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  • Fadia Al Abbar

The show must go on!

Updated: Jul 29, 2023

Although you have not heard from us in a while, we have been working hard! From data preparation, to (yes still) writing grants, data analysis, conferences, we have been busy with a lot of new things! Read on to see what we're up to.


First of all, our website has been updated and can now be found under the official domain . We are super happy!

Return to the Azores

We returned to the Azores in May in order to be part of all the events going on in São

Miguel. We started off with giving Terra Azul, our whale watching collaborator, an update on the data analysis going on. I showed some videos about how our set up works, and explained how crucial it is that we are collaborating with whale watching companies. We are in this together!

MARCET II, Ponta Delgada, Azores

Next, Dr. Laura Gonzales spoke at the MARCET II conference on behalf of the Azores delphis

project. The presentations consisted of cetacean (whale and dolphin) research projects going on in the Macaronesia region. Missed it? The talks have been recorded:

In April Spain hosted the European Cetacean Society Conference (ECS). This is a conference where marine mammal scientists, NGOs, whale watching companies, and Industry all come together and cover scientific, communication, conservation, and policy topics. The theme this year was "OUR OCEANS, OUR FUTURE. Marine Mammal Behavioural Ecology & The Sustainable Use of Marine Resources." The whole field-team (except for our skipper :() attended the European Cetacean Conference in Spain!

I attended two workshops: "Thinking outside the box: management challenges for the conservation of small coastal cetacean populations". Several questions were discussed with experts and other marine mammal scientists. What are the pros and cons of certain management strategies? Such as MPA's (Marine Protected Areas) or SACs (Special Areas of Conservation)? It was an insightful day and we have a lot of work to do in terms of translating and communicating science into policy in order to achieve effective management. It's a complicated topic in a political world!

Second: "Utilizing the ECS hivemind to expand knowledge of small cetacean ecosystem functioning". Conclusion? There are still a lot of gaps in knowledge, but the ideal environment/ecosystem to fill these gaps will still be a challenge, since we need a lot of information about cetaceans (population parameters, birth/death rate, ecological niches, food availability), yet areas where we have a lot of information are also highly populated (by humans) which create more variables to deal with, making it more difficult to make conclusions about the actual function of marine mammals in a natural ecosystem. The conversation continues!

Lastly, Lorenzo and Laura attended the workshop "Setting up an international network to reinforce the collaboration with Marine Mammal Tourism companies and enhance their sustainability" where Laura presented her work. It was great to see the comparison between different countries such as Italy, France, Spain and Portugal, in terms of whale watching regulations and licensing. Conclusion? A whole conference could and should be organized to harmonize the regulations of this booming industry.

Ps. we have also printed new t-shirts and hoodies! Do you like them? Feel free to contact us if you are interested in an item, we will soon be printing a batch!

Following the ECS , Laura has co-organized and hosted the talks at a conference on São Miguel, Azores, to bring everybody together, from whale watching companies, to policy makers, the government, and scientists, locally. Here is a word from the organizers:

"More than 30 years of whale watching in the Azores. Azorean whale watching companies have always shown a commitment to education, science and society. Today, the growth of the sector raises issues of interest at an international level, such as the enormous existing potential for collecting information on cetaceans, but also the potential impacts on the marine environment associated with the activity. The "Beyond Whale Watching" event was born with the aim of making known the work being carried out by scientists, whale watching companies and university students, to learn first-hand about the existing challenges, identify synergies and enhance collaborations between participating entities and persons. Through this dialogue, it is intended to structure a new network of communication and collaboration at regional level."

- The Beyond Whale Watching organizers -

Dr. Lorenzo Fiori presented: "Forty years watching whales: Lesson from the Past and Future directions." He made a grand entrance, highlighting some unsettling facts about whale watching activities.

I spoke about Azores delphis project titled: "A field experimental set-up: reproducing the swimming-with-dolphin activities in São Miguel, Azores, Portugal." I started off with speaking about local legislation and the previous research that has already been done on São Miguel in 2018. Yet the local legislation were updated last in 2008, despite new scientific knowledge. Is that okay? To understand this I dove into how our field-set up works, and how it can help to change local and international regulations of swimming with dolphins.

Missed the conference! Fear not, all the talks have been recorded and you can watch it here!

New Grant!

Last but not least, we received a woman in science grant "Catharine van Tussenbroek" to do a couple of fieldwork trips this summer of 2023! So although we have most of our data collected, we realized that we were short on some set-ups. So we've received the grant we applied for! We will be going out to the sea in July, and August if we did not finish in July. We will mostly be busy with analysing data, but we will be sure to update you on the few trips that we have out there ;)


The 2023 field-season is funded by Catharine van Tussenbroek, Research equipment and supervision is from Wageningen University, and researcher funded by: INREF: Beyond Anthropocene Pressures.

Author: Fadia Al Abbar


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