HUMPBACK WHALE INVESTIGATION

Mission: Contribute to the knowledge about and conservation of humpback whales in Central America.

General Objective: Study Costa Rica’s northern and southern humpback whale population.

Specific Objectives:

  • Determine the number of whales using Costa Rican waters as wintering area;
  • Identify the specific areas and the habitat within the region that are preferred by the whales;
  • Determine the annual return rate of whales to Costa Rican waters;
  • Study the possible overlap between the northern and southern whale populations;
  • Document the occurrence of other marine mammals in Costa Rican waters;
  • Determine possible threats to cetaceans in the region;
  • Rise awareness among coastal communities and tourist operators about the ecosystem and the dangers to it.

Methodology

  • Regular boat surveys at Costa Rica’s Pacific coast during the whale season;
  • Photo-identification of the animals;
  • Recording of whale sounds;
  • Awareness-raising workshops in coastal communities, schools and for tours operators;
  • Coordination with other national and international organizations.



Award 2009


Member of the Coalicion Costarricense por las Ballenas

Fran Garita Alpízar
Scientific Investigator
cetus@vida.org

Studies

  • Instructor in the “Bio-courses” from the Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS): “Dolphins and Whales from Costa Rica”, Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. 2001- Present.
  • Member of the Latin American Society of Specialists in Aquatic Mammals, SOLEMAC.Research Associate of the Cascadia Research Collective, Washington.
  • Member of “Mar de Cetáceos” Latin-American network of information on non-lethal use and management of Cetaceans.

Areas of interest:

Conservation and management of marine mammals, and environmental education.

Activities and projects

  • Researcher of the project: Foto-identificación, distribution, and abundance of Humpback Whales Megaptera novaengliae in Centro America and Panama. 1996 – Present (Cascadia Research- VIDA).
  • Responsible of the Environmental Education Program in schools along the Pacific coast of Central America (VIDA). 2000 – Present.
  • Instructor in the “Bio-courses” from the Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS): “Dolphins and Whales from Costa Rica”, Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. 2001- Present.
  • Cetaceans Training of boat’s Captains and Tourists operator’s from the marine National Park Ballena, Drake Bay and Sierpe. 2000 – present.  (OET-Cascadia Research- VIDA).
  • Participation in the Workshop “Current state of the Humpback Whales photo-identification in the reproduction areas in Latin-America” in Ubatuba, Sao Paulo, Brasil. 2007.
  • Participation & poster presentation at the 1st International Meeting on Studies on aquatic mammals. SOMEMMA – SOLAMAC. Merida, Mexico. 2006.
  • Participation & oral presentation at the X Meeting of the Mesoamerican Society on Biology and Conservación, Symposium on Biology and Conservation of Cetaceans in Central America. Antigua, Guatemala. 2006.
  • Participation at the 5th Symposium of the Latin American Society of specialists on aquatic mammals and 11th workshop for specialists in aquatic mammals of South America. SOLAMAR. 2004.
  • Participation on the cruise ship expedition: Cascadia Research in Central American Waters: Expedition to determine the mating and calving grounds of Blue and Humpback Whales. 1999.

Publications

  • The first year of Ceto. Environmental Education Kids Book (WWF-VIDA). F. Garita
  • Ballenas Jorobadas de los dos hemisferios en Costa Rica. 2007. F. Garita. Ambientico No.163.
  • Migratory Destination of humpback whales from the eastern south pacific population as revealed by photo identification analysis. 2007. J. Acevedo, J. Allen, C. Castro, F. Félix, K. Rasmussen, L. Flórez-González, A. Aguayo-Lobo, E. Secchi, M. Llano, F. Garita, P. Forestell, B. Haase, J. Capella, L. Dalla Rosa, D. Ferrina, J. Plana, I. C. Tobón, G. Kaufman, P. Flak, M. Scheidat, & LA Pastene.Marine Mammal Science.
  • Migratory movements of humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) between Machalilla National Park, Ecuador and Southeast Pacific. 2007. Castro C., J. Acevedo, J. Allen,  L. Dalla Rosa, L. Flórez-González, A. Aguayo-Lobo, K. Rasmussen, M. Llano, F. Garita, P. Forestell, E. R. Secchi, I. García Godos, D. Ferrina,  G. Kaufman, M. Scheidat, & LA Pastene. Presented to the International Whale Comission (IWC).
  • Humpback whales off Costa Rica and Panama during the austral winter season. 2007. K. Rasmussen, F. Garita & M. T. Saborio. Presented at the Latin American workshop, Brazil.