At Eco Migrations, we are passionate about our environment. This passion goes beyond just enjoying Nature in this amazing peninsula, to wanting to study and understand it. As such, we have been working for many years to establish two long-term research projects to contribute to the understanding, monitoring and conservation to some of our most charismatic yet enigmatic creatures. During the winter months we have a photo-identification project of Gray Whales in Bahía Almejas and during Fall, Spring and Summer we work on photographing Bottlenose Dolphins in the Bay of La Paz.
These are works in process, and getting any research project off the ground is challenging, especially when also running a full-time business. But slow and steady wins the race, and each year we have more data and a better structure to eventually reach these goals.
We use photo identification and GPS data to understand how individual whales and the population as a whole use the area within and across seasons. Studying and understanding how gray whales use this habitat allows us to inform best management strategies for the continued development and self-regulation of a sustainable eco-tourism model.
Bahía Almejas is the southernmost of the system of bays used by gray whales as winter breeding, birthing and nursing waters. They migrate many thousands of miles along the west coast of Canada and the United States to come here, a spot of abundant life and protected warm(er) waters. They will remain here from early January to mid March.
Whilst whale watching in more northern bays of Baja has been a thriving industry for several decades, Bahía Almejas only recently started running whale watching trips a few years ago. And it continues to attract more guests each season. While tourism has significant socio-economic benefits to local communities, it can also come at high costs, negatively impacting resources and causing disturbances to wildlife. Therefore a long-term study can provide an indication of what, if any, impacts are coming about.
Bottlenose dolphins are regular sights in the Bay of La Paz, and we have both resident and transient pods using these waters. Our aim is to establish a long-term photo ID study to update and continue to describe the abundance and distribution of the dolphins in the area, how this relates to environmental factors, and ultimately to understand and monitor the health of the population and the local marine environment. As a community built on eco tourism, conserving and enhancing our environment is very important, and dolphins are a great indicator of the overall health of a marine environment.
The waters of the Bay of La Paz, and the entire Gulf of California/Sea of Cortez are home to an amazing array of marine megafauna, including many species of marine mammals. The geology of the region results in tidal mixing and upwelling, making it a highly productive area and a hub for many migratory and non-migratory species.
Dolphins can be individually identified using photo identification of their dorsal fins, which have unique markings and nicks. Through a long-term photo ID study we aim to look at the population biology and behavioral ecology of the bottlenose dolphins, to understand the groupings of the animals and determine any relationships between the species and environmental variables. As the project develops, we will be able to measure reproductive success, establish any intra- and inter-species relationships that may exist, and understand further any threats they face. In a constantly changing and rapidly growing world, minimizing anthropogenic threats where possible will reduce the pressures faced by this species. Species’ status assessments require periodic updates of population abundance and recovery, data from which can be utilized from conservation status updates to local resource management and planning to minimize impacts.
The resident population of bottlenose dolphins use the bay of La Paz to rear and feed their young. Understanding the environmental factors that create this important breeding and feeding habitat will enable us to work to further protect these components and characteristics. We also aim to identify the individuals of the pods of transient bottlenose dolphins frequenting the waters surrounding Isla Espiritu Santo, to understand how and when they move around the island, threats they face, and whether they interact with other pods or other species of marine megafauna, in particular other dolphin species.