Our YAQU PACHA Annual General Meeting this year was held on Friday, May 26, 2023 from 6:30 to 8:30 pm at the Natural History House of the Nuremberg Zoo and also via Zoom Conference our biologists and society members attended the event.
Dr. Lorenzo von Fersen (1st chairman YAQU PACHA e.V.) led through the event. After a short introduction, first our biologists from Latin America reported about the work on their projects.
Prof. Eduardo Secchi began by presenting the projects that are being carried out with our partners from ECOMEGA FURG from the Federal University of Rio Grande FURG in Brazil. Special attention is given to the cooperation with fishing communities and schools in order to reduce the bycatch of marine mammals in the long term and to intensify the contact with fishermen. The project also aims to integrate the topic of nature and species conservation into school lessons in the long term. Prof. Secchi's team is also working on setting up a hormone physiology laboratory for the analysis of cortisol and other hormones from samples of the species living there. Dr. Silvina Botta participated in a training course at the world-renowned Toronto Zoo laboratory of Dr. Mastromonaco.
Dr. Lorenzo Rojas-Bracho then reported on the work to protect the endangered vaquita. He presented the work of PESCA ABC, which implements alternative fishing methods to prevent bycatch of vaquitas. Through the government of Mexico, heavy concrete blocks with metal hooks have also been sunk in the vaquitas' distribution area to prevent fishing in this area, as the nets would be destroyed by these metal hooks. Apparently this is already having a positive effect and fishermen seem to be avoiding these areas. In the last 3 weeks, Dr. Rojas-Bracho's team has again made expeditions to count vaquitas and there have been sightings of animals again, which makes us feel positive.
Then Dr. Federico Sucunza from our partners GEMARS and INSTITUTO AQUALIE presented his work in the protection of the La Plata Dolphin - Franciscana - Toninha and reported on the flight counts that were carried out for the first time in Uruguay in March and April. After evaluating the data, we can currently assume a population of about 30000 Franciscanas in Uruguay, where there is a very high mortality due to bycatch. To counteract this, we are working together to install acoustic signals, such as pingers. Dr. Federico Sucunza also reported on our collaboration with the PROJETO PESCA team to test and establish a simple and low-cost alternative to pingers. It turns out that empty plastic bottles mounted in the nets are perceived by the dolphins, so they avoid the nets. Initial tests were very successful.
Afterwards, our biologist Yurasi Briceño from our partners PROYECTO SOTALIA reported on her work in protecting the river dolphins Inia geoffensis and Sotalia and the manatees in Venezuela. Oil exploration in Lake Maracaibo and the extraction of gold using mercury pose a serious threat to the animals, and it turns out that the mercury accumulates so much in the fish that it also becomes a serious threat to humans through the food cycle. The work of the team around Yurasi Briceño covers many areas, such as regular population counts of the animals and an important area is also environmental education.
Dr. von Fersen then reported on the measures being taken specifically to protect the endangered Lahille's bottlenose dolphin(Tursiops truncatus gephyreus) in Brazil.
Another focus of YAQU PACHA's work is the so-called capacity building, the development of competencies and the training and further education of our employees.
YAQU PACHA was also instrumental in establishing the Alliance for Franciscana Dolphin, which develops conservation plans for the endangered La Plata Dolphin - Franciscana - Toninha(Pontoporia blainvillei) in various working groups.
The Latin American Journal for Aquatic Mammals LAJAM looked back on its 20th anniversary and YAQU PACHA has been a major sponsor of this important scientific journal since its inception.
In 2022, YAQU PACHA was also the main sponsor of the 19th RT of SOLAMAC, the most important working meeting for biologists working on the conservation of aquatic mammal species in Latin America.
Dr. von Fersen also reported on the major international workshop Human Dimension in small Cetacean Conservation organized and conducted by YAQU PACHA. A final report will follow shortly.
Another important part of our work was the cooperation with the group ECOLOGIA HUMANA DO OCEANO, which is led by our biologist Camilah Antunes Zappes in Brazil and whose focus is the connection between humans and the environment. The group's main activities are environmental education in schools and kindergartens and communication with fishing communities.
Sandra Honigs (2nd chairwoman, YAQU PACHA e.V.) presented the work and activities of YAQU PACHA in Germany and Europe. At this point a big thank you to all volunteers, without whose help our events and activities would not be possible.
Finally, Dr. Lorenzo von Fersen presented the new YAQU PACHA for Diversity program, which uses the example of Lahille's bottlenose dolphin (current population 600 individuals) to show why it is so important to preserve and protect biodiversity.
The detailed minutes of the Annual General Meeting with all the activities of our organization will also be available here on our website shortly.