Italians Marco and Enrica Mayer, founders of Delphinia Sea Conservation and enthusiastic researchers in the field of marine mammals, recently were in Puerto la Cruz, VZ, where their teaching vessel, Aquarius, was in the yard at Bahia Redondo Marina. I spoke with the two, who wrote a monthly column for All At Sea several years ago. They are active wildlife photographers, authors of articles for scientific journals, and coordinators of Delphinia’s information & awareness programs. They recently distributed more than 15,000 copies of their excellent educational booklet “Ocean Observatory,” now in its second printing.
The booklet is most informative and is divided into three sections –
Awareness: Cetaceans—includes the 30 species of whales in the Caribbean [out of 86 species worldwide], how to approach them and a study of their habitat.
Scientific Research: Oceans—includes a look a the food-chain in our oceans, introduces Sperm whale sounds and discusses sustainable development of open boat fishing in a thoughtful account of Pelagic resources.
Eco-Tourism: Delphinia—Discusses the mission of Marco and Enrica Mayer, Ocean Observatory, the interplay between fishermen and whales in our waters and the Eco-cruises that are offered on their beautiful teaching schooner, Aquarius.
The booklet is beautifully written and includes photographs by Jean-Pierre Sylvestre, author and naturalistic photographer who is responsible for the inventory at the Museum of Natural History in Paris. Also introduced are segments by such renowned professionals as Rene Baudin, President of the Martinique Sailing League; Marie-Josephe Chretiennot-Dinet from Arago Laboratory, researcher at the CNRS [science and engineering research council] and author of Volume III – Marine Phytoplankton Atlas; Pierre Beaubrun, international resourcer for organizations on the protection and management of marine species; Lionel Reynal, Director of the Laboratoire Sessources Alieutiques of the IFREMER West Indies delegation, Martinique; and Alfred Koolen, Manager of Budget Marine in St. Maarten and sponsor of the Cetacean Observation Program.
“The booklets are our main awareness project and are given to cruisers, fishermen, students – anyone at sea,” says Marco Mayer. “They include forms for the recipients to fill in, which are returned to Martinique and help in giving us an idea of the time and spatial distribution of whale sightings.”
Enrica Mayer adds, “What is important is that people learn to observe. We are trying to teach those on the sea how to pay attention to marine mammals as well as how to behave when they appear. Whales and dolphins are easily scared as they are doing what is natural for them to survive. It is harmful to take boats close to them; especially dolphins as the Caribbean is where mating and birthing take place. Even though the whales are migrating mammals, it is to our waters that they come for birthing.
“Our job is to make everyone in the Caribbean aware of this. Eco-tourism is an excellent solution for understanding the habitat and environment of marine mammals. We are trying to develop a community-based tourism program that will give financial resources back to the people. We organize eco-tours on anyone’s boat and Eco-cruises on Aquarius, thus making it possible for the community to make money.”
Thanks to the caring and enterprising spirit of Marco and Enrica Mayer, thousands of citizens throughout the Caribbean are now better informed about the sensitivity of issues surrounding whales, dolphins and other marine mammals.