By Natalie Strom
On Wednesday, July 25, Rookery Bay welcomed Wayne Hasson to speak at their summer lecture series featuring marine mammals. The world-renowned Scuba diver and owner of the Aggressor Fleet spoke of his first-hand encounters with the endangered humpback whale.
An avid diver for more than 40 years, Hasson began his extensive underwater career while serving as a United States Marine. His love of Scuba led him to develop the Aggressor and Dancer Fleets. These live-a-board yachts offer a home out on the sea for Scuba enthusiasts. With locations in Hawaii, the Maldives, Fiji, the Cayman Islands, Papua New Guinea, the Bahamas, Belize and the Galapagos Islands, to name a few, Hasson has traveled all over the world photographing and learning about the different underwater species he encounters.
During his presentation, Hasson discussed his experiences with humpback whales of the waters off the Dominican Republic. With an Aggressor yacht in the Dominican, he has spent countless hours examining the rare whale that is “the size of a school bus.”
Leaving the coast and traveling about 100 miles out, they dive in an area known as Silver Bank. Hasson noted that humpback whales travel south to Silver Bank in the winter months of January through April, traveling from as far north as Maine and Nova Scotia. Through photo identification, divers have found that the same mother whales travel to Silver Bank every year.
Hasson also explained the “weird whale ways” of the humpback using much of his own photography to describe behaviors such as spy-hopping, whale singing, tail lobbing and breaching. Noting that humans are the biggest threat to the humpback whale, he touched on issues such as whaling, over fishing and whale watchers.
Hasson’s “Fascinating Humpback Whale Facts” lecture is not the first time he has presented at Rookery Bay. A naples resident, Hasson helped in the fundraising efforts to establish the Rookery in 2003. “Over two days we hit every middle school in Collier County. We had Leslie Nielsen, John Michel Cousteau, Guy Harvey and myself. The four of us drove from one school to the next, delivering presentations to the kids. It was phenomenal,” explained Hasson in a sit-down with Coastal Breeze after his presentation.
Through his Oceans For Youth Foundation, Hasson helped with the Rookery’s Dive into Oceans event. Over three days, middle-school students from Collier County were given hands-on opportunities to learn about the ocean and experience a 17,000 gallon dive pool. “We had a big swimming pool set up outside, presentations in the theater and other areas set up with labs and scientists that would talk to the kids and take them through the labs and touch tanks,” described Hasson of the event hosted for six years.
As committed to education as Hasson, Rookery Bay is hosting one more presentation in its summer lecture series. On August 15, Manatee Research Biologist, Kati Therriault will discuss “Manatee Response, Recovery and Research.” A biologist for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, she has participated in rescues and necropsies of manatees, dolphins and whales. The lecture costs $8 for Rookery members and $10 for guests.
Rookery Bay is also celebrating National Estuary Day on September 29. This national celebration at the country’s 28 estuarine research reserves “recognizes the importance of this habitat where rivers meet the sea.” Events will include a marine critter touch tank, live animal presentations, a staff-narrated boat tour, introductory kayaking trips, a kids fishing clinic, behind-the-scenes tours of the science labs, films, food and more. From 10:00 am to 3:00 pm, children 12 and under are free and adults are only $3.
To learn more about these upcoming events, visit www.rookerybay.org