Posted on: December 4, 2013

PWF Executive Director Presents New Research Technology for Whalewatch Vessels at Latin American Symposium

Pacific Whale Foundation Founder and Executive Director Greg Kaufman delivered a presentation on new technology to aid research on whalewatch vessels at the "Technical Symposium on Sustainable Management of Cetaceans in Latin America and the Caribbean" held from December 3 to December 5, 2013 in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia. He was an invited guest speaker at the symposium, which focused on helping local communities in the Caribbean, South and Central America generate income from whale and dolphin watching while also protecting cetacean species. 

"As fish species and fishing revenues have declined in many parts of the world, more countries are realizing the economic value of whalewatching," says Kaufman. "Our goal at Pacific Whale Foundation is to share what we've learned from leading eco-friendly whalewatches off Maui for more than 34 years, to help ensure that these new whalewatching operations are responsible to wildlife, provide meaningful educational experiences and result in the protection of whales and our oceans." 

The "Technical Symposium on Sustainable Management of Cetaceans in Latin America and the Caribbean" was organized by Colombia's Presidential Agency for International Cooperation. It was held in conjunction with the XI Buenos Aires Group Meeting, which brought together representatives of Latin and Central American and Caribbean countries and their delegations to the International Whaling Commission with the aim of coordinating their positions about the conservation of cetaceans worldwide. 

Pacific Whale Foundation's Ecuador Project Director Dr. Cristina A. Castro was also an invited speaker at the symposium, and spoke on the socio-economic impacts of whalewatching on the coastal village of Puerto Lopez, Ecuador – the base of Pacific Whale Foundation's Ecuador Humpback Whale Resarch Project. Humpback whales spend the months of August through October mating and calving in the waters of Machalilla National Park of Puerto Lopez and the Galapagos Islands. Dr. Castro also leads whalewatch workshops for local operators, educates local schoolchildren about whales and promotes ocean conservation. 

Also attending the symposium and Buenos Aires Group Meeting were Barbara Galleti and Elsa Cabrera of Proyeto Alfaguara (Project Alfaguara), a blue whale research project off Chile supported by Pacific Whale Foundation. The project gathers photo identification data of individual blue whales in the ocean off the Chiloe Islands in the Northern Patagonia region. Pacific Whale Foundation also supports research on the impacts of vessels on bottlenose dolphins in Bocas del Toro, Panama.

"Pacific Whale Foundation was invited to speak at the technical symposium because it is ongoing research efforts in Latin America, and our expertise as the largest NGO whalewatching company in the world," said Greg Kaufman. "We are recognized worldwide for our leadership in offering educational, responsible whalewatching and dolphin watching tours based on more than 33 years of experience."

Kaufman presented two new research software progerams developed by PWF: the Whale and Dolphin Tracker and Whale Tale. The Whale and Dolphin Tracker (WDT) is a web-based custom software system for the real-time recording of cetacean sightings by species, pod composition, behavior, and also tracks vessel effort. WDT enables whale and dolphin watch vessels to become Platforms of Opportunity (PoPs) for research. 

Outfitting PoPs worldwide with WDT will increase the global understanding of cetacean distribution patterns and result in enhanced management response time. WDT was developed exclusively by PWF in DRUPAL, using Apache web server and a MYSQL database. 

Whale Tale (WT) is under development by PWF and is funded by a grant from the Australian Marine Mammal Centre. WT will create an online platform for fluke identification, utilize the power of citizen science for fluke identification and test if crowd-sourcing is effective in matching fluke IDs.

Kaufman also presented PWF’s Be Whale Aware guidelines, flag and warning icons. PWF plans to produce the stickers and guidelines in Spanish in 2014 for distribution throughout Latin America. Kaufman has played an active role in promoting whalewatching and benign whale research worldwide. He is an invited participant to the International Whaling Commission's Scientific Committee and serves as an active member of the Southern Hemisphere Assessment, Whalewatching and Human-Induced Mortality subcommittees. In 2011 he co-led the United Nations Environmental Programme's Regional Workshop on Marine Mammal Watching in the Wider Caribbean Region, and was the US delegate to a 2010 international workshop (held in Patagonia) to Develop a Five Year Global Plan for Whale-watching. Kaufman was also an invited participant to the International Whaling Commission’s Whale Watch Operators Workshop in Brisbane, Australia, May 2013.

"Pacific Whale Foundation's Ecuador Humpback Whale Project has developed whalewatching and research techniques tailored to Latin America through our years of working off Machalilla National Park, Ecuador," says Kaufman. "We understand the economic needs of coastal communities in South and Central America and the promise offered by whalewatching, as an economically productive industry that if done correctly, can also help result in the protection of whales and the ocean environment."

Kaufman notes that Pacific Whale Foundation's whalewatches incorporate many leading-edge conservation advances, including Whale Protection Devices to keep whales away from propellers and running gear, purpose-built vessels with sound-deadening hulls, and super high efficiency engines. The whalewatches are led by Certified Marine Naturalists and biologists who hold graduate and undergraduate degrees in marine biology or related sciences and undergo a rigorous training program at Pacific Whale Foundation's Eco-U. Profits from Pacific Whale Foundation's whalewatches help fund whale research in Hawaii, Australia, Ecuador, Panama,Tonga and Chile, and support public education programs for schoolchildren and adults, as well as conservation programs. 

Greg Kaufman helped to pioneer non-invasive humpback whale research off Maui in in the mid-1970s. He founded Pacific Whale Foundation in 1980, and committed his new organization to educating the public, from a scientific perspective, about whales and their ocean habitat. Greg is the author of numerous books, scientific and popular publications on cetaceans.

To learn more about Pacific Whale Foundation, visit