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Conservation by the Numbers, With a Side of Champagne

By Katherina Audley

Greetings friends!

I've been back for two weeks, catching up on sleep and crunching data to get ready for upcoming conferences and meetings with colleagues. Since I'm in a numbers state of mind, let's do this update by the numbers…

1.) 63!

In 10 weeks, we collected 63 beautiful new flukes in our catalog which are beginning to wing their way around the world to be compared with fluke catalogs far and wide. Last year, we had 24 flukes, so it was a great year, for sure!

Why so many more tails this year? We don't know if there were more whales or not this year. We know that humpback whales migrate in cycles, but we don't know how the cycle works yet for the whales which visit us in Guerrero. We had three super talented and hard working interns, a trained captain driving our boat much of the time and a much stronger sense of where to look for the whales with a year under our belt, and we had two cameras on board. It will be interesting to see what we come up with next year.

2.) 26!

That's how many boat operators we spent time with in Barra de Potosi and Zihuatanejo, doing on-water training. The village was very receptive and happy to have us return this year. In addition to time spent on the water with boat operators, having our interns (and myself) live in the village with host families put us in sync with the community and created countless opportunities for conversations about marine mammals, conservation and ecotourism.

This is the banner that Joao Gouveia from Dive Zihua and I developed this season to hang at the pier in Zihuatanejo. Next year, we hope to hang one at each of the places where boats depart so that word gets out!.

3.) 175!

That's the MINIMUM number of local Mexican kids who we converted into nature nuts and whale addicts through our workshops, educational programs and outreach activities. Of course, we also made presentations and our discoveries and marine mammal information available to thousands of adults in the region at movie nights, through visual material on display along with our educational activities which took place in libraries, schools, food and craft fairs. (The marine animal themed treasure hunt (pictured below) was a hit!)

4.) 60!

That's how many ecotourists and project supporters came down to participate in our Oceanic Society expedition programs and independently. Every time we had a group visiting, we invited the local women artists to offer a mini art fair and of course we hired local guides, stayed locally and ate locally. Altogether, I would estimate that each visitor spent an average of $1,000 USD, including food and lodging, during their stay. This made a huge, positive impact financially and also nurtured a growing mindset that it pays off to preserve and protect natural resources. AND having ecotourists come down to participate in our research and educational work helped to keep us on the water and in the schools.

5.) $20,000!

That's how much we were awarded today by the SEMARNAT/DFWS Wildlife Without Borders Mexico program to support and expand our education and conservation programs in Barra de Potosi and Zihuatanejo in 2016. This program supports initiatives which are in perfect alignment with our mission. Thanks to their support, we will be able to continue cultivating an ethos of stewardship through citizen science and educational outreach in the municipalities of Petatlan and Zihuatanejo, Guerrero.

So What's Next?

  1. With champagne in hand, raise a toast to YOU for helping us to have such a successful season!
  2. Write up a big, juicy season report with a lot more nitty gritty for those of you who want more details about our research, conservation, educational efforts and findings to date.
  3. Clean up this season's data, analyze it and get it out to places where it will help to advance whale science and strengthen support for long term conservation of our region.
  4. Meet with colleagues, advisors, supporters and officials in Mexico City, La Paz, Manzanillo, Oaxaca, Puerto Vallarta, Washington, California and of course, Zihuatanejo and surrounding areas to strengthen alliances, share data and build the team and program for next year.
  5. Write more grant proposals, develop ecotour programs for 2016 and once again, do whatever it takes to help bring Whales of Guerrero Season 3 into being. (With $20,000 secured for the educational programs next year, we have $31,000 to go to pay for field study expenses, gas, repairs, plane tickets, lodging and administrative costs!)

Thanks so much for your support and ongoing interest in helping the whales, the communities of Barra de Potosi, Zihuatanejo and beyond and the ocean to thrive. Every day I am grateful for the opportunity to dedicate my time and energy to this meaningful, fulfilling work and YOU are the reason we made season 2 happen. Long may it continue!

Author

Katherina Audley is the founder and director of the Whales of Guerrero Project, an effort to study and protect humpback whales and support community development on the Pacific coast of Mexico. Fifteen years of marine mammal studies have brought her up close to whales, dolphins, and pinnipeds in Alaska,Washington, Oregon, California, Hawaii, Mexico, Bolivia, Argentina, and New Zealand. Katherina has worked in Bahía de Potosí, Mexico for the past 16 years.