The Lagoon 440 at the service of WWF
|27 March 2017||Posted by Caroline under Lagoon world|
A Lagoon 440 transformed herself into a whale-watching laboratory during the WWF “Cap Cétacés” mission, a census of the cetacean population. The action took place in the Pelagos sanctuary in the Mediterranean Sea last summer. It was jointly orchestrated by the famous panda association “World Wide Fund for Nature” and Expé2M as technical support. Nathalie Ille, director of the association Expé2M and skipper of the Lagoon 440, tells us the details of this adventure:
The WWF France team has been taking to sea every year for several weeks since 2006. Their aim: a regular study of the cetacean population in the Mediterranean (number, health, behavior…), more specifically in the Pelagos Sanctuary, that runs from Porquerolles (France) in the west to Ortebello (Italy) in the east and to the northern tip of Sardinia in the South.
There are more than 8,500 animal species identified in the Mediterranean, which probably represents 4 to 18% of existing marine species in an area that only represents 0.024% of the world sea surface.
These cetacean missions are no ordinary sailing, as our goal is not to sail towards a pleasant mooring area or just to enjoy a nice wind direction. Our « Graal » is quite particular: we are looking for fin, sperm and pilot whales.
As in the previous expeditions, the WWF asked Expé2M to take charge of the logistical aspects so as to mainly concentrate on their missions. We chose a 440 again, as we consider her as the best-adapted boat for our program: she is comfortable for all people on board, has enough space for the important amount of necessary equipment and her cockpit working space and sink are ideal as a « mini laboratory ». But above all, her flybridge allows the watchers to benefit from the best position to catch sight of the so sought-for whale spouts.
The main objective is to take biopsies and shoot photo-identifications. Biopsies consist in collecting small bits of skin and fat (less than one-gram heavy!) that bring an incredible amount of information: Fat enables measuring the level of pollutants and the hormone doses. Skin will provide the sex of the whales, help establish a genetic map of the whale populations and evaluate their demographic parameters by identifying the pregnant females, the sexually active males and the juvenile population.
As their name suggests, photo-identifications enable identifying whales via photographs, thanks to the specific skin marks of each animal. These pictures are exchanged, cataloged and shared between various research teams in the Mediterranean: they thus enable us to establish the « routes » favored by cetaceans.
Spotting teams take turns on the flybridge, scanning the horizon with binoculars the whole day long until the long awaited shout is heard: « She blows ! »
The dedicated team then rushes to load all the equipment onboard the rib while keeping an eye on the whale and then gets close enough to collect the precious samples… with a crossbow!
You also may come across or maybe have already come across one of these marvelous animals during one of your cruises. Some sailing recommendations have been implemented so as to respect cetaceans the best you can when approaching them.
As explained on the diagram below, it is important not to cut off their road or approach them from behind, but rather follow them on a parallel route while never sailing closer than 100 m away from them. It is also recommended to turn off your echo sounder, as it can significantly disturb cetaceans.
For more information, go to:
Or check the recent WWF report on the Mediterranean: