I know a lot of marine mammal scientists from my time at St Andrews University, where my fish behaviour group shared a building with the Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU). Hopefully they will be happy to know that their enthusiasm for cetaceans left an impression on me, and has even led me to write up a short note which was published in 2014, and has recently been made available online...
Rather than the cutting-edge science that my colleagues in SMRU are engaged with, this paper, published in the local peer-reviewed journal 'Living World: Journal of the Trinidad and Tobago Field Naturalists' Club', simply highlights an unexpected encounter with a large school of dolphins in Tobago. However, in doing so I hope to highlight the importance of recording and sharing such seemingly 'ordinary' sightings.
1) Incredibly, this is the first time Stenella frontalis has officially been recorded in Tobago's coastal waters
2) This is also the largest group of dolphins containing S. frontalis that has been recorded for Trinidad OR Tobago (previously a school of 17 individuals had been seen off Trinidad).
It is important to remember that records are very limited for T&T, and most sightings will go unreported. Therefore our sighting may not have been especially unusual (even though it felt special to us!). However, we hope that it might publicise the efforts of local organisation CCARO to change this, by encouraging members of the public to submit details of any sightings via their online form. The purpose of this database is to build up a more comprehensive understanding of which cetaceans inhabitat T&T's waters, as well as knowledge of their distribution and behaviour.
If we are to protect these fascinating yet vulnerable mammals, it is essential that we know as much as possible about them!
The full paper can be viewed here. Anyone who sees whales or dolphins around T&T should log their sighting via CCARO - don't assume that someone else will!