Song of the Whale journal: cetacean sightings in the Aegean, "Night of the Whale" part II

Watch "Night of the Whale - part II" above, documenting research conducted in 2012 near Stellwagen Bank off the coast of Massachusetts. In this episode we learn why the Song of the Whale was built, and attempt to track a tagged humpback whale into the night. Part I of "Night of the Whale" can be seen here.

Clare Gibson's post begins below. - ED

Having joined the International Fund for Animal Welfare Song of the Whale (SOTW) team as office assistant in early 2013, I knew plenty about the vital research that takes place on SOTW, but I never thought I would have the chance to participate myself.

Back in early July though, the team found themselves a member down for the start of the Aegean harbour porpoise survey and I jumped at the chance to join the boat. Along with cetacean researchers from both Greece and Turkey I joined the existing group of six, and the 10 of us set sail from Athens on the morning of the 5th July.

SEE ALSO: With a true passion for conservation, HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco visits Song of the Whale

For the next two weeks we surveyed the North Aegean waters off the coasts of Greece and Turkey looking for harbour porpoises. These waters have produced only two live sightings in the last 15 years. We have been hoping to use both visual and acoustic observations to obtain a population estimate.

A bottlenose dolphin missing its dorsal fin.The Greek philosopher and naturalist Aristotle gave the species the name Phocena, describing its morphology in detail, separating them from dolphins. Interestingly however, even though he was based in the northern Aegean Sea, he made no reference to sightings in this region and mentioned the Black Sea only, where to date there is still an established, although Endangered, sub population.

During the first section of the survey the team was pleased to be able to confirm the presence of harbour porpoises, with a number of sightings in the Turkish waters of the northern Aegean. Post survey analysis will reveal if we also had any acoustic detections.

With our harbour porpoise sightings we have also had some great dolphin sightings, including a mixed group of bottlenose and common dolphins. While it is not unusual to see mixed groups, the smaller dolphin species tend to stay away from their more robust cousins, the bottlenose.

Within this group we were privileged to see a new bottlenose calf still with visible foetal folds, there were also some adults with visible scarring and one that was missing its entire dorsal fin.

We had a night-time visit from some common dolphins, and it was amazing to see them bow-riding in the moonlight and the bioluminescence they caused.

We are now heading into port in Kavala for a crew change, but when the boat heads out again, the team will continue looking for the harbour porpoise, before they turn their attention to the endangered eastern Mediterranean sperm whale population.

--CG

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