SEVENSEAS Marine Conservation & Travel Issue 17, October 2016 - Page 113

compared with other study sites and groups in order to identify the movement of the animals between countries for example.

What did we discover until now? During our first research efforts in 2016 we discovered that the country has an incredible cetacean diversity. We identified 6 different species: humpback whales, false killer whales, spotted dolphins, bottlenose dolphins, spinner dolphins, rough toothed dolphins and we observed several turtle and bird species. We found out that humpback whales from both the Northern and the Southern hemisphere are coming to Nicaraguan waters. Recently, the NOAA fisheries officially recognized the Central American humpback whale population from the Northern hemisphere as threatened. Gathering data on this population will be essential for their safeguard by combining the scientific data with conservation efforts. Spotted dolphins seemed to appreciate the waters of Nicaragua, especially in San Juan del Sur, since we have re-sighted many of them during our first field season. The presence of mother and calves also indicated that the marine ecosystems are important nursing and calving habitat for the encountered whale and dolphin species.

Nicaragua is a developing country that doesn’t get a lot of attention for nature conservation despite its amazing biodiversity. Despite this obvious diversity, Nicaragua is undervalued in his magnificent nature and conservation measures are generally lacking. Coastal villages mainly live from fishing activities. Fish stocks are decreasing and fishermen try to find other economical solutions by offering whale and dolphin touristic trips. Since tourism is slowly increasing in an unavoidable way, we are working with fishermen in order to make this economic alternative a responsible and sustainable activity for the whole community. We plan to offer training on safe whale and dolphin watching practices to fishermen. This solution can also provide a substitute to turtle eggs hunting that is a common activity in Latin American countries.