Hello my name is Mrs. James. Please join me as I travel to Greece to study the dolphins of the Amvrakikos Gulf!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Turtle watch

Yesterday we were not lucky enough to spot any dolphines, the conservation problems here are real. Joan talked about how the dolphines were so numerous in the past, this is why Earthwatch are becoming so involved in monitoring wildlife here. As part of our surveying we were taken to the fish farms and Joan explained about them. On the way back to base Joan took us to a beach where we could swim while they went back to put the boat on a trailer. The beach was very rocky, but the water was lovely, very clear, the were lots of fish swimming around with us - there were also lots of sea urchins - fortunately I had my swimming shoes on - so did not stand on any!

In the afternoon we were shown 'The End of The Line" film by Rupert Murray, the problem is that too many big boats are chasing too many little fish world wide, the bottom trawlers draggin along the bottom of the sea is comparable to having a field ploughed 7 times a year, you need only to ask yourself what could grow in this sort of scenario? For example the fishing industries in Newfoundland where they fished for cod was desimated due to overfishing then in 1992 cod fishing was banned and 40,000 fishermen lost their jobs and their livelihood. The biggest trawler net is big enough to hold 13 x 757 planes!

Each afternoon and evening we are given tutorials either about the dolphins or other conservation issues. When we spotted the striped dolphines Joan took 300 photos - 150 of these he kept and we have to 'crop' each of these photos in order to reduce their size, this makes it easier to match the dorsal fins of the dolphin. They have a database of all recorded dolphins, some of which they have seen many times, Joan and his team have given the dolphines names.

Cetaceans are divided into two groups:
Odontocetes (pronounced odontoseats) from ancient Greece (oden = teeth and cetes = monster) - so these have teeth - they are the orcas, purposes and dolphins

Mysticetes - do not have teeth - they have baleen's - eg fin in their mouth, they take in a mouthfull of smallfish and push the water out through their baleens but keeping hold of the fish, these are the large whales except sperm whale.

Here is a picture of a whales 'baleens'
from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baleen_whale

Today we get up later at 7am to go out on the boat to the Amvrakikos area. The sea is very rough my area to view when we are in position will be 3 o'clock to 6 o'clock - today it is very hot, I am very grateful for the long sleeved shirts my friend Hilary has lent me! I have bought a Tilley hat (pink) with a lacer to go under your chin so you don't lose it when the boat goes fast. It is a bit like riding a horse, when the waves hit the boat you go quiet high. You have to keep both your feet flat on the floor and hold on very tight with both hands to the correct ropes. The wind and the view is absolutely wonderful, Joan is constantly pointing things out to us and telling us all about the area.

We follow a set of co-ordinates but unfortunately we do not spot any dolphins. We do spot a loggerhead turtle. We move onto an area where there are mussle farms, these have been banned due to the high level of toxins in the mussles and although no longer in use the lines and drum markers are still all in place. Joan tells us that this is a good place to find turtles so, in our 'spotting position' we go up and down the lanes looking for turtles. We spotted three, they are lovely - so graceful - below is a photo of a turtle near one of the marker drums, this was taken by Joan for Tethys Inst.

Have to go back to base now as it is nearly 4pm and we have a lecture on fish farming - be back in touch soon!

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