The third MEGARA scientific mission took place on March 13-17, 2017, and included placing an Argos beacon in the fatty tissue of one humpback whale and taking skin samples from two such whales. In contrast to the beacons placed in 2014, this most recent one does not emit anything for the moment.
The skin samples will allow scientists to determine the origin of each of these individuals. The samples will be compared by Dr Palsboll at the University of Groningen in The Netherlands, using a database of 8,500 samples taken from whales in the Northern Atlantic, while prior results lead to the supposition that the whales in Saint Martin belong to a group also found off the coast of Cape Verde. Strong swells generated by the wind made the navigational conditions difficult for this mission, but all the same, allowed for the observation of at least 10 humpback whales, including two calves. These observations were made from aboard a catamaran, used as base camp, with closer approaches made in the semi-rigid dinghy of the Réserve Naturelle, primarily around Tintamare and Anguilla. Underwater listening via hydrophone provided interesting acoustical information, confirming that the humpback whales are not only migrating through the waters of the Northern Islands, but also come here to reproduce, as indicated by the songs of the males. The Réserve Naturelle organized this mission with technical support from the association, Megaptera, and the participation of Olivier Raynaud and Claire Delubria from the Territorial Environmental Agency of Saint Barthélemy. Michel Vély, president of Megaptera, is very pleased to now be based in Saint Martin. «This proximity will allow us to develop projects dedicated to additional species of marine mammals throughout the year, improve our overall knowledge, and give the public the possibility to learn more about these animals,” he says, pointing out that he is especially looking forward to working in synergy with the association «Mon école, ma baleine» (My School, My Whale), which can organize student field trips at sea. Good news: The Réserve is organizing a conference in the near future at which the public can see a very good 33-minute film directed by Jérôme Grenèche during the 2014 Megara mission in the Northern Islands