December Update from Nick Gales

Christmas greetings to you all.

I hope you are able to find time to immerse yourselves with friends and family and take pause before 2015 sweeps us up into another busy year.

Two weeks ago we held the annual meeting of the SMM Board in San Francisco. The organising committee for the 21st Biennial Conference in San Francisco (13-18 December 2015) also attended for one of our two day meeting. I have always loved San Francisco and was reminded yet again what a great venue it is for our next meeting.

Reaching the ‘one year to go’ stage has seen our hard working local organisers move up several notches to prepare for what is highly likely to be our biggest gathering yet. With co-chairs Frances Gulland and Ellen Hines leading the overall team, and Dan Costa and Sarah Allen leading the science team we are in good hands. As with every Biennial we owe a huge debt of thanks to the local organisers who freely give so much of their time to ensure we have a great meeting. Keep an eye out on our website for updates and timelines.

I should note that San Francisco is not a cheap place to host a meeting. We will have full hotel and conference facilities in downtown SF and some spectacular venues in which to meet, mix and learn. We are doing all we can to keep the costs of the meeting down to affordable levels. This is being achieved through a combination of active fund raising and a decision to dip into the Society’s cash reserves to the degree necessary to strike the right balance. Some conferences have added to our cash reserves and some should – quite appropriately – dip into them. The conference co-chairs are working closely with the Board to get this balance right.

While on conferences, we received the very sad news that the organisers of the 22nd Biennial (voted by all of you to be Veracruz, Mexico) have had to withdraw their offer to host the meeting. This very hard decision was made on the basis of political and security issues in Mexico. I take this opportunity to sincerely thank Ibiza Martinez and Eduardo Morteo for all the hard work they and their team had done in preparing for the meeting. It was a tough decision for them to make. We all hope that safety and security issues will be resolved in Mexico, and that hopefully our active Mexican marine mammal community might consider hosting a meeting at some future time.

The Board is working hard to determine an alternate venue for our 2017 meeting.

During the Board meeting we also reviewed the very successful Otago Biennial. This was the first time the meeting had been held in the Oceania region and so was a further important step in representing the international status as a Society. There was some great innovation in the meeting – not only in having to set up a whole new (and wonderful) venue following the catastrophic Christchurch earthquakes – but in areas such as speed talks and a much greater reach through social media. Our sincere thanks to go to Liz Slooten, Steve Dawson and their team for their leadership and delivery of a great event. Thanks also to the University of Otago for providing their facilities.

One of the events from Otago that continues to give rise to correspondence was the panel discussion on captive killer whales. Quite a few people have requested that the transcript from the panel discussion be made public. While this is a perfectly reasonable request, it is not possible in this case. Some panel members agreed to participate on the panel, in good faith, on the basis that there be no public product from the discussion, including publicly available transcripts. As this was the agreed basis for the panel, we must honour it. In discussing this topic the Board agreed that in future we should not give any such undertakings, and that any event held as a formal part of our biennial meetings will be made fully public. Future participants will be made aware of this.

Once again, Merry Christmas to you all. I look forward to seeing as many of you as possible in San Francisco in a year.

My best regards,