Marine Mammal Research & Conservation Summary 2022

After a long and challenging Corona time, during which most of our projects came to a stop, we finally could start again in the New Year of 2022 with many new ideas and plans!
During the first months of the year, we worked on our ideas to renew Ocean Sounds and improve our whole project. We wanted to change our whole concept and lay-out, with a new website, as well as looking into new ways of finding funding. Everything started well intended, but then the timing was not right yet, and things did not work out as planned. The problems and challenges were overwhelming at our field work sites and we had to compromise!
Nevertheless we managed to save some of our main projects that we could restart, with some exciting new collaborations! Ocean Sounds can now continue in an even better way!

Our new Project in Freiburg

The new year started with a new exciting collaboration with cultural scientist Dr. Marion Mangelsdorf and musician Christian Billian at the University Freiburg. We put our ideas together and developed a concept for a binaurally Performance „Dive-In“ for the World Ocean Day at the University in Freiburg (07.-10.06.2022). Our goal was to combine music with whale sounds to tell a catching story that will fascinate people and motivate them to act. We presented the behaviour with sounds and man-made threats in a story line of old songs in a new binaural sound experience. On the World Ocean Day in Freiburg, we were joined by a dance performance to deepen the experience for the audience. The event was leading to intense and productive discussion between the visitors and the artist/ scientists and we will continue our work and collaboration, please stay tuned for more exciting  projects!

Marine Mammal-Research and Conservation in Norway
Field work in northern Norway from June-August 10.06.-24.08.2022

Our last successful and productive field season was in 2020, when we had three months of Orca sightings around Lofoten and the Vestfjord. However, after that the pandemic also hit us very hard and our project was limited to a few weeks in 2021. But we were highly motivated to start as soon as we could and restart the project in June 2022. There was a lot of work and headaches to go through all of the data, re-sort it and make our boat (RIB) and research equipment ready for fieldwork. But the hard work was worth it! Right away we had important whale sightings in June, our first big whale was a humpback whale! We made him our whale of the year 2022! Humpback whales are seldom but frequent visitors of the Vestfjord during the summertime. We regularly see individuals but on some occasions we also see mother and calf pairs on their long migration north to their feeding grounds. Here they feed from summer to winter, mostly on schooling fish like herring and capelin. They start their southward migration when the sun comes back in January-February and swim all the way to the Cape Verde Islands to give birth and breed. And in June, we see them again in the far north, what an amazing journey!

Regular summer guest in the deep water of the Vestfjord are long-finned pilot whales. The usually arrive in large groups during May and stay until July, which occurred also this year. They mostly feed on deep living squid and sperm whales can be their competitors.

In the abundant skerries around Bodø, we found grey seals and harbour porpoises, they love the food and protection of the kelp forests. The soundscape of these skerries is full of sounds, from snapping shrimp and crustaceans, to calls of cod and other fish, to the movement of kelp in the waves…it is wonderful to hear an ecosystem full of healthy sounds!

On our field excursions we also saw minke whales on a regular base, they are the smallest of the baleen whales, only 9 m in length. Just like all the other baleen whales, they come to the north during the summer months to feed after a long and strenuous journey from the south.  As much as we love to see the minke whales, our mind drifts to the sad reality for them here. Minke whales, just as seals are targeted by the Norwegian commercial whaling and there is not much we can do to stop it! But we hope that with education and our presence we can change the attitude of people towards marine mammals to protect them and not eat them.

The highlight of the season presented itself in full glory on the first of July, a blue whale! Blue whales haven’t been seen in the Vestfjord since their extinction until last year and now this year as well! This was a sensation! It even made the local newspaper here. Blue whales being 33 m and 150 tons are the largest mammals on earth and they are unfortunately endangered from the heavy whaling worldwide. Nowadays they are protected from whaling, but overfishing, plastic and chemical pollution, extensive ship traffic, ocean noise and climate change all threaten many species. Are the new sightings in the Vestfjord a sign of recovery of the blue whale population in Norway? Or is it due to change of migration, due to changing prey distribution as part of warming oceans? We can’t know for sure, but we hope that it means good news for the population of blue whales and other whales that will hopefully recover from the whaling and this is what we fight for.

On the other hand, it was impossible to find our summer Orca groups on Lofoten this year. For two months we intensified our search in the same areas where we saw them regularly in 2020, but we did not find them. Sightings and reports from other people were very rare. We cannot tell why this was the case but in the past, there were always years without or only few sightings of orcas in this area.
Only continuous observations and sighting reports will help us to understand the migration and behaviour of Orcas, other whales, and dolphins in Lofoten and the Vestfjord.

In such a large area we depend on help from everyone to report sightings of marine mammals. Therefore, we kindly ask, to please help us and send your reports (with link to the marine mammal library), call us or text us.
To make it all easier for you, we are currently working on a mobile sighting App, which we want to test during summer 2023. You will be able to send your sightings and get useful marine mammal information, as well as to stay in touch with us and we can also answer your questions.

Stay tuned for more information!

We were also haunted by bad luck during the field season. Right when we saw the blue whale our amplifier produced static noise again and became useless. To our dismay, the second hydrophone system stopped working and even after sending all of it to repair it didn’t work and we were left without the possibility to listen and record sounds! This year we could not continue our important project to study whale communication and underwater noise. On top of that, the weather was very cold and windy and we had less days at sea. All in all, it was a very challenging and tough field season for the restart of Ocean Sounds Norway. But we had wonderful and very helpful interns and together we could accomplish so much on our Photo-ID work on the summer groups of Orcas, thank you!
However, this won’t stop us, it is part of our project, and we will continue in May 2023.

Please support us and our work!

We are also pleased to announce a wider collaboration with the Nord University in Bodø. We plan to help assist in the new marine mammal biology and current marine biology course. We plan to re-start our famous marine mammal biology course, hopefully staring in 2024.

Currently we are rebuilding the marine mammal student club at the biology department, please stay tuned and follow our news on Facebook for more detailed information!

From September onwards we focused on data analysis and fundraising activities, and again renewing Ocean Sounds with more content, projects, and exciting collaborations!
We are looking forward to a new field-season starting in May 2023.

Guest Lecture and Fieldwork for Nord University Marine Biology course – April 2022

In April Ellyne Hamran from Ocean Sounds was invited to give a guest lecture about Marine Mammal Biology and Conservation to the students in the Marine Biology course at Nord University in Bodø. The students were very eager to learn about all of the 13 local marine mammal species and listened intently to their sounds. They asked many questions afterwards and were eager to join us out on the boat.

With unpredictable weather in April, we had to reschedule the boat fieldwork to the weekend and the students signed up and our boat was full! The students really were excited to come onboard and search for marine mammals. We began with an introduction to our research methods of collecting data, taking high quality photographs with a professional camera and a long lens for Photo-ID. We deployed the hydrophone, and the students were able to listen in the fjord, we heard boats and some wind and water moving. The weather started to pick up and we had to return to harbour and switch out students. In the end everyone had a great day on the boat, and we look forward to running this again next year.

A Seminar for the Oslo International School Teens – September 2022

In September, 16-year-old students from the Oslo International School were headed to Lofoten for a class trip and wanted to connect with us at Ocean Sounds. They wanted to learn more about our research and the whales. Onboard the Hurtigruten, Ellyne came and provided a seminar for the 40 students and their teachers/staff. The students were very engaged with the information, they asked many questions and were excited to learn about how whales communicate.

When the subject of whaling came up in the presentation the students were surprised that this happened in Norway. I asked the class how many of them knew about the presence of whaling here and only a couple raised their hands, others seemed shocked. Maybe there is a big difference between life in the north and in Oslo, or because they are teenagers or because it was an international school. Either way the students were concerned, and they were against whaling.

The students really enjoyed the seminar and many asked questions at the end. Afterwards students have contacted us to do a school project with and would like to help volunteer, let’s hope that this is something we can do in the near future.

Igniting interest in marine conservation and research at a young age is important for the future of the ocean and marine life. Our goals aren’t only to have new research findings but to share and educate the public to build awareness and inspire others to act and help protect all marine life including the whales and the ocean!

Public Presentation at the Zoolys Researcher’s Night Event at Stormen, Bodø Concert Hall – September 2022

Each year in September there are Research Days, several days that the university and other research organizations work together to put on events and open houses for the public to explore. This year we were part of the evening event called Zoolys, a zooplankton vertical migration hosted by NorthSciComm.

Ellyne Hamran from Ocean Sounds presented about whale communication and introduced the local marine mammal species to the public. There were many presentations by researchers from Nord University as well. The public was invited to come to this free event that had a room for presentations near the bar with locally brewed seaweed beer and other marine themed cocktails.

Inside the large concert hall was the animated film Zoolys displaying the vertical migration of zooplankton. Based on marine research data and 3D animation they created a larger experience of these small organisms and there was even a visit from a whale!

Ellyne’s presentation was well liked, and many people were happy to hear more about how whales communicate. A variety of people were present that night from the university as well as from another conference and many people from the public not working in science. The night was a great one with many interesting presentations and the film. It was a good place to network, answer questions from anyone and just mingle and talk about the ocean.

We enjoyed sharing our knowledge with the public, we look forward to the next public event to share with everyone!

ASANOR Conference: Panel Chair for the “Whaling, Fishing, and National Identity” Session – September 2022

Also in September Ellyne Hamran from Ocean Sounds was invited to chair on the panel for the ASANOR conference in Bodø, a blend of “literature, history, political science, linguistics, and cultural studies that explore the role of the sea in the American experience.” The session was on whaling, fishing, and national identity, this was something new and interesting for us to be a part of.

It started with the accounts of a traveling whale on display in the 1800s in the American Midwest as a large being almost characterized as a beast. Then the songs from workers of the sea expressing fishing, protest, and celebration through time. The final presenter was a lawyer, and he explored the legal concepts of possession in Moby Dick and in Norwegian Law. It was an interesting perspective against whaling and how we can claim a whale from the sea as a possession.

The discussion was intriguing as we further examined the ideas behind these presentations and was mainly weighted on the last presentation of possession. It was a nice new experience with many international people.

Ocean Sounds e.V. organised a whale auction fundraiser event 16.09.2022 in Schorndorf, Germany

For the first time, we planned and organised a whale auction and fundraiser event with a program for everyone. For kids we invited the pottery artist Susanne Schuck, who created clay whales with the kids. We also invited and the musician Ralph Gaukel , who played percussion music with the kids and our Ocean Sounds whale sounds. After that our founder and CEO Dr. Heike Vester, opened the evening with a speech and introduced Herr Krohberger und sein schlechter Einfluss, Andreas presenting his creation of an exciting criminal story with Ocean Sounds while his band accompanied him with special effects and music. Everybody was fascinated!  It was a perfect introduction to Heike’s multi-media presentation of our whale research and conservation project with plenty of beautiful pictures, information, and amazing sounds. The evening ended with an auction of donated articles kindly organised by Andreas Schuck who made it a wonderful and funny event, thank you!!

We thank everyone for their amazing help and contributions. Since this was such a lovely success; we will organise a new whale auction and fundraiser event in 2023!  

17.09.2022 Ocean Sounds presents the Whale Sound Library during the night of arts in the Roehm Areal in Schorndorf

Just a day after our whale aution event, Heike presented our Whale Sound Library together with musician Ralph Gaukel von Goanna during the night of arts Schorndorf. We were kindly invited by Simone Schad in her location for natural medicine lectures (Topas Heilpraktikerschule (Simone Schad).  Heike presented the whales with stories and sounds, while Ralph played percussion music to smoothen the presentation. One presentation lasted for over 2 hours and the visitors were seemingly touched and fascinated, some people stayed with us for the entire time. It was an amazing experience and a start for a longer collaboration.
We want to thank Simone Schad, Evi Leitner, and Ralph Gaukel for their wonderful support for this event. We are also very grateful for all the donations, thank you!

Project development in Raja Ampat Indonesia October – January

After a long 4 year break due to the pandemic, we could finally visit Raja Ampat, in Indonesia again. During the pandemic, the whole project came to a halt and some of our people have left the project, our locally founded organisation Yayasan Suara Samudera Indonesia (YSSI). After an evaluation of the current situation, we started looking for new people to help us with these positions. However, since these positions were voluntary, plus regulations for environmental organisations have become more restrictive, it has become impossible to find a new solution. Also, the whole situation in Raja Ampat, a so-called marine protected park, has changed and the protection of nature and animals was widely ignored. Plastic pollution and unsustainable fishing was everywhere, plus tourism is increasing rapidly. After three months testing out different locations and possibilities, we decided with a heavy heart to stop our organisation and our whale project in Raja Ampat.
We want to thank everybody that helped and supported us through all these years! Terima kasih!

On our three months journey, our first visit was on Gam islands, we were invited by the child care organisation  „Child Aid Papua in Raja Ampat, Indonesia“ and spend a few weeks close to their camp and school. We were impressed by their wonderful work with local school children to give them a high-quality education to start their career. During environmental classes we could present the Ocean Sounds Whale Sound Library to the kids and they were excited and amazingly successful with our whale sound quiz! As a follow up we did some listening sessions of the local coral reef and introduced them to Photo-ID of the bottlenose dolphins that live close to their school. We thank the organisers (Maya and Jonas) and the kids for having us and we hope to be able to support and visit Child Aid Papua again in the near future!

Turn of the tide! Our Whale research and Conservation project found a new partner!
After a rather disappointing time in Raja Ampat, we were invited by a lead scientist, Dr. Kadarusman at the polytechnical University of Sorong. After a warm welcoming, we had the possibility to present our project and our work as well as the whale sound library to the scientists, and also to a large class of students. It was a success, everyone loved the whales, and we started working on a collaboration. We are very pleased that we have found serious and enthusiastic partners and we are positive that the whale research and conservation project can continue. Please follow us for more information …

Arctic Frontiers: Moving North Conference – January 2023

During the end of January, Tromsø in northern Norway was busy with the international Arctic Frontiers Conference. The main topics covered were ‘north on the move’, (how climate change and geopolitics impact the development of the Arctic), ‘food on the move’ (how the changes impact people and the environment), ‘moving to and from the north’ (fluctuation of people moving), ‘energy- moving to the mixed solutions’ (energy developments and land use), and ‘science moving the real world’ (knowledge-based decisions). Politicians, scientists, lobbyists, businessmen, and representatives of indigenous communities from the Arctic and out of the region come together to discuss these issues.

Ellyne Hamran was invited to aid in the seminar discussion on Cumulative RISK Management of Marine High North Ecosystems. The “session aims to bring together scientists, managers and stakeholders linked to both fisheries and shipping activities, operating in high north ecosystems impacted by climate change.” It was a good seminar touching on many points of impacts on the marine environment.

It was a shame to hear that trawler ships will not move towards green engines due to the limitations of hybrid and electric engines not a match for trawlers, according to the fisheries department representative.

He did mention that some of the fishing vessels are hybrid boats, but it didn’t seem like there were enough green incentives to get more boats to become greener.

When the topic of noise was brought up, it was surprising how the fisheries representative from Norway was unaware of this issue for marine mammals. He was informed about it and hopefully this discussion and others in the future with help mitigate this issue and the lack of communication between scientists and fisheries. It would have been good to have a representative from the Norwegian oil and gas industry to ask our questions and have a discussion on noise from seismic activity affecting marine mammals.

The subject of noise was an important one during this seminar and many participants wanted to discuss it more. We have been asked to suggest a seminar next year dedicated to noise, we agree it will be beneficial. It is important to have these discussions with scientists and industry representatives, these discussions will hopefully help towards better management of the marine environments.

Highlights for 2023

In Germany SWR „Wer sagt die Wahrheit“  Dr. Vester will be a guest and present Ocean Sounds

In Germany 26.04.23 Ocean Sounds presentation by Dr. Heike Vester, organised by Naturfreunde and SPD, Künkelin Halle in Schorndorf

Introduction of WatchSpotter App for Ocean Sounds Norway

New scientific collaboration for supervised Photo-ID and unsupervised acoustic analysis of killer whales in Norway

Restarting the Marine Mammal Club at the faculty for aqua sciences and biology at Nord University in Bodø
May-September fieldwork in Norway with Ocean Sounds Norway

and many more… Stay with us, follow us on Facebook and Insta….

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