Announcement of the Second Indian Ocean Cetacean Symposium

The Second Indian Ocean Cetacean Symposium will be held by the Marine Research Centre (www.mrc.gov.mv) in the Maldives in 2019.  This is to follow on from the first Indian Ocean Cetacean Symposium that was held almost a decade ago, in July 2009, (see report here), and coincides with the 40th anniversary of the declaration of the International Whaling Commission’s Indian Ocean Sanctuary. The meeting will offer an opportunity for active cetacean researchers from across the Indian Ocean region to meet, to present findings, and to plan collaborative research activities. It will also bring together representatives of international organisations concerned with cetacean research and conservation.
Dates and venue are now being finalized, but will likely be for three days in May-June 2019. If you would like to register to receive further information please contact: Ms Mariyam Nazeefa, mnazeefa@mrc.gov.mv
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New Infographic from Arabian Sea Whale Network

After months of planning, the Arabian Sea Whale Network (ASWN) has finalized an infographic designed to raise awareness of the unique nature of Arabian Sea humpback whales and the urgent conservation challenges they face.  The infographic is intended for dissemination to a wide range of stakeholders, including government agencies responsible for conservation management, fisheries managers, port authorities and other industries that impact the marine environment.  Some ASWN members are also distributing electronic and printed versions to schools and coastal communities, and are translating the infographic into Arabic, Farsi, and Hindi in order to reach a wider target audience.  It is hoped that this awareness-raising tool will encourage stakeholders to engage and invest in the conservation efforts required to conserve this population and enable its recovery.

Arabian Sea Whale Network Infographic

ASWN is also working on the development of a regional online data platform that will allow members to archive cetacean sightings and strandings data in a common format to facilitate Arabian Sea-wide comparisons and analyses. ASWN is working with the developers of Flukebook, an open-source cetacean photo-identification and data archiving platform. As well as archiving data from directed cetacean research, the new regional data platform will facilitate the collection of third-party and opportunistic whale sightings data, such as the wave of reports made by fishermen from Pakistan late in 2016.  In countries where dedicated cetacean surveys have not yet been organized due to lack of funding or security concerns, these third-party reports can provide extremely valuable insight into whale distribution and threats.

For more information, please contact Gianna Minton (gianna.minton@gmail.com), Tim Collins (tcollins@wcs.org) or Marina Antonopoulou (mantonopoulou@ewswwf.ae)  Click here to download a high resolution PDF (75 MB) of  the  infographic.

Posted in Arabian Sea Humpback Whale, Arabian Sea Whale Network, Endangered | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Progress protecting Mekong River dolphins undermined by proposed dams

Somany Phay, Frances Gulland, and H.E. Srun Limsong, Deputy Director General of the Fisheries Administration, Royal Government of Cambodia. Photo Credit: Peter Thomas

In January 2017 an international workshop on the Critically Endangered freshwater population of dolphins (Orcaella brevirostris) in the Mekong River was held in Kratie, Cambodia [click here to read report]. This was the fourth such workshop convened by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) – Cambodia and the Cambodian Fisheries Administration, all of them organized and conducted in collaboration with the CSG and the U.S. Marine Mammal Commission [click here for more details].

At this workshop the external advisory group concluded that significant progress had been made on implementing most of the recommendations from the 2014 workshop, thanks to the commitment of the WWF-Cambodia team, the Fisheries Administration, the River Guards and the local community. The River Guards have worked hard to confiscate gillnets in the core dolphin zones and the consequent reduction in entanglement risk may have been a significant factor contributing to the recent increase in calf survival. The River Guards nevertheless continue to face a number of obstacles and gillnetting remains a serious threat.

River guards burning confiscated gillnets. Photo credit: Peter Thomas

Unfortunately, the threat of hydropower development, addressed in detail at the 2014 workshop, is now a reality for this population. Since the construction of the Don Sahong dam near the Laos/Cambodia border began in 2014, a local subpopulation of dolphins has declined from five to only three individual dolphins and there is now virtually no hope for its persistence. Progress on slowing the decline of the Mekong dolphin population, which currently numbers only about 80 individuals, could

be completely nullified by construction of the proposed Sambor and Stung Treng hydropower dams. If built, these dams will eliminate or transform most of the dolphins’ remaining riverine habitat. A Memorandum of Understanding was signed recently between the Cambodia government and a private company to carry out feasibility studies on the two new dams.

Construction of the Don Sahong Dam on the Mekong River in Laos. Photo Credit: Peter Thomas

Other populations of Irrawaddy dolphins were also discussed, including the Critically Endangered Mahakam (Indonesia) and Ayeyarwady (Myanmar) freshwater ones as well as those in the estuaries and mangrove channels of Bangladesh.

 

Posted in Critically Endangered, Dams, entanglements, Freshwater Dolphins, Irrawaddy Dolphins, Mekong dolphins | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment