DoE to begin documenting marine life sightings

| 04/08/2008

The recent sighting of killer whales (Orcinus orca) off East End has highlighted the need for an organized database of migratory marine mammal sightings in the Cayman Islands, according to the Department of Environment (DoE), which will now begin collecting systematic data on whale, dolphin, manatee, shark and manta ray sightings in local waters. 

In recent years, DoE has responded to several marine mammal strandings, including dolphins, a beaked whale,and an orphaned manatee, and informally the department has collected information on unusual sightings.

However, DoE Researcher Janice Blumenthal thinks there are many sighting that aren’t reported. After spotting beaked whales herself for the first time last year off East End, when she told her story she discovered that a number of other people had also seen them. Explaining the need to begin recording sightings, she said it would help the DoE to better understand what part the islands play in the lives of certain marine creatures.

“It will be good to establish a baseline now so that we can detect future changes in abundance, seasonality of sightings, or migratory routes,” she added.

In order to start making a more formal assessment the DoE will now serve as a national clearinghouse for Cayman Islands sighting data, making reports to the public and the media and contributing to regional sighting databases. It is hoped that the project will allow DoE to assess the importance of Cayman Islands waters for marine animals and contribute information on migratory routes to Caribbean initiatives. The public is asked to report sightings by calling Janice Blumenthal at 949-8469 or by e-mailing and are advised if possible to take pictures of what they see.

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