Louis Bacon’s Islas Secas Foundation supports Panacetacea Whale Monitoring Program

Posted May 6, 2016

04.28.2016 – Today Panacetacea thanks The Islas Secas Foundation, the Panama affiliate of Louis Bacon’s Moore Charitable Foundation, for supporting another successful year of their long-term humpback whale monitoring project in the Gulf of Chiriqui, Panama. This year Panacetacea had the third highest sighting rate since the project began in 2002, identifying 110 individual whales and continuing to see many small calves born in these waters.

Panacetacea is a nonprofit organization comprised of biologists with a variety of scientific and national backgrounds, all dedicated to the study and conservation of the dolphins and whales of Panama. Panacetacea produces high quality scientific studies, develops capacity building, and conducts educational and outreach activities in order to ensure proper management and conservation of these important species. Through collaborations and internship programs, Panacetacea provides opportunities to Panamanian and other Latin American students, scientists, non-government and government organizations.

This year The Islas Secas Foundation also provided support for two community outreach days, allowing Panacetacea to bring local schoolchildren from Boca Chica to Islas Secas for whale watching trips. These visits included presentations on ocean life and conservation issues in Panama, whale watching boat trips and exploration time on the beach.

Humpback whales migrate from feeding areas in both the southern and northern hemispheres to Central America during their winter to mate and give birth. Panacetacea has been monitoring the whale population migrating from the southern hemisphere in the Gulf of Chiriqui, Panama since 2002. The organization currently has 500 individual whales identified using unique markings on the undersides of their tails. These whales are migrating from feeding areas in Chile and Antarctica, and have been seen in other breeding areas off Costa Rica, Ecuador and Colombia.

“We are thankful for the ongoing support The Islas Secas Foundation has provided for our project. Long term studies like this allow us to monitor how populations that were once severely depleted by whaling are recovering.By detecting trends in this population we can help inform the best conservation and management plans,” said Kristin Rasmussen, President of Panacetacea. “It is wonderful to see a humpback whale population doing so well!”

“We are pleased to see evidence of a healthy population of humpback whales in Panama and proud to support Panacetacea in their research efforts and dedication to the local community,” said Louis Bacon, Founder and Chairman of The Moore Charitable Foundation and its affiliates.

The goal of these surveys is to continue to document the habitat use, migratory patterns, and conservation needs of this population of humpback whales in Panamanian waters, and to detect any changes in the population. Current threats including climate change can also be detected with a long-term dataset. This monitoring project includes annual documentation of the number of whales seen, the distribution of sightings, and the presence of calves. Individuals are also identified every year using photographs of their tail flukes, which allows Panacetacea to track annual re-sight rates as well as migration to other areas. These photographs can also be used to estimate population size.

Panacetacea will submit a report on this year’s research to the Panamanian government agency ANAM (Autoridad Nacional del Ambiente) and to the International Whaling Commission at their meeting in June 2016. Results to date were also presented in December 2015 at a workshop at the Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals in San Francisco.

About Panacetacea
Panacetacea is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization comprised of biologists with different scientific backgrounds and nationalities (Panama, Costa Rica, USA, Colombia, and Puerto Rico) dedicated to the study and conservation of the dolphins and whales of Panama.

About The Islas Secas Foundation
The Islas Secas Foundation, an affiliate of Louis Bacon’s Moore Charitable Foundation, supports marine species research and conservation as well as efforts to protect the rainforest and rights of indigenous people in Panama.