LSIESP 2014 Annual Research & Field Report

Key Findings in 2014 include:

  • Record numbers of gray whale mother-calf pairs enter the lagoon
  • Dis-entanglement workshop pays off and saves a gray whale calf
  • Photo-ID matches confirm movements between all three Baja lagoons and Russia
  • Collaboration with ESSA researchers yields new data from Laguna Ojo de Liebre
  • The acoustics team reports on noise trends in the lagoon from 2006-2013
  • LSIESP researchers present papers at SOMEMMA and IWC-SC meetings
  • “Lagoon Time” gray whale and lagoon guide is published as a fundraiser
  • New Inventory of Marine Plants in Laguna San Ignacio

The winter of 2014 marks the 9th season of ecosystem monitoring and research for the Laguna San Ignacio Ecosystem Science Program (LSIESP). Thanks to continuing support from our sponsors, the LSIESP continues  to report on the biological status of the lagoon and its wildlife, especially the gray whales, to the local community, eco-tourism operators, government officials, and outdoor wildlife enthusiasts and visitors to the lagoon.  The program continues to provide a hands-on training experience for university students studying wildlife science and management, and opportunities to complete their individual research on various aspects of the lagoon and its wildlife.

Ongoing abundance and distribution surveys, and photographic identification research (Photo-ID) continues to document the numbers, movements and exchange of gray whales within Laguna San Ignacio each winter, and between the three gray whale major winter aggregation and breeding areas of Lagua Ojo de Liebre (OLO), Laguna San Ignacio (LSI), and Bahia Magdalena (BM).

In collaboration with international scientists under the sponsorship of the International Whaling Commission’s Scientific Committee (IWC-SC), LSIESP researchers have identified endangered “Western Gray Whales” that visited the aggregation areas and lagoon of Baja California during the winter, including mature females that may interbreed with the “Eastern Gray Whale” population. LSIESP have begun a collaboration with researchers from Exportadora de Sal’s (ESSA) Department of Ecology, and staff from the Vizcaíno Biosphere Reserve (SEMARNAT) to obtain Photo-ID and biopsy data on gray whales in LOL for comparison with other areas in Baja California and throughout the gray whales’ range. This collaboration encourages a closer relationship between our research team and those also working in Baja California, and increases the overall contribution of information on gray whales to the IWC-SC’s North Pacific basin-wide research effort on gray whales.

The 2014 winter included visits to the local schools in the Ejido Luis Echeverria Alvarez for presentations about Laguna San Ignacio’s marine life, the importance of conserving the lagoon habitat, and the natural history of gray whales.  LSIESP researchers hosted high school and university groups from La Paz, Punta Abreojos, and San Ignacio. Following the winter at the lagoon, LSIESP researchers actively participated in the Mexican Society for Marine Mammalogy (SOMEMMA), and the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission.

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