Conservation of Marine Megafauna [CRN 83300]

Discipline: Fish/Wildlife/Conservation Biology
Instructor: Doherty
Credits: 3
Day: A
Start: 1540
End: 1700
Field Work: Day 3 | October 1, 2019 | Spain
Prerequisites: One (1) introductory animal biology course Download Syllabus

Whales, sharks, squids, sea turtles, albatrosses… oh my! FW 304 will be an engaging introduction to marine megafauna, ecology, and conservation. We will first examine the physical dimensions of the world’s ocean and describe ocean zones based on the ecosystems found within them. We will then explore the evolution of life in the oceans and how large marine animals have adapted to the challenges of a cold, dark, and deep ocean. Throughout the class we will highlight how scientists study the oceans and the large animals that live in them, providing glimpses of new technologies that boost our understanding of marine ecology. The course will also cover challenges we face in sustaining and conserving healthy oceans for the future. For example, we will learn how issues such as bycatch and climate change are affecting ocean species and how we can better conserve out charismatic marine megafauna. What better place to take such a class than on a ship?!

Field Work

Country: Spain
Day: 3
Date: October 1, 2019

From the port of Cadiz, we will travel to Tarifa on Spain’s southern tip and board a whale-watching vessel. During the 2-hour cruise in the Strait of Gibraltar, we may see ocean sunfish,,common and bottlenose dolphins, pilot whales, killer whales, and possible larger whale species (e.g., sperm, fin whales). On board, we will be instructed by either a professional naturalist provided by the vessel operator or a marine biologist from CIRCE, an NGO dedicated to the study of cetaceans in the Strait of Gibraltar and the Gulf of Cadiz. A CIRCE marine biologist will discuss her research on the cetaceans we observe and will also discuss both current and historical methods and issues with major fisheries in the area, including the tuna fishery. On the way back from Tarifa, we will stop off for a visit to the Ruins of Baelo Claudia, an ancient Roman town that thrived 2000 years ago near the current seaside town of Belonia. Baelo Claudia derived its wealth from the tuna fishing industry, from which they produced garum, a fish paste that was a sought-after delicacy throughout the Roman Empire. In addition to the impressive temple, forum, and basilica, the ruins of the large fish-salting factory are the perfect backdrop for a discussion of the importance of the tuna fishery both today and in ancient times, and to review current tuna fishing techniques and fishery issues.

Learning Objectives:

1. Gain firsthand appreciation of, and identification skills for, marine megafauna (specifically whales, dolphins, tuna) in southern Spain as well as their adaptations for living in a marine environment.
2. Compare the importance of tuna fisheries over two millennia and review modern fishery and conservation issues.
3. Comprehend current conservation challenges for cetaceans and tuna such as those relating to mortality due to fisheries interactions, ship strikes, disease, pollution.
4. Discuss/present possible solutions to these problems.