BI­CREF in­spires mariners to go for the en­vi­ron­men­tal chal­lenge

Malta Independent - - NEWS -

The Bi­o­log­i­cal Con­ser­va­tion Re­search Group (BI­CREF) in­spired the crews of yachts par­tic­i­pat­ing in the Rolex Mid­dle Sea Race (RMSR) to keep ac­cu­rate records of all their dol­phin and whale sight­ings over the 608 nau­ti­cal mile race.

Start­ing from Malta, race par­tic­i­pants made their way around Si­cily, down to Lampe­dusa and back to Malta. All th­ese si­lent sail­ing trav­ellers are not ig­nored by the dif­fer­ent ma­rine mam­mals in th­ese wa­ters, which of­ten join the race and lead the boats – adding a dose of joy, en­thu­si­asm and en­ergy at any time of day and night and in rough or calm seas.

In col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Royal Malta Yacht Club, BI­CREF – which is an NGO – set out on this in­cred­i­bly pos­i­tive ex­pe­ri­ence with yachts­men from all over the world back in 2000 and has man­aged to main­tain this ef­fort over the years, re­ceiv­ing com­pli­ments for both the project it­self and for its de­ter­mi­na­tion in putting it into prac­tise.

The 2016 win­ner of the in­creas­ingly pres­ti­gious BI­CREF– RMSR Best Dol­phin and Whale Sight­ings Award was the crew of the Ben­emedo, with the crew of Unica as run­ner-up.

BI­CREF has been as­sist­ing con­ser­va­tion bi­ol­o­gist Dr Adriana Vella in her long-term re­search cam­paigns that in­volve most sea-users con­tribut­ing to what has be­come a well-known na­tional ef­fort to­wards aware­ness and sci­ence in re­spect of th­ese vul­ner­a­ble species. Dol­phins and whales in Mal­tese wa­ters and be­yond stand as flag­ship species for ma­rine con­ser­va­tion.

Al­though Dr Vella’s re­search en­com­passes var­i­ous other species and habi­tats need­ing pro­tec­tion, she has worked to in­volve peo­ple who are in­ter­ested in var­i­ous ways of in­creas­ing mean­ing­ful par­tic­i­pa­tion and learn­ing in the process.

In fact, BI­CREF sup­plied all the RMSR par­tic­i­pants with an iden­ti­fi­ca­tion key to al­low them to learn about the dif­fer­ent dol­phin and whale species that can be seen in the cen­tral Mediter­ranean.

Ear­lier this year, BI­CREF was one of the or­gan­is­ers of the first in­ter­na­tional work­shop on th­ese species which was held in Ischia, Italy. This work­shop brought to­gether ex­perts and re­searchers from all around the Mediter­ranean to see how th­ese species may be saved through de­tailed re­search and timely man­age­ment.

For fur­ther in­for­ma­tion on BI­CREF’s work and on cetacean re­search in Mal­tese wa­ters con­tact: bi­cref@gmail.com or Dr Adriana Vella on adri­ana­jvella@gmail.com

Photo shows the en­dan­gered Mediter­ranean com­mon dol­phins, Del­phi­nus del­phis taken by crew mem­bers of the yacht Ben­emedo

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