ARE SAILBOATS A MARINE CONSERVATION TOOL?
Since 7th April 2018, I have been part of the R/V Song of the Whales team on a research expedition from Salvador (Brazil) to Portugal. We have crossed the Atlantic and are now heading north to The Azores. This is a very long ocean passage (4400 nautical miles) in an area where there is very little information about whales and dolphins because few other vessels would take this route.
It is a wonderful experience to be part of this team. We are seeing lots of sea birds and cetaceans on the way including sperm whales, pilot whales and spinner dolphins and clymene dolphins.
Joining the R/V Song of the Whale has being a great opportunity to gather more information for my research project at the Federal University of Bahia (Brazil). It is to look at the value of using sailboats for marine mammal conservation. For two years I have interviewed people that are active in marine science or conservation and joined different sailboats conducting marine conservation research. On the boat, Im interviewing Claire Lacey, the skipper Niall MacAllister and Vassili Papastavrou. Claire was a scientist in the Song of the Whale team and now works for the Sea Mammal Research Unit in St. Andrews. Niall works closely with the Irish Whale & Dolphin Group, including skippering the boat they use for offshore surveys. Vassili was involved in the first study of sperm whales using sailing boats.
I have found that sailboats are an excellent way to study whales and dolphins due to their eco-efficiency. Wind is clean and free, the boat can travel long distances with lower costs and low impact (low noise, consumption and emission of polluting gases).
Sailboats can contribute to marine conservation because they are quiet and allow the collection of scientific data without interference of excessive engine noise, especially when collecting acoustic data. They bring participants closer to the marine environment, and allow ecotourism and environmental education with low impact.
Once my thesis is finished, I want to make sure that decision makers in Brazil are aware of my conclusions and support the use of sail boats for marine research. Bons ventos!