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The Rugvin Foundation

The Rugvin (dorsal fin) foundation performs research based on species diversity, population dynamics, and the behaviour of cetaceans in the North Sea and in the Eastern Scheldt estuary. In addition, Rugvin reveals its findings by enlightenment and education to all Dutch citizens.

A large portion of the Dutch is not aware of the fact that cetaceans, like the harbour porpoise, exist in the Dutch coastal waters and Eastern Scheldt. By performing research to porpoises and other cetaceans in these waters, and by reflecting the results to the public, the Rugvin foundation endeavours to contribute for the protection to these species. Protection is impossible without awareness and knowledge on these special animals.

The Rugvin Foundation hopes that over the coming years the awareness of cetaceans in the Dutch North Sea and Eastern Scheldt will clearly increase, and aims to make a significant contribution. In addition, the Rugvin foundation attempts to support policy makers with the gathered information, to guarantee the survival of these species.

History … or the emergence of the Rugvin Foundation

In the summer of 2002 the idea for Rugvin Foundation emerged. During that summer, Frank Zanderink (chairman/coordinator) participated the Cetacean Research & Rescue (CRRU) team, a Scottish organisation that focuses on the welfare, conservation and protection of cetaceans, guided by Dr. Kevin Robinson (director of the CRRU). In the wonderful weeks during his stay at the CRRU, Frank witnessed many bottlenose dolphins and saw porpoises for the first time in his life on the Moray Firth!


Back home in the Netherlands, Frank was curious about what research and education existed on cetaceans in the Netherlands. According to his eyes he figured that this was too little. Besides partial governmental work, carried out by several institutes, it appears there was very little attention for cetaceans living in the Dutch part of the North Sea. After reading an article about Europhlukes (computer program for the identification of the dorsal fin and flukes of cetaceans), Frank came in contact with Ruben Huele, of the Center for Environmental studies Leiden, Nynke Osinga and Bas Beekmans (by then students). They decided to set up a feasibility study to investigate the presence of Cetaceans in the North Sea. The results of this study came out positive! Shipping company Stena Line was approached for the possibility to do research on board of the ferry between Hook of Holland (NL) and Harwich (GB). Stena Line agreed with this and later on Rugvin joined the Atlantic Research Coalition (ARC), to be able to match studies of other research organisation who also monitor cetaceans from ferries.

In January 2005, Nynke started her population study on the ferries Hollandica and Britannica of Stena Line under the name Project Rugvin (Project Dorsal Fin). With thanks to Stena Line, from that moment on, two volunteers observed cetaceans on the ferries each month that year. In association with Stichting De Noordzee (The North Sea Foundation) a research and education program on smaller boats was set up, which lasted until 2006. During these sailing trips, besides the registration of observed cetaceans, volunteers were trained and people interested were educated about cetaceans. Two years after the start of this project, we officially started to become an independent foundation in February 2007. The Rugvin Foundation was born!

Stena Hollandica


In 2008 the Rugvin Foundation started with exploratory boat journeys to find harbour porpoises in the Eastern Scheldt. In autumn 2009, with financial support of and in cooperation with the Wereld Natuur Fonds (WWF; World Wildlife Fund), the first official Eastern Scheldt counting took place. After this successful scan, follow-up countings took place in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014.

Moreover, the Rugvin Foundation started an acoustic study in 2009 in the Oosterschelde with many thanks to the WNF and “rijkswaterstaat”. For further information on this, click the button research and select Oosterschelde.


The Board members
In 2007, after a two year project period under the umbrella of the North Sea Foundation (SDN), the Rugvin Foundation was established (see History). The foundation was set up by Nynke Osinga (former student and now PhD candidate), Frank Zanderink (ARK Natuurontwikkelingen), and Ruben Huele (Center for Environmental studies Leiden). In 2011 Rubed decided to resign his work for The Rugvin Foundation. Frank and Nynke asked Bas Beekmans to be his successor. Bas took this task and remained board member until November 2014. From November 2013, Ilse Belt followed up on Bas, and the team remained with 3 board members.

Introducing the board members:

Frank Zanderink, Chairman/Coordinator
My interest into large mammals, as important link of our ecosystem, traces back to high school where I grew up with the kick-off/ heydays of Greenpeace in the Netherlands. That time, they brought a, to me,very appealing way of action towards the protection of (amongst others) cetaceans. As a result I joined the local Greenpeace core group, being a student in forestry and conservation at Wageningen University). After several years I became campaigner, but mostly as representative (on subjects like whale and seal hunting, and atomic energy) and trainee of other representatives. After research to wolves and brown bears in Plitvice Lakes National Park (Croatia) as a student, I worked as conservation officer in Chikuni game reserve for WWF Zambia, were after I came back to marine mammals due to participation of the CRRU research programme in Scotland. On return to the Netherlands I realized that in those days, besides semi-governmental institutes, not one organisation connected research to cetaceans and informing the public about it. After a nice meeting with the Centre for Environmental studies in Leiden an feasibility study was set up by Nynke and Bas (former students). The outcome of that study lead to project Rugvin and later the Dorsal fin Foundation was born. Besides my work for the Rugvin Foundation I am employed as project leader on European projects for ARK nature development.
Ilse Belt, Board member

In 2005 I’ve been on vacation to family relatives in Chili who built a Catamaran. From the harbour in Iquique we made many nice sailing tours, and it was there where I saw rorquals (mother and calf swimming next to the boat) for the first time in my life. Other days we spotted other whales and dolphin species. From that moment on cetaceans became my passion. Since 5 years I am an active volunteer of the Rugvin Foundation. Together with Frank and other volunteers I organize the porpoise scans at the Oosterschelde. I also regularly join the surveys on the Stena line from Hoek van Holland > Harwich. Furthermore I work for the police department in The Hague as BOA, assistant Service & Intake. I love to spend my free time on the Oosterschelde to see porpoises or the sea.

Ilse on board of the Stena Hollandica

Nynke Osinga, cofounder/secretary
In 2005 I graduated for my Master in Biology at Leiden University. During my studies I did research to possible methods for monitoring porpoises in the North Sea, and also to by-catch from porpoises in the fishing industry. Besides my study I started the first porpoise research with Frank Zanderink, Ruben Huele, and Bas Beekmans, which later became the Rugvin Foundation. Since 2005 I work as a marine biologist at the Seal rehabilitation centre. Since 2008 I am also connected to Leiden University, as PhD candidate. This research focuses on the biology of the harbor seal and the grey seal and identification of human influence on their populations.

Everyone within the Rugvin Foundation works voluntarily on one or multiple activities. Our activities and accessory activities are divided by multiple working groups (e.g. Eastern Scheldt, Monitoring on Stena Line, Communication, Finances).
The volunteers of Rugvin have got different backgrounds. Many have had an education in ecology and got involved due to traineeships, research, or another professional way. A large part of the team members have a job at an NGO (e.g. SOS Dolfijn, Stichting de Noordzee, ARK, and Zeehondencreche Pieterburen), research institutes or consultancy, and governmental organisations. A part of the volunteers were trained in observing cetaceans with British organisations like the CRRU, ORCA or Seatrust. Others are submitted by marine mammal associations, Stichting Nova Atlantis and from origin British organisation Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS).
All of us are interested in monitoring and observing cetaceans. But being a volunteer includes more than just that. Also the organisation of the yearly counting, planning the Stena line trips, writing articles for our website, updating Facebook and the yearly report are all tasks were we put effort in. And not to mention the dozen datasets connected to ECMC.
Whatever the background of our volunteer may be, the nature were cetaceans and the marine environment where they live in have a special place in our hearts!
There is always some space for extra volunteers. However the positions at the Stena line transfers are scarce. Do you like working as a Rugvin volunteer, and have a passion for cetaceans plus own strong writing- or organising qualities, please contact us via the contact form.

Three volunteers introduce themselves:


Ernst in action

Ernst Schrijver
My interest for cetaceans origins from a very early stage of life. At the age of four I “enriched” my mother’s brand new sea blue armchair with drawings of sperm whales. In the following years, my fascination even grew larger fostered by the adventures of Jaques Coustea. During my studies I specialized myself in research to marine mega fauna and ecosystems. Due traineeships home and abroad, I gained much knowledge on marine mammals. After my graduation research to harbour porpoise behaviour in Whales in 2010, I got into contact with the dorsal fin foundation. At the moment I volunteer as primary observer on the Stena Line surveys and organized the porpoise scan at the Oosterschelde in 2012. It is important that we Dutch people are aware of the presence of marine mammals and that they need to be protected. Awareness and interest are the germ of protection and conservation to my opinion.


Suzanne, a little whale mad

Suzanne van der Plas – Duivesteijn
Whales and dolphins fascinate me since a very long time. It all started at primary school, followed by a 11-day field course, named “join the research team” of the Cetacean Research and Rescue Unit (CRRU). During my studies I performed a scientific study to the DNA of stranded harbour porpoises in order to get insight into population genetics, and in 2008 I organized the European Cetacean Society (ECS) conference in the Netherlands. I was always searching for cetacean researchers within the Netherlands. Due to all contacts I gained throughout the years, I joined the first meeting of the Rugvin foundation (by that time named Project Rugvin) and immediately became volunteer. In this way I joined the very first boat trips of the Rugvin foundation (departing from Scheveningen harbour). After that I joined many Oosterschelde scans of which I am also deployed as boat coordinator. I do my work for the Rugvin foundation with joy and always like to inform people joining our trips as new volunteers or “guests” about cetaceans in the Dutch waters. Also I like to inform other people about the Rugvin foundation and fancy to meet people who are not aware of cetaceans in the North Sea, so I can tell them about these animals.


For more info on Rugvin please do read our annual reports (jaarverslag), these are all in English!

Jaarverslag 2005 Jaarverslag 2006 Jaarverslag 2007 Jaarverslag 2008 Jaarverslag 2009 Jaarverslag 2010

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