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Season 5 Field Report from Guerrero, Mexico: The Whales are Back to Calve

Aaaaaand we're off! As I had hoped, it looks like we are having a baby boom this year, as we did in 2015. This means that the mother whales who came here in 2015 to have returned to calve in the same place. ...

Aaaaaand we’re off! As I had hoped, it looks like we are having a baby boom this year, as we did in 2015. This means that the mother whales who came here in 2015 to have returned to calve in the same place. We have two things we didn’t have back in 2015: 1.) 75 trained fishermen from Zihuatanejo, Ixtapa and Barra de Potosí leading the way for all regional fishermen to give the mothers and calves space as they nurse and rest in the waves by the beach, and gather for their long, dangerous migration north. 2.) A drone to capture mesmerizing footage of baby whales, resting on their moms’ heads at the surface of the sea, nursing and playing. With this technology, we can confirm that the calves here really are tiny — and very likely born here, as some look like they are just a few days old!

We jumped right into our training programs and school programs this year, as we have big ambitions for both.

This week we completed a two-day training program with 40 fishermen from Barra de Potosí, Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo. For me the best part was the end of day one, when everyone got in a big circle and had a discussion about how they can work together to support a culture of safe whale-watching in the region beyond the trained group and a healthier ocean.

The fishery has never been worse and I have never been more optimistic that we can recover it, based on the conversations I heard in the room two days ago.

Fishermen attending a safe whale watch training program

Kids are clamoring to get out to meet the whales this year, as the whales are giving tantalizing performances in front of the primary school in Barra de Potosí, making it hard for the students to focus on anything else. Last Saturday, six kids marched up to me, demanding that they get to come with us on the water. I told them they would need to bring me permission notes from their moms, arrange a boat, and be at my house at 8 a.m. sharp if they wanted to go out. I really didn’t think they’d come through.

Sure enough, bright and early, there they were, 6 munchkins, lunch bags and permission slips in hand, all dressed for a day at the sea. They FREAKED OUT when we dropped the hydrophone in the water and heard the whales singing right below. (They had heard it in the library during our workshops, but to experience it in in real life was a whole other thing!).

As we headed back to Barra after our adventure at sea, they threw their arms around each other compadre-style to ride the waves back into the lagoon. My heart grew three sizes that day.

Kid compadres on the boat heading back to Barra de Potosí after a whale watch

I’m so grateful to get to focus on this work of healing the ocean, supporting the wellbeing of the village and inspiring people to fall in love with marine mammals and the sea. Next up: 200 more hours of data collection, a second training program, ten more schools, ten village events, and a whole lot of coconut water, fresh from the source!

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Meet the Author

Katherina Audley
Katherina Audley has participated in whale research projects around the world since 1997. Since 2013, she has led a cooperative research, ecotourism and environmental education program in Barra de Potosí that reaches 100,000 people each year. Katherina received National Geographic Conservation grants in 2015 and 2017. Find out more about the Whales of Guerrero Research Project at: