Thirty-one staff and local partners from the Tañon Strait Protected Seascape (TSPS) – Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) learned how to respond to marine turtle, dolphin, and whale strandings during the Marine Mammal Response and Rescue Training held on 23-26 September 2015 in Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental.
Marine mammal rescue is a key concern in Tañon Strait since Negros Oriental is one of the “stranding hotspots” in the country along with Zambales and Cebu.
The Coastal and Marine Resources Management in the Coral Triangle-Southeast Asia (CTI-SEA), a project funded by the Asian Development Bank and the Global Environment Facility, organized the training together with DENR and the Marine Wildlife Watch of the Philippines.
Second chance for marine mammals
“Marine mammal rescue is important because it gives each animal the care and attention it needs to return to the wild and have a second chance,” said Ms. Amida Diwata Jasma, Key Biodiversity Area Specialist of CTI-SEA.
“It also contributes to the protection and conservation of marine mammal populations and the health of the ecosystem as a whole.”
CTI-SEA’s training aimed to equip TSPS staff with the knowledge and skills to correctly and quickly respond to strandings. This would enable them to treat injured animals and release them safely to the ocean.
Dynamite fishing as one of the causes of stranding
Illegal fishing practices, such as dynamite fishing, is one of the threats to the fourteen species of marine mammals that feed, breed, and take shelter in Tanon Strait.
Dolphins, whales, dugongs live in this rich body of water between the islands of Negros and Cebu. In 1998, it was declared as a Protected Seascape because of its extraordinary abundance of marine life.
TSPS is also one of the most lucrative areas for commercial fishing in the country. Sadly, the growing demand for fish has given rise to illegal, unregulated, unreported fishing practices that harm marine life.
Besides causing direct physical harm, dynamite fishing damages the hearing of marine mammals and impairs their navigation. They may also get entangled in nets, get tired from struggling, and eventually succumb to death if they are trapped for too long. Some marine mammals are ill or get pushed by strong tides so they find themselves stranded on the beach – weak, sick, or lost.
A chance to learn together
TSPS and DENR officials learned the correct response when faced with four possible scenarios: a mass stranding with live and dead marine mammals, a single stranding of a live marine mammal, a single stranding of a dead marine mammal, and a stranding with a dead mother and live calf.
They also appreciated the chance to interact with other local government units and nongovernment agencies.
“This opportunity enhanced our skills in responding to mammals in danger. This will definitely help us in our marine mammal conservation,” commented one participant.
Resource persons also lectured on the status of TSPS as well as key concepts on marine mammal biology, threats, and conservation measures. Aside from the marine mammal stranding simulation exercise, the group also went dolphin watching in Bais City as part of their tourism exposure and were taught how to conduct marine mammal survey. The trainees also visited the Silliman University Marine Mammal Bone Museum.
Ms. Ma. Theresa Aquino, resource person from the MWWP reminded participants that they should seize the chance to educate residents in coastal communities when strandings occur.
“Every stranding is an opportunity to push community awareness. Take advantage of it,” she said.
Written by Panji Brotoisworo with inputs from Dr. Arnel A. Yaptinchay of the Marine Wildlife Watch of the Philippines and Ms. Amida Diwata M. Jasma, Key Biodiversity Area Specialist of CTI-SEA Philippines.