Society for Marine Mammalogy Conference 2017

MMOA Attends Society for Marine Mammalogy Conference 2017

The biennual conference of the Society for Marine Mammalogy was held at the World Trade and Convention Centre in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, between the 22nd and the 27th of October. The theme of this year’s conference was “A Canadian Odyssey – Eh!” and focused on “conservation impacts to marine mammals and the efforts to understand and ensure their continued survival.

The conference was attended by thousands of delegates and hundreds of presenters and was followed by two days of workshops which ran the gamut from “The Eight international Sirenian Symposium” to “Investigation of live large whale stranding response techniques”.

In addition to oral and poster presentations, this year’s conference included speed and video presentations as well. Exhibitors at the conference included, among others, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the non-profit “Viva Vaquita”, Irving oil, the United States Navy, Dalhousie University, and the North Atlantic Marine Mammal Commission.

Drone technology and autonomous vehicles are revolutionizing the way marine mammal research is conducted and its applicability and versatility in field research was apparent during the conference. Multiple talks on the use of a variety of autonomous vehicles and drones during marine mammal research were presented and included the use of unmanned sailing vessels to search for highly endangered North Pacific Right Whales in the Bering Sea, using rotocopters to obtain body mass condition on migrating Grey Whales off the Oregon coastline, and employing PAM “surface gliders” to detect vocalizing baleen whales off the US East Coast.

Several presentations covered Beaked Whale research, from general ecology and dive profiles to behavioural response to anthropogenic noise utilizing autonomous underwater passive acoustic platforms (i.e. underwater “gliders”). Among other interesting findings was a dive to 3675m by a Cuvier’s Beaked Whale off of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, USA, which constitutes the deepest recorded dive by any cetacean to date.

The MMOA was represented at the conference by Executive Committee Member Peter Nilsson who presented a poster on observed avoidance behaviour of dugongs and delphinids to shallow water seismic surveys in the Arabian Gulf. The work was co-authored by several members of the MMOA including Executive Committee Chair Neil Niru Dorrian.

In summary, it was a highly successful and productive conference which brought together marine mammal researchers from around the globe and facilitated the exchange of ideas, knowledge and novel technology. Next time, the SMM conference will be held in Barcelona, Spain, in October 2019 – we hope to see you there at the 2nd World Marine Mammal Conference.