Multi-stakeholder collaboration yields valuable data for cetacean conservation in Gamba, Gabon
Private industry, the Government of Gabon and two international NGOs collaborated to conduct marine surveys off the coast of Gabon, Central Africa. Surveys addressed multiple objectives of surveillance and monitoring, the documentation of the distribution of and threats to the marine megafauna, and capacity-building among government agents and local early-career scientists. During 22 days of survey effort over a two-year period, observers documented humpback whales Megaptera novaeangliae, bottlenose dolphins Tursiops truncatus, Atlantic humpback dolphins Sousa teuszii and common dolphins Delphinus delphis. Humpback whale presence was limited to the months of July to November. Bottlenose dolphins were present year-round and photo-identification of individuals indicated a closed, resident population, with an abundance estimate of 118 (CV = 21.6%, 95% CI 78–180). Small open-decked fishing vessels with gillnets were observed concentrated around river mouths within 2 km of shore, while commercial trawlers were at least 10 km offshore; all were confirmed to be registered and legal. Observations of marine turtles, flocks of marine birds, and floating logs and other debris were sparse. This multi-stakeholder collaboration to conduct a marine survey can serve as an effective model by which funding and logistic support from private industry paired with technical expertise from NGOs and academic institutions can benefit marine and coastal conservation.
Keywords: fishing pressure, marine survey, Megaptera novaeangliae, photo-identification, relative abundance, Sousa teuszii, stakeholder engagement, Tursiops truncatus