PROCETUS Research

Founded in 2015 by a motivated marine ecologist interested in Baja’s marine mammal conservation, PROCETUS is a research-based project that aims to contribute to the conservation of cetaceans (whales and dolphins) in Bahia de los Angeles (BLA) through research and community involvement.

The objective of the program is to survey local populations of cetaceans and provide essential scientific information on their abundance, diversity, spatial-seasonal distribution, and behavior. This information will be used to better manage and conserve these species as well as improve the foundational knowledge of these animals in this area.

 

At PROCETUS, we have successfully conducted 7 years of research in BLA, helping to build knowledge about the cetaceans in this area and create a database of scientific information. During our research, we have registered 310 cetacean sightings which comprise of 9 different cetacean species: common dolphins, bottlenose dolphins, pilot whales, sperm whales, killer whales, humpback whales, blue whales, Bryde’s whales, and most importantly, fin whales.

 

Fin whales are the giants of the Sea of Cortes! They can reach up to 20m (66ft) in length and weigh over 45,000kg (100,000 lbs.)!

Fernanda Urrutia-Osorio, the founder of PROCETUS, is currently focusing her doctoral studies on fin whales. Her Ph.D. work will initially focus on a population of fin whales, the 2nd largest animals on Earth, in both the Southern Californian Bight and in the Gulf of California. Using population genetic techniques, she will examine the degree of genetic variability between the two groups while studying the evolutionary patterns that have helped contribute to their geographical dissociation.

Fin whale from above

CETACEAN SURVEY EFFORT

400 hours at sea

6,300 kilometers

310 sightings

9 cetacean species

7 years of research

Research PROCETUS fin whale

The Gulf of California is home to a resident population of fin whales that have become PROCETUS’ most studied species. Our research aims to review the ecological and genetic characteristics of this isolated, large whale population to better assess and understand their variability for future conservation efforts.

 

We have registered around 200 fin whale sightings with over 400 individuals. Using photo-identification techniques, we have successfully built the area’s fin whale catalogue, where we have identified over 200 individuals!

FIN WHALE CATALOGUE

These are some of our visiting giants!

NEXT STEPS....

Gray whale drone study PROCETUS

In January 2022, we will start working on an upcoming research project to study the impacts of whale-watching boats on the behaviors of gray whale mom and calf pairs using drone imagery in the nursing lagoon of Ojo de Liebre. Stay tuned!

ENVIRONMENTAL  EDUCATION

At PROCETUS, we believe in empowering the next generation of scientists and conservationists. As part as our environmental education and outreach activities, we have conducted local talks to children, Marine Protected Area (MPA) staff, and have invited local children to join our scientific surveys.

As a local organization in Baja, we collaborate with other marine conservation entities and government officials. One of the ways we accomplish this, is to work alongside Marine Protected Area (staff) throughout the region. By sharing our scientific data and observations with both MPA staff and the surrounding communities, we can better assist them with future management strategies.

FUNDING SOURCES

Rufford Foundation
Chicago Zoological Society
PADI Foundation
American Cetacean Society
Columbus Zoo