La Réserve naturelle de Saint-Martin est une aire marine protégée de 30km2 située au nord-est de l’île de Saint-Martin. Créé en 1998, cet espace préserve les cinq principaux écosystèmes de l’île : récifs coralliens, mangroves, herbiers de phanérogames, étangs et forêt sèche littorale. La Réserve gère également les 14 étangs du Conservatoire du littoral et ses 11 km de rivages terrestres naturels.

To maintain or improve local conditions for marine mammal populations

To maintain or improve local conditions for marine mammal populations

To maintain or improve local conditions for marine mammal populations

Deux baleines à bosse - Two humpback whales
Deux baleines à bosse - Two humpback whales

The Réserve Naturelle of Saint Martin naturally took part in a meeting of 70 specialists from protected marine areas, as well as marine mammal experts in Gosier, Guadeloupe, on May 9-10, 2019. Agoa and Cari’Mam — Caribbean Marine Mammals Preservation— the network for the protection of marine mammals in the Caribbean, organized the meeting. The French islands and Guyana were present, as well as the Dutch islands, Anguilla, The Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, Cuba, Dominica, Haiti, Jamaica, The Turks & Caicos, and the United States. Various ateliers allowed the participants to exchange ideas about protected marine areas and their management, public awareness campaigns, beaching of marine mammals, and the sustainability of whale watching. Saint Martin, represented by Nicolas Maslach, director of the Réserve Naturelle, and Michel Vély, president of Megaptera, as well as Bulent Gulay, president of Métimer, commanded attention as they presented the latest Megara campaign. This campaign comprised deploying six beacon tags and following the humpback whales on their journey toward North America and Europe, as well as taking eight skin samples, a dozen photos of tail fins, and recording numerous songs by the male whales. The Agoa sanctuary, which offers protection for marine mammals, covers the entire economic zone of the French Antilles, or 143,256 square kilometers.

Magnifique saut de baleine à bosse Magnificent jump by a humpback whale © Steeve Ruillet / Megaptera
Magnifique saut de baleine à bosse Magnificent jump by a humpback whale © Steeve Ruillet / Megaptera

Six beacons deployed, eight skin samples taken, a dozen photos of tail fins, and numerous recording of males singing. That recaps the positive results of Megara 4. MEGARA 4:

A Success! Maintenir ou améliorer les conditions d’accueil pour les populations de mammifères marins To maintain or improve local conditions for marine mammal populations Launched in 2014 by Nicolas Maslach as a scientific mission to study humpback whales, the fourth edition of MEGARA was held March 16-30 in the waters of Sint Maarten, Anguilla, Saint Barth, Saba, and Sint Eustatius, with proper authorization from these islands. The goal remains to develop a better understanding of the biology of these Caribbean humpback whales, notably through the deployment of Argos beacons, doing skin biopsies, recording the songs of the males, and taking photos of caudal fins for individual identification. Funded by the Réserve Naturelle, the association Megaptera, the Territorial Agency For The Environment in Saint Barth, and companies Nagico and Teria, at least one beacon was implanted in the fatty tissue of each of six humpback whales, and satellites are currently following the movements of four of these majestic mammals. This reveals that one of the whales is heading toward North America, and another is heading to Europe, but also that two females accompanied by their calves are moving around the neighboring islands, perhaps waiting for their babies get a bit bigger before starting the long migration toward summer feeding zones in the North Atlantic.

The Argos beacon makes it possible to follow this whale (view April 4th 2019) La balise Argos permet de suivre cette baleine (visuel du 4 avril 2019)

In addition, eight skin samples will provide genetic analyses that reveal the sex of each animal, and will be compared to the knowledge already acquired and centralized at The University of Groningen in the Netherlands, in an attempt to show that the “Saint Martin whales” are close genetically to those of Cape Verde. A dozen photos of caudal tail fins, whose characteristics define the identity of each humpback whale, will enrich the catalogue created in 2014 by the Réserve and will be shared with existing catalogues in the Caribbean as well as the United States, Canada, Iceland, and Norway, thanks to the support of OMMAG (Observatory For Marine Mammals In The Guadeloupe Archipelago). As for the songs of the males, intended to seduce the females, they differ from season to season. It is possible to hear a sample on the Réserve’s facebook page. The mission took place aboard a Contender and semi-rigid boat belonging to the Réserve, equipped with a turret used by Mikkel Villum Jensen, a professional whale tagger, to deploy his beacons, and for the staff of the Réserve to take the skin samples. A catamaran served as the logistical base for these operations. In spite of mediocre sea conditions, at least four groups of humpback whales were observed each day and provided beautiful aerial images taken from a drone. The staff of the Réserve Naturelle de Saint-Martin; Michel Vély, a marine mammals specialist and president of the Megaptera association; Steeve Ruillet, a member of Megaptera; the Territorial Agency For The Environment in Saint Barth; representatives from the Agoa sanctuary; and the European Cariman project; as well as several journalists, participated in this exceptional occasion marked by the sharing of knowledge and friendship.

Leur nageoire caudale est la carte d’identité des baleines à bosse / Their caudal fins are the individual identity for humpback whales © Nicolas Maslach

 

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