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The page was recently updated by Tsvika Lazar on December 17th, 2010

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November 2010 News
December 17th, 2010

Early Thursday morning, November 11th, IMMRAC chairman Dr. Aviad Scheinin and several other IMMRAC volunteers went on a dolphin survey with Israel Nature and Parks Authority (INPA) from the Ashkelon Marina, as part of the project to monitor the Avtach Marine Reserve.
After the morning fog started to fade, the volunteers spotted four common bottlenose dolphins near the trawler 'Nachshol'. 10 minutes later, the dolphins left the trawler's trail and unfortunately vanished very quickly in the fog which was still quite thick.
Not losing hope, the survey kept going and the crew checked a few others nearby trawlers. Near the last trawler, just before deciding to return to the marina, the same 4 dolphins reappeared. Three of them were recognized: ADI – veteran dolphin, first spotted in 2000, near Michmoret, and again 2006 in the south, SUKIE – first spotted near Tel Aviv in 2005 with a little calf, and seen few times since near Herzliya, and now at the south without a calf and Miki – first spotted near Michmoret in 2001, and seen since near Tel Aviv. Last august, MIKI too was seen with a little calf, as part of large group, which was not seen this time. Maybe the calf died, or the one that was seen was that of another female dolphin that Miki was babysitting while its mother was foraging. The fourth dolphin, with a lot of nicks on his dorsal fin, was one we couldn't recognize.
Just before turning back, the dolphin STUMPI joined the group – also a veteran, first spotted in 2002, near Michmoret, and seen since off the centre and south of the Israel shoreline.

We would like to thank Uri Pro and Livnat from INPA, and Patrick and Aviad, IMMRAC volunteers.


Sukie


Stumpi

Grey Whale in Israel!
May 16th, 2010

Early on Saturday, May 8th, IMMRAC team was alerted to a presence of a whale, a mile and a half off Herzliya Marina. Upon arrival, the ca 13 m long whale was spotted and followed for two hours, southward along the coast. The whale made a continuous series of short (3-5 minute) dives occasionally displaying its flukes. Size, coloration and a distinct dorsal hump with successive small tubercles along the dorsal aspect of the tail stock pointed to it being a sperm whale and excitement was high, it being first occasion when this species was sighted by IMMRAC staff. Some features being "wrong" with the head and the blow-hole were dismissed and the first report to the Media upon return to shore was of a sperm whale.

Closer inspection of the photographs back home showed quite a lot of head in front of an elevated blowhole, flukes unlike those of a sperm whale, unwrinkled and white-patched skin, all leading to the incredible but inescapable conclusion that it was indeed a grey whale! It was last spotted off Jaffa, still in a southward direction.

The species once inhabited the Atlantic but has been hunted out of existence there since the 17th Century and now only lives in the North Pacific. The consensus among world experts informed about the sighting is that it must have crossed into the Atlantic through the North-west Passage (along the northern coast of Canada), which due to the warming trend, at least some of its channels have been largely free of ice for at least a period of time during the past three summers, allowing a whale to surface when it needs to. Once there, it may have followed the urge to migrate south, as it does in the Pacific, only putting the European coastline on its left and thus entering the Mediterranean rather than the Mexican lagoons. Since the news spread out, its identifying markings (flanks & underside of flukes) have been compared to catalogues on both sides of the Pacific (Canada, Mexico and Russia) containing photos of several thousand individuals, so far with no match. It was last spotted the next day after the initial sighting and though looking rather skinny, it seems to be a survivor and we hope it has a fair chance of reversing the journey and arriving at waters where it can feed at will.

Photograph: Dr. Aviad Scheinin

January - February 2010 News
M
ay 19th, 2010

Undoubtedly, the most exciting item is the recent visit/comeback of the Mediterranean monk seal to our region.

In the last 6 months IMMRAC team has received more than 40 reports, some of them including video or photographs, of a seal sighted in many locations along the entire Israeli coastline from Ashqelon near the southern border of Gaza Strip to Rosh- HaNikra at the northern border with Lebanon. The first photographed report that verified the reports to be of the Mediterranean monk seal, Monachus monachus, was received on January 7th 2010. We have consulted with monk seal researchers from Turkey, Greece and Holland about the photos and the consensus was that it is a relatively young female. The female has been seen swimming inside Herzliya Marina, and was photographed by Shmulik Landaw, a veterinarian from the Ramat-Gan Safari, sleeping in a small alcove on the sea side of its breakwater, until disturbed.
She was dubbed 'Tabiba' after Moshe and Hayim Tabib, the fishermen that first saw her there. Other clear photographs of a seal swimming near the caves of Rosh HaNikra were not definitive enough in order to ascertain whether there are more than one seal along the coast. This is because markings in and out of the water, after the fur has dried, can not be compared. However the locations and the timings of some of the sightings suggest at least 2 animals. If there are two animals, one seems to patrol the northern coast from Rosh-Hanikra to Atlit-Neve-Yam and the other one is in the south, from Ashqelon to Cesarea. The latter was documented swimming along a coastal-set gillnet which on later inspection has been found to sustain characteristic tears caused by seal depredation.
Monk seals have not been observed in the Israeli coast for the last 50 years. In 1976 there were still some reports from Lebanon, but since then, the closest verified colony is in the Cilician coast of Turkey. In the case that seals are indeed showing re-colonization attempts, it may indicate a shift in their habitat or that the colony in the south-west Turkey acts as a nursery. The species is sensitive and weary to the close presence of humans. Anthropogenic miscarriages have been reported.
After a long period with no reported sightings, a seal was spotted by the crew of a Navy vessel few hundred meters north-west of Ashdod Port breakwater.

Dolphin sightings:
On January 10th, following a report about a large group of dolphins west of Netanya, yachtsman Uri Kani invited IMMRAC volunteers Aviad, Eliana, Ofer, Amir, Sharon, Yaron and Ohad in quest of the monk seal and the dolphin group on his yacht. They started from Herzliya rather late, but it was still quite foggy close to shore so they abandoned the near-shore search for the seal and headed north-west towards Netanya.
An hour's sailing brought them in contact with a group of 10 common bottlenose dolphins, including 'Ziggi' and her calf 'Zigzag' and 'Geva' and her new calf 'Stumpy'. The adults were resting while the juveniles and calves played. An hour and a half later, dolphins jumping out of the water were spotted on the horizon. When approached, another group of 15 animals was encountered, three of which were chasing and biting each other, frequently breaching, oblivious to the boat's presence. Soon after arrival another large group was spotted in the distance, making three groups altogether totaling 40-50 dolphins with lots of calves. Back in Herzliya, tired and happy after 3 hours of continuous sightings, the fog has not yet lifted near the shore.

Another survey was launched on January 30th aboard Sea-Gal's yacht. Strong southwesterly winds dictated a southward sail, hugging the coast, so as to return downwind. The course may be viewed here.
After an hour's sailing, whitecaps were forming – a condition with very slim chances of sighting dolphins. The only hope was the trawler "Mevo'ot Yam", fortunately sailing north on the planned homeward course. To the team's joy, three common bottlenose dolphins, two adults and a juvenile were following the trawler. One of the animals was identified as 'Hollow'. When the net was drawn the dolphins broke course and soon disappeared.

On the afternoon of February 12, a dolphin survey went out (this was the course) with the aim of testing the palm-held data gathering system, donated by 'WiseMobility' to the 'Sea-Watch' Foundation in Wales.
A single unknown dolphin was encountered twice during the survey, in association with seagulls, displaying resting and foraging behaviors.

Another important sighting of a group of 30 or more common dolphins off Gaza was recently received from the Navy. The sighting strengthens our contention that in the southeastern corner of the Levantine Basin there is a year-round residence of this species, the Mediterranean population of which is threatened.


Seal in Herzliya - photographed by Shmulik Landaw


Seal in Rosh HaNikra


Dolphins by Netanya - photographed by Dr. Aviad Scheinin

December 2009 News

We have received a report about Dolphins that were seen about 3 Km west of the coast of Jaffa. The Dolphins were seen on Thursday December 24th, at around 9am. The 4 Common bottlenose dolphins can be seen in the clip that was shot by the reporters here.

On Saturday, December 26th, we went on two surveys, one up north from Achziv and the other from Herzliya (with the Sea-Gal Yacht Club).

The former, that sailed towards Akko for about 3.5 hours, yielded sightings of a sea turtle, sea birds, great swarms of adult jelly fish, but no dolphins.

The Herzliya survey on the other hand had much pleasanter news. The yacht was packed with eager observers and after an hour of sailing (around 08:15) we saw a pod of common bottlenose dolphin, about 4.5 miles west of Ga'ash, in the vicinity of two working trawlers. The pod contained two mother-calf pairs. One of them turned out to be Ziggi, first identified on October 2008, and her young calf Zigmond. Zigmond seemed to be in good shape, he was very active and played with the bow wave of the yacht throughout the observation. The other mom was Nippo, seen for the first time in 2002, and on several occasions since. In 2006 we saw her with a calf, and on Saturday she was with a new-born calf. It was a great sighting, although being about a kilometer from the trawlers, the dolphins didn't actually follow them but rather displayed social activity near the surface of the water and towards the yacht.

We are continually thankful to Sea-Gal yacht Club for their support of dolphin research in Israel, and to the club members that help us follow the dolphins.

Photographs by: Aviad Scheinin

November 2009 News

Let's go back to July, and begin the report on events and activities:

On Saturday, July 11, IMMRAC staff conducted a survey aboard a yacht belonging to the "Sea-Gal" Yacht Club. On this survey, some 5 miles west of Netanya, seven adult short-beaked common dolphins were spotted, the first time ever in one of our own surveys. The dolphins were following the trawler "Nitsan",seemingly atop the  trawler's net. This encounter adds up to a succession of sightings of the species since early May.

Later on, on July 16th, we got notice from Eilat of a large pod of 40-50 Risso's dolphin, including calves, that was spotted around two o'clock, about a kilometer off the Princess Hotel.

On August 18th, a survey took place off the northern coast aboard the Israel Nature and Parks Authority (INPA)'s boat. The survey began at 06:00 from Achziv shore. After about an hour, a single common bottlenose dolphin was spotted for the first time for one fin burst only. After 30 minutes, it was spotted again in the distance, following the trawler "Or Hashahar". This time it made multiple long dives before disappearing again.

The boat went south to Nahariya and returned to the trawler as the net was raised. What was presumably the same dolphin was still making long dives, but was now much closer, allowing Mia to identify it as "Zavitan" that was first spotted off Achziv on September 16th, 2008. As the net was raised, a big festival began, with the birds diving from the sky and the dolphin from the sea and after it was gone, tuna fish arrived and performed a beautiful aerial display.

Many thanks to Eyal Miler (from INPA), Mia Elasar (IMMRAC committee member, and North Survey Leader) and Ohad Yniv, IMMRAC volunteer.

The "Sea-Gal" Yacht Club reported on a big pod of approximately 30 striped dolphins, including calves, spotted on August 26, around 17:30, during a sail from Herzliya to Cyprus, about 25 miles off the head of Mount Carmel.

On Saturday, September 12, we had a nice calm sea and a great dolphin survey from Sea-Gal's Yacht. After a while, about 3.5 miles off Ga'ash we spotted a small pod of common bottlenose dolphin, comprised of a mother, a small calf and another bigger calf, trailing the trawler "Sa'ar". A moment later the family moved away from the trawler and alternated between foraging and resting activities. After close examination of our dorsal fin's ID catalogue, we found the mother to be "Slide", first spotted on July 1st, 2007 with a small calf. The bigger calf of this occasion seems to be the same one from 2007, with its dorsal fin still kept intact and still accompanying its mother that gave birth to another one.

During the first year after giving birth, the mother is nursing and usually does not get pregnant. Another pregnancy during the second year after giving birth usually indicates a female in good health – encouraging evidence for the wild dolphins on our sea. This is the second female that we recorded giving birth for the second time, the first being "Ziggie".

Many thanks to "Sea-Gal" Club and Aviad, the surveys leader.

On September 23rd, we went for another survey from Ashkelon's Marina, as part of our ongoing cooperation with INPA in monitoring the marine reservation AVTH (Nitzanim). As a first time for these mutual surveys, a single common bottlenose dolphin was spotted at 09:00, 4 miles west of Nitzanim, behind the trawler "Shaldag". The dolphin was foraging with an average diving time of 6 minutes (very impressive).

Many thanks to the participants: Ronen from the INPA, Roni Roshtov the ornithologist, Ohad and Patrick, IMMRAC's volunteers and Aviad.

On September 26, we received two notices from "Sea-Gal" on dolphin sightings: The first was that a playful dolphin was spotted west of the Herzliya Marina, at a bottom depth of around 40 m. The dolphin rode the bow wave of the yacht for about 10 minutes. Around noon that day, the crew of the "The old man and the sea" spotted a pod of around 45 short-beaked common dolphins, some very young, two miles west of Ashkelon Marina.

On the morning of October 8th, during a northern survey out of Achziv, a single common bottlenose dolphin was spotted about 3 Km west of the shore, behind the trawler "Or-David". The dolphin surfaced 3 times and disappeared. After a short sail in the area and back after half an hour in time for the net raising, the dolphin was spotted again, and identified as "Eyal", first spotted on November 2007, west in the same general area.

The dolphin had some very new superficial wounds, that didn't keep it from enjoying the fish from the net. The fishermen did not mind our presence and our sailing around and up to the net to get better filming angles and a sea turtle gave us a short sally at the end of the observation.

Many thanks to Eyal Miler, Ohad Yaniv and Mia Elasar.

So far, the fall brings us good news and more observations.

On October 10th, we went to a survey from Herzliya Marina, and we saw dolphins for the 4th time in a row, from all our centers (Achziv, Herzliya & Ashkelon) since the beginning of September.

About half an hour after departure, we found a pod of 8 common bottlenose dolphins (including 2 calves born the last summer) about 3 miles off Tel-Aviv. The Dolphins were foraging behind trawler "Iris". One of the group was our adopted "Ziggie", that we are tracking since 2005.

The pod followed the trawler until another trawler, sailing in the opposite direction, passed by and part of the pod followed it, with us on their trail. After 2 hours we left the pod, the sea was so good that we decided to go west again, before heading back to the Marina.

Many thanks to "Sea-Gal" for all of their support by offering us to go on those surveys aboard their yachts, to Eliana Ratner from IMMRAC and to Yaron Haitovitz from "Wisemobility" company, which is responsible for our data collecting software, to Miri, IMMRAC's spokeswoman, for bringing the information to the Media and to Aviad.

Two days later, on October 12, we launched a survey from Michmoret Pier, to test-run IMMRAC-1, our own research and salvage boat, after its inflatable rubber ring was mended by "Zodiac" specialists in Cyprus. After very long sail, on our way back to the pier, we found a pod of 4 common bottlenose dolphins behind the trawler "Or Hashahar", about 3.5 miles off Hadera. After not too long, 2 of the dolphins left the pod and we continued to follow the other two. The survey course can be found following this link.

In this we are rapidly approaching the activation of another centre for our surveys, which will bring to four the number of points of origin along the Mediterranean cost of Israel utilized by IMMRAC surveyors: Achziv, Herzliya, Michnoret and Ashdod, mostly thanks to our cooperation with INPA.

The last successful survey is this month, on November 11th, 3 hours worth of observation of 4-5 adult common bottlenose dolphins and 1 calf. Among the group we recognized the adopted dolphin "Slitie", first spotted in 2001!!! Since then we saw it 5 times (in all probability, a male). The sea was amazing, which allowed us to continue following the pod and observe the fission-fusion of two sub-pods: one of a mother, her calf and another adult, and the other of "Slitie" and another known dolphin, "Holo" (named for the round scar that he has below the dorsal fin).

Many thanks to the great team: Eliana, Shlomi, Yossi, Patrick, Ohad and Aviad.

This year we participated in the second "Sea-Science Festival", which took place in Sukkoth, in "Mevo'ot-Yam" school in Michmoret. Our participation included lectures throughout the day and a display of our boat "IMMRAC 1".

Photo by: IMMRAC chairman Aviad Scheinin

Photo by: IMMRAC committee member Mia Elasar

Photo by: Jeremiah Stein

Photo by: Aviad Scheinin

Clip by: the yacht crew

May 2009 News

May was full of observations of large dolphin pods. On May 8th, a large pod of 40-50 of a species called Short-beaked Common dolphin (SBCD), about 1.5 mile off shore from Ashdod Port. 6 calves were part of the pod, one of which was approximately a few days old. One of the people that spotted the pod was Nir Hadar, an IMMRAC volunteer. On May 22nd we received a report of a pod including around 50 SBCDs. The reporter is Alex, from the Ashdod Marine. In addition, the same day we had a report of a pod including 3 SBCDs, by Reuven Bernstein, a yachter. On the 26th we received a report of group of three SBCDs, this time 600 meters off shore of Lachish river beach. This report was received through the Sailing and Seamanship forum in Tapuz website. You can find the filmed Clip on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-xO8hqjnp0Y. Another report was received on May 28th from a Tel-Aviv Marine Police Patrol crew: Herzl Hagu'el and Roy Ben-Sha'ul. The crew reported and documented a group of many tens of SBCDs about 3 miles off Tel-Aviv Marine between 9 to 10:30a.m. A Clip can be viewed at YouTube:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f8TuOLhD9-Q

According to research the Mediterranean population of the Short-beaked Common dolphin has decline over the past decades years and has been recently assigned a "threatened" status. This Specie is rather rare off our coast, and we hope the last observations are an indication of a changing trend in its regional distribution.

 

Photographed by: Reuven Bernstein

Photographed by: Herzl Hagu'el

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