolphins – are there going to be any cetaceans left in the North Atlantic?

For more info and to have your say please sign up to the petitions that the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society have organised at www.wdcs.org.

In the Southern Ocean around Antarctica there is a conservation group called the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. They take matters into their own hands, trying to put themselves in between the harpoons and the whales, and I think this is the only answer as diplomacy just will not work as the massacres are not only continuing but increasing!

We need a 'sea shepherd' in the North Atlantic, if there's anyone out there with loads of money to set it up. For more info go to www.seashepherd.org.

Back to our business – we are up and running again and looking forward to some more fantastic marine wildlife encounters. Our new building at the end of the pier should be operational some time after Easter.

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