Human and natural threat to marine mammals

IMG 8339Marine mammals are highly mobile and migrant animals that travel all over the world’s oceans making them vulnerable to human and natural threats.

Speaking at a workshop on marine mammal rescue and rehabilitation efforts in Sanur on Tuesday, Agus Dermawan, director of marine conservation at the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry, said that rescue efforts, rehabilitation and conservation of marine mammals had to be conducted jointly with other countries.

“The efforts will be cross-country initiatives,” Dermawan said.

Around 11 countries participated in a workshop to improve the capacity of human resources and to enhance networks on marine mammal rescue and rehabilitation efforts.

The workshop was jointly organized by the Indonesian Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, the International Whaling Commission, the Indonesian Biodiversity Research Center (BRC), Ocean Park Hong Kong and St. Andrews University.

“At present, so many marine mammals, such as dolphins, become stranded on the beaches for various reasons. But they could not be rescued any earlier because of our limited trained rescuers and experts,” he said.

Marine mammals may beach themselves for many reasons, such as injury, illness or disorientation in a storm. In addition, they can get entangled in fishing lines or hooks, or accidentally eat trash such as plastic, which they mistake for jellyfish.

Many bystanders’ first reaction was to help or pet a beached animal. But what they did not understand was that the animal may carry bacteria harmful to humans or their pets, he said. In addition, humans could pass bacteria on to marine life.

“Indonesia is a maritime country, and is on the main migration route for marine mammals traveling between the northern and southern hemispheres,” Dermawan said. During the migration, a huge number of mammals run the risk of becoming stranded somewhere along the country’s shoreline.

Indonesia, he said, had been active in organizing training and workshops for marine mammal rescuers. The ministry had also established marine mammal rescue networks in four provinces including Bali (Denpasar), East Nusa Tenggara (Kupang), East Kalimantan (Balikpapan) and in Banten (Serang).

Indonesia had also joined a regional network on marine mammals, together with Hong Kong, Malaysia, the Philippines and other countries.

During the one-day workshop, a number of mammal rescuers from Bali and Java were also present.

Hamuka, chairman of East Java Marine Mammal Rescue Network, said that East Java waters had become the main migration route for whale sharks.

Some of the huge mammals, measuring at least six to nine meters in length, became caught up in fishing nets or other objects.

“Since last month, our volunteers have been ready to watch over the stranded mammals and have tried to rescue and rehabilitate them,” he said.

In the past, local fishermen and bystanders would leave the stranded mammals in pain and they often died. “The stranded mammals, usually big whales and sharks, became attractions for the local people. Now, we know how to deal with them and try to help the mammals return to their habitat,” he said.

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