09 Jan Partner Spotlight: Pottwale e.V
Pottwale e.V. Not for Profit Organisation, Germany
Research and conservation of the Sperm Whales and their habitats
Pottwale e.V. is a non-profit organisation based in Düsseldorf, Germany, that is dedicated to the conservation and welfare of Sperm Whales in Dominican waters, encouraging human activities that enhance public awareness of these cetaceans and their marine environment.
Pottwale e.V. aims to achieve this through the following measures:
- Understanding the behaviour of Sperm Whales, especially in areas with intense human activities (boat traffic, fishing, leisure activities, whale watching).
- Educating the public, giving lectures on these whales especially in schools.
- Whale watching tours for children.
- Coorperation with other organisations with similar objectives.
Dominica is an independent island nation in the Caribbean. Due to its unique topography the coastline drops steeply into the ocean and forms a deep basin to the west coast of the island. Here deep-diving marine mammals such as Sperm Whales, Pilot Whales and False Killer Whales, along well as many dolphin species, search for. Since the mammals reside particularly close to the coast, the area is an ideal destination for whale watching. But the waters are also used by high-speed ferries, cruising and cargo ships and many leisure boats. These represent a constant threat to the sperm whales especially when resting at the surface.
Whale watching plays a key role in raising public environmental awareness, provided that it is done in a responsible and sustainable way. In many regions around the world, as well as in Dominica, it has become an important economic factor, constituting a profitable source of income for local companies, since whale watchers typically also engage in other activities. The more this form of tourism gains importance, the more our efforts to save the whales will meet with local acceptance.
Watching Sperm Whales
Sperm Whales are often not the easiest of whales to watch, due to their long dive times and ability to travel long distances underwater. However, due to their distinctive shape and large size, watching is increasingly popular. Sperm Whale watchers often use hydrophones to listen to the clicks of the whales and locate them before they surface.
Protecting and Conserving these Gentle Giants
Currently, entanglement in fishing nets and collisions with ships represent the greatest threats to this Sperm Whale population. Other threats include ingestion of marine debris, ocean noise, and chemical pollution.
Only about 60 Sperm Whales remain in Dominican waters. Besides the above mentioned threats, other human activities like whale watching or “swim with the whales” programs are activities that can disturb the whales and as long as there are no rules for sustainable and responsible interactions, could encourage them to leave Dominican waters to find more quiet places.
Involvement of Local People
Whale watching tours are a growing branch of income for boat operator, but a sustainable whale watching industry is necessary. For this our behavioral observations may be an important contribution. A few years ago, Pottwale e.V. began to give lectures about the marine mammals of the island in local schools. Thanks to donations they also were able to invite local children to go on whale watching excursions. The children had the opportunity to experience firsthand the beauty, but also the dangers of maritime world. The hope is that these children will take their experiences to their wider families, thus ensuring a wide dissemination of our message.
In 2016 Pottwale helped start a new program with the Government called:
Marine Science Education Program: The primary goal of the Marine Science Education Program is to increase awareness among primary school students and adults of the importance and value about the marine mammals of Dominica’s coastal and ocean ecosystem.
All with the aim of helping to conserve these magnificent animals in Dominican waters for current and future generations.
Find out more at www.Pottwale-ev.de