Since 1999, the GRD has been cooperating with the marine and dolphin conservation organization ACOREMA in southern Peru.
ACOREMA works for the protection of small cetaceans living in Peruvian waters (campaigning against the hunt of dolphins and dynamite fishing for example) and has received several prizes for its excellent work.
Our support has enabled our Peruvian partners to implement many projects and campaigns to fight the intentional killing of dolphins, dynamite fishing, and marine pollution.
ACOREMA’s school educational projects, intensive public awareness raising activities, and the integration of many different groups of the population into the dolphin conservation efforts led to a widespread acceptance among the Peruvian population and has contributed to increase the popularity of marine mammals.
The bottlenose dolphin acts as a flagship species: Two resident groups of bottlenose dolphins living north and south of the Paracas Peninsula are continuously monitored so that we can gather and publish detailed data on the size and composition of the groups, births, behavioral patterns, diseases, dangers and threats they are facing.
The great accomplishments of this project include the fact that the dolphins are no longer harpooned by fishermen; that the previously widespread technique of dynamite fishing has seen a substantial decrease in the area; the outstanding cooperation with schools; and that ACOREMA has become a vey renowned NGO that is respected by locals, authorities, and the government.
Help for Peru after Earthquake
On August 15, 2007, a terrible earthquake with a magnitude of 8 on the Richter scale struck southern Peru. Its epicenter was located in the Pacific Ocean off the city port of Pisco. In just 3.5 minutes, nearly 80 percent of the city and large parts of the Ica-Paracas region were devastated, leaving damage, death, pain and more poverty.
The news about the horrible catastrophe came as a shock to us. We were terribly worried about our Peruvian colleagues. Fortunately they survived. The marine conservation center, including furniture and equipment, was destroyed.
Construction of a New Environmental Interpretative Center
The Environmental Interpretative Center will have to be built anew. It played a vital part in the dolphin conservation efforts with its permanent exhibition and its interpretative rooms. The Center was very popular with locals and tourists alike.
The construction of a new Environmental Interpretative Center is still an unsolved problem with regard to financing; the land and the construction plans already exist. The Center is of crucial importance for the long-term implementation of nature and environmental protection in the region. It will be difficult to succeed in showing the population the importance of dolphin and sea conservation, environmental protection and stopping littering if there is not a permanent visitor center. Hopefully, it will be back soon (with a permanent exhibition, lectures, seminars, a laboratory and starting point for field courses, media relations, awareness raising activities, project work and school projects). We are urgently looking for sponsors.
Pieces for Paracas
Pieces for Paracas is the name of our campaign to raise funds for the reconstruction of our hitherto successful dolphin conservation project in Paracas, Peru, which has been devastated by the earthquake.
Bit by bit we want to help the people in Paracas to restore a bit of normality.
This includes functioning schools, where marine ecology plays a vital role because the students are tomorrow’s decision-makers;
- the continuation of the monitoring surveys of our adoption dolphins, which are quite well-known by now, and the expansion of their protection (and popularity);
- and the reconstruction of the marine conservation center – piece by piece and brick by brick.
- Piece by piece – This also means that you can help with your donation. Any amount of donation, no matter how small or big, will help in reconstructing the project.
Awareness Raising Activities
A series of new publications, which can also be found on ACOREMA’s wonderfully redesigned website (www.acorema.org.pe), inform about threatened species of the coastal-marine zone of Pisco, about coastal biodiversity, and even about what to do in the event of a whale stranding.
Several reports by local tourist guides of large whale sightings, without certainty about species identity, has led ACOREMA to compile a species identification guide for distribution to tour operators and the entire tourism sector.
This serves to integrate even more people in the conservation activities, to sparkle their interest in these marine mammals, increase their knowledge, and get them involved in the research activities.
ACOREMA staff even went to see each of the persons involved personally to ensure good training and obtain reliable data. The staff explained the materials and answered their questions. The tour guides have been provided with a detailed list and description of the whales and dolphins living in Peruvian waters and with a whale watching code of conduct. Moreover, ACOREMA has distributed brochures and posters about the threats the dolphins are facing, such as: "Dynamite fishing: waves of death affecting us all" or "Why not captive dolphins?"
ACOREMA is conducting a long-term study of dolphins living in the Pisco/Paracas area in southern Peru. Two resident groups of dolphins and their home ranges have been determined.
Over 100 individual dolphins have been identified by means of their dorsal fins. The team also conducts behavioral studies and collects data on group size, diving depth, and distance from the shore.
The human-induced threats the dolphins are facing include dynamite fishing, marine pollution, reduction of their food through overfishing, and habitat destruction caused by scallop farming, being developed particularly in the Paracas National Reserve. Moreover, ACOREMA's studies have revealed that dolphins die in the area through direct hunting and as bycatch. The meat is sold in the markets, and even door to door. Furthermore, whale and dolphin strandings are being studied. Net marks, injuries caused by harpoons or missing fins reveal the causes of their deaths.
Threats to the Dolphins
Dynamite fishing is a big problem in the area. It is also practised within Paracas National Reserve and, in particular, in the habitat of the resident group of dolphins. Dynamite fishing is prohibited; however, there is no effective enforcement. Further habitat encroachment takes place through scallop farming. The dolphins have been observed changing their course to avoid the farms. The dolphins also suffer from a reduced food supply caused by overfishing of anchovies.
Apparently to improve their hunting strategies, they tend to aggregate in groups of more than 30 animals in this area, which is rather unusual for dolphins living in coastal areas. Marine pollution poses another threat. Not only the region's fishmeal plants, but also waste in the form of plastic bottles and bags, pieces of nets, batteries and other objects, pollute water and coasts alike. They constitute potential threats to dolphins, including entanglement and accidental ingestion.
Close observation of the dolphins has shown that some of them bear dark grey scars on their skin, so-called "tatoo marks" caused by a viral infection. Some of them also had larger depigmented areas on their skin, probably resulting from a fungal infection.
During the regular boat excursions and land-based observations only bottlenose dolphins were sighted. The studies included extended behavioral studies. They have revealed that, during hunting, dolphins fenced the fish against the shore. In the presence of fishing boats, the dolphins were indifferent. They only left when the boat approached them head-on or if the fishermen used certain noise-producing devices in order to drive fish into the nets.
Since 1999, two resident groups of bottlenose dolphins off the Paracas Peninsula have been constantly monitored, and since then we have learned many new things about their behavior and diseases. The dolphins live on the north side of the Paracas Peninsula, however, they are exposed to every human influence you can imagine: pollution from industrial plants and untreated domestic sewage; vessel traffic caused by increasing industrial growth; scarcity of food resources through unsustainable fishing and trapping the dolphins in fishing nets, whether deliberately or unintentionally as by-catch.
In 2010, 5 new dolphins were identified in Paracas Bay, increasing the total number of dolphins that visit this large bay off Pisco more or less regularly to 92. An analysis of the sightings recorded in the last four years showed that dolphins with longer permanence in the bay are females and particularly those with calves, since the bay seems to offer the best conditions for raising the young.
The Supay dolphins live in the Paracas National Reserve in a remote area with little human impact, but their survival is being threatened by illegal dynamite fishing. ACOREMA trains rangers to protect the dolphins. Regular monitoring is very important here, because a single event could instantly obliterate this isolated family.
The observation of the Supay dolphins south of the Paracas Peninsula in 2010 yielded a small sensation: two new calves were seen, the first offspring after years. This small group of only 18 individuals and the two new young ones live in a small area which they do not seem to leave. They love to surf the waves and perform high leaps at the end. They were also observed swimming fast in low arches and low jumps or hunting fish at the water surface. In 2010 neither ACOREMA staff nor the national park rangers observed illegal dynamite fishing in the "home range" of the Supay dolphins.
GRD's Adopt-A-Dolphin Program
Donations and dolphin adoptions enable GRD to provide considerable financial support to ACOREMA, whose important and professional work can be considered a milestone in South America. Julio and Mónica are very pleased about these contributions and thank everybody for their support.
Further articles in English on our project "Dolphin Conservation in Peru" can be found in our member magazine Delphinpost (English concise versions).