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They are natural acrobats, more than ten metres long and weighing about 40 tonnes. Humpback whales set off on their migration from the Antarctic to the warm Panamanian waters between June and October, travelling together about 8,000 kilometres in search of a temperate climate.

The Gulf of Panama is witness to the longest migration by a mammal. Two populations of humpback whales arrive in the gulf’s waters every year: those from the Northern Hemisphere, who come from Alaska and reach the coast of Panama between January and March, and those from the Antarctic, who travel between July and October.

In their passage from the South Pacific, the whales reach Peru, Ecuador or Colombia, and many swim on some kilometres more until they reach Panamanian waters. There, they breed and bring their offspring into the world, providing a unique spectacle for locals, scientists and tourists.

The mammals settle into their new home, very close to shore, before the eyes of dozens of whale watchers perched on boats hoping for an up-close encounter with whales and dolphins. However, the growing number of boats and their proximity to the cetaceans, plus contact with fishing nets and pollution, have endangered these marine behemoths.

Responsible whale and dolphin watching is crucial to the protection of these animals and, in turn, is an opportunity for sustainable tourism that provides direct benefits to the local tour operators. This is why the Ministry of Environment partnered with the Aquatic Resources Authority of Panama, UNDP and the Marviva Foundation to build capacity among the people who do this work, to help them strengthen their businesses while safeguarding the marine habitat. With funding from the Global Environment Facility, the projects trains participants on responsible whale watching and biodiversity protection.

CONTINUE READING: https://stories.undp.org/acrobats-of-the-ocean

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Publication date: 
26/10/2017
Publication Organisation: 
UNDP
Publication Author: 
UNDP
Country/ies: 
Panama
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