The Ministry of Marine Affair and Fisheries (KemenKP) Handles Stranded Sperm Whale

Saving a stranded sea mammal of 2 Ton size in a shallow water of 1 meter is not something easy, particularly in giving assurance to the various parties and stakeholders to play an active role in working together to save the stranded whale; big efforts should be made and appropriate equipment would be needed to release it to the high sea. However, the awareness and the empathy on the importance of saving a rare sea biota which belongs to the animal species that have to be protected, have attracted various interested parties at the national level and internationally to work hand in hand in making efforts to save the whale that was stranded in the water of Tanjung Pakis coast, Karawang, West Java.

As we all know, on Wednesday dated 25 July 2012, the fishermen in the coast of Tanjung Pakis, Karawang, found a whale stranded alive in the water of Tanjung Pakis – Karawang, approximately 500 m from the edge of the coast. The stranded whale was identified as Sperm Whale having a Latin name Physeter macrocephalus. This whale weights approximately 2 ton 8 quintal with a length of 12 meters; whale of that size is a junior whale. Adult whale which belongs to toothed whale (odontocete) could weigh up to 15 tons (female) and 45 tons (male). Its length could reach 11 meters (female) and 16 meters (male).

The whale stranded in Tanjung Pakis Coast, Karawang which is in the water located in the northern part of Java is not the usual migration path of whales. Whales belong to Migratory Species, which migrate together in pairs or in a group led by an eldest female. The migration path of Sperm Whale in Indonesia starts from the water in the southern part of Malaka Strait, southern part of South Sumatra, Southern part of Java Island, Bali Strait - Lombok and then to the north passing Makasar strait. It is strongly suspected that the reason why the baby Whale was stranded was because it suffered from a disease, causing this Whale away from the usual migration path and experienced disorientation to Karawang water.

The stranded whale was then evacuated that took 4 (four) days to return it to the sea and the efforts made by a team consisting of various parties on Saturday, the 28th July 2012, at 14.00 was a success; it was conducted in a relay using Ship KN348 owned by Sea and Cost Base (PLP), tug boat TB Bima owned by Pelindo II. The male Sperm Whale which was still a baby was managed to be released to the sea at the depth of 25 meters. However, when it was released the whale was seen to be in a weak condition. Therefore on Sunday, the 29th July 2012, the whale was again seen stranded and it was dead already with wounds all over its body in the water of Muaragembong Bekasi.  

Being species that should be protected pursuant to Government Regulation No. 7 of 1999 regarding the Preservation of Plants and Animal species, whales that are captured for its meat, either alive or dead and parts of its body shall not be allowed and it is subject to sanction pursuant to Law No. 5 of 1990 regarding the Conservation of Biological Natural Resources and its Ecosystem and Law Number 45 of 2009 regarding the Amendment of Law Number 31 of 2004 regarding Fisheries. Therefore on Monday, 30th July 2012 the dead body of whale was evacuated by sea to the Island of Kotok in Thousand Island, to sink the dead body so that it will go through the natural process of decomposition, and its carcass will in the future be taken out for collection and object of research.     

The sinking activity of the dead body of the whale alone was carried out on Tuesday, the 31st July 2012 in the water of Kotok Island in the depth of 25 – 30 m. The sinking was carried out by first of all covering the body of the whale with net and rope obtained from STP Jakarta to protect the bones of the whale so that it is not scattered, and then a ballast was put on the whale until it sinks. This activity involved the KemenKP (Directorate General of Marine, Coasts and Small Islands, Research and Development, Research and Development Units of Marine Affairs and Fisheries, Directorate General for the Supervision of Marine and Fisheries Resources (Ditjen PSDKP), LIPI, Ministry of Forestry, Ministry of Communication, Marine Affairs and Fisheries Service office of Thousand Island, the Diver group of the Special Forces Command (Pasukan Katak Kopassus), and NGO of Jakarta Animal Aid Network. The activity of sinking the whale was not yet successful since the 2 ton ballast put on the whale still could not make it sinked. On Wednesday, the 1st of August 2012, the activity for sinking the dead body of the whale was continued by adding more weight and the gas was removed from the body of the whale. However, until now they still have not managed to sink the dead body of the whale.          

As the management authority in fish resources conservation, KemenKP will continue to monitor and supervise stranded large sized sea biota ; particularly in the location where the sinking of the whale took place in the water of Kotok, Thousand Island, the habitat will be monitored. Socialization and development will be carried out for the communities at the location where the whale was stranded to increase their awareness and passion on the importance of maintaining rare and extinct fish resources. In addition, in 2013, KemenKP is planning to formulate an action plan for whale conservation in Indonesia. Therefore, the handling of stranded sea biota requires knowledge and expertise on how to handle stranded species, particularly whale and dolphin and therefore it is crucial to prepare guidelines on how to handle stranded sea biota and to establish a partnership with various parties in order that the handling of stranded whale could be improved the future.

Despite the first handling of sperm whale in Indonesia which was carried out with great cooperation with various parties did not make it return to the high sea like the story of "Big Miracle" where stranded whales in Alaska were saved, at least Indonesia has shown its care to the protected species. To all parties and volunteers who have assisted in handling stranded whales, KemenKP would like to extend their gratitude and appreciation. Source: PBS

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