Wednesday 19 September 2012

Just say no to trash!

Nico and Aurora attend International Beach Clean up day for the Namibian Dolphin Project.

'Just say no to trash!': This is the first message coming from the Ocean Week that has started last Saturday. In fact, in spite of the cold and rainy morning, more than 100 Walvis Bay residents attended the Beach Cleaning Day, which was organised by the NACOMA project as the first event of the Ocean Week. In addition, there were representatives from the Army, press, the Ministry of Fishery, conservation projects (NDP, CETN) and lots of passionate school kids from elementary to high schools attending the event. It is particularly to the school childred that the message of 'Just say to no to Trash' is directed.

Under the banner of this message, Mrs. Sue Roux (CETN – Coastal Environment Trust of Namibia) welcomed all the participants in a crowded chamber at the Municipality and presented some of the terrible effects of pollution worldwide; yellow rivers, plastic seas and marine animals wrapped in nets or intoxicated by oil were some of the striking images shown. After the introductions, groups of children and adults spent their morning together cleaning the coastline of the town: from the pump station in the south to Langstrand in the north.

Each group was provided with gloves and recycling bags to sort glass, plastic, metal and paper. Unfortunately (or fortunately?) kilos and kilos of trash were collected: nets, clothes, cans, glass and plastic bottles, thousands of metal lids, cigarette' packs, tires, buoys, newspapers, toys, car windows, bricks, wires and much more were found along Walvis Bay beaches and lagoons. The very same areas used by jackals, flamingos and herons! Besides the amount of litter removed from the shores, one the most important goals of this event was to make as many people as possible aware that Namibian beaches are unfortunately not only made of sand and that trash has an high impact on everybody's life and on our Earth. Hopefully the kids who joined the event learnt that each one of us is responsible for his own trash, and that disposing of it in the proper way does make the difference... and in doing so, it won't be necessary to wake up early on Saturdays to clean beaches anymore!

A big thanks to the NACOMA project for organising this day as part of a global initiative.

Thursday 6 September 2012

Summary of our 2012 winter season in Walvis Bay

First off - a quick nod to Yamaha South Africa - who gave us a great deal on a set of 60HP four strokes this year making them (just) affordable to the project.  These new engines have allowed us to have more and longer sea days, use about 30% less fuel and range much further from home with great confidence. A good investment all round I'd say.

From 00:00 hours on the engines on 08 March 2012 to 309:00 hours today (06 Sept 2012)! All that with not a moments trouble (except for that time we kinked a fuel pipe, but that was entirely my fault, so lets not talk about that).  That's a lot of time on the water - so a big thanks to Yamaha SA for the help.

So - I'm not even going to summarise what we did in Luderitz this year just the 2 months here in Walvis Bay (perhaps next week).  This is the project's FIFTH winter here in Walvis and we have a great time series of data on Heaviside's and bottlenose dolphins and a growing body of data on humpback whales. Turning these thousands of photos, GPS points and pithy observations into scientific papers and hopefully some popular articles will be the focus of our next few months.

July 2012 - 
Team: Simon, Tess, Ryan Reisinger, Meagan Gary, Julie Coffey, Alex Sasso, Jeremy Day and Georgios Cambanis

- 19 sea days
- 16 with Heaviside's
- 9 with bottlenose
- 9 with humpback whales (a record in my experience here)
- 109:06 hours on the water (at an average of 05:44 per day)
- 966.2 km at sea.
~8600 photos taken!
Strandings: 1 dessicated Heaviside only

August 2012:
Team: Simon, Tess, Nico Tonachella, Aurora Nastasi, Meagan Gary, Julie Coffey, Sam Warnock, Alice Affatati and Sabrina Ergun

- 18 sea days (lots of bad weather unfortunately, so some short days but some much longer ones to compensate)
- 15 with Heaviside's
- 11 with bottlenose
- 5 with humpback whales
- 83:57 hours on the water (at an average of 05:48)
- 986.8km at sea.
~8400 photos taken.
Strandings: none (strangely)

So - remarkably similar months all round!

Here is where we went in the last two months, including our trip to Sandwich Harbour:
Each dot is recorded 1 min apart and so they represent what the boat was doing at any time
Yellow - Searching
Dark blue - Humpback whales
Bright blue - Heaviside's dolphins
Red - Bottlenose dolphins

Even at this level, habitat partitioning between the species is rather obvious.

You may notice that according to the marine navigation chart and Garmin chart plotter - our boat is in fact a hover craft.  Amazing how much the coastline changes down there as the sand dunes are eroded by the ocean.

A great big thank you for Tess and myself to Ryan, Nico and Aurora for helping keep things together! and especially a huge thank you to all the Oceans Research Interns for coming all the way to Namibia to help us out!