Whale and Dolphin Expeditions
Whales play a special role in our fight against climate change. They store large amounts of CO2 in the body during their lifetime. When they die, they take it to the bottom of the ocean, where it remains buried. Whale droppings also have an important influence on carbondioxide in the atmosphere. Their feces feeds phytoplankton, small animals that absorb the CO2 and convert it into oxygen.
Most flagship species such whales and dolphins are highly migratory and move between their feeding and breeding grounds year-round. To safeguard the survival of these species, it is important to protect them during this migration as well. While the general threats are known (e.g., we are working to reduce the amount of marine litter across the Caribbean), specific threats and where they occur are largely unknown. There are still big gaps in knowledge about how these species move around the region and where the threats overlap with these movements, which makes it difficult to reduce these threats effectively.
We also conduct research on whales and dolphins together with scientists such as the research team of the Caribbean Cetacean Society in order to be able to protect them even better. CCS organizes the whale and dolphin expedition called Ti Whale An Nou. Ti Whale An Nou is co-funded by WWF-NL and is part of a three-year program. Over the past three years, all islands between Grenada and Anguilla, including the French, Dutch and English islands, have been monitored with a standardized protocol. As of 2023, the ABC islands are included in this regional program.
Throughout the expeditions organized by CCS, local people are trained. The participants learn how to conduct scientific research according to a standardized research protocol. This contributes to the capacity building which is needed on the islands to ensure local continuity of the efforts to protect our whales and dolphins. The participants learn how to recognize the sounds of the dolphins and whales which are recorded with an underwater microphone. They also learn how to determine which species they encounter and how to use professional cameras to take photos of the dorsal fins of dolphins and tails of whales.
In January 2024, WWF-NL started supporting the foundation Blue Defenders. This foundation will conduct it first expeditions in the waters of Bonaire to observe whales, dolphins, sharks and rays.