Saturday, October 11, 2008

Fiji: Survey done on dolphins and whales

The Fiji Department of Fisheries and the South Pacific Whale Research Consortium research team has completed a three week survey for whales and dolphins in the waters off Levuka.

This survey, following on from similar surveys undertaken in 2002 and 2003, confirmed an increase in the number of humpback whales sighted since the last survey five years ago. Mr Aisake Batibasaga, Principal Fisheries Research Officer with the Fiji Department of Fisheries said: "it is encouraging to see the results of the survey have shown an increase in whale numbers since the Fijian Government declared the waters of Fiji a whale sanctuary in 2003."

The research team lead by Mr David Paton from Blue Planet Marine, undertook a survey of whales and dolphins in the Lomaiviti waters to compare current numbers with that sighted during a survey conducted 50 years ago by Dr Bill Dawbin. The team also recorded a number of pods of pilot and false killer whales as well as spinner and bottlenose dolphins during the survey.

The research team collected data including identification photographs of the tails of the humpback whales seen as well as skin samples for genetic analysis and humpback song. This data will aid in gaining a better understanding of the population structure and movements of these whales.

Fisheries Research Officer, Ms Saras Sharma, who was also part of the team, said: "working with whale researchers from Australia has allowed us to learn the techniques used to identify and undertake research on whales and dolphins."

Fiji Fisheries Department has set up a database to record and document sightings of whales and dolphins in the Fiji waters. The Fiji Government is working towards drafting a Management Plan to conserve these species which are not only important culturally, but also have the potential for tourism opportunities within Fiji.

Quick "Facts about Dolphins"