Last Thursday, 9 April 2009, Maritime Institute of Malaysia (MIMA) organized a seminar on 'Marine Mammals Conservation in Malaysia: Adopting Sustainable Management Strategies'.
Thanks to MIMA for inviting me to join the seminar as participant. By attending this seminar, I gained a lot of new information that I can use to fulfill my primary science curriculum development task at Curriculum Development Division, Ministry of Education Malaysia. Although I am working as education officer, but as a marine science graduate and environmental educator of Malaysian Nature Society, it is important for me to gain new information on marine issues especially the issue on marine mammals. I had the experience to work on marine mammals before when I became as one of the volunteer for WWF Malaysia (World Wide Fund for Nature Malaysia) to gain informations from Pulau Redang residents on marine mammals sighting in the year 1999/2000 through interviews. I also had experiences to sail my boat with almost hundred of dolphins (bottle nose and Irrawaddy) around my boat when I conducted research at Pulau Langkawi in 2001. I was a WWF Malaysia Scientific Officer during that time, conducting research on traditional fisheries and mangrove forest of Langkawi Archipelago. Later, months after the sighting in Langkawi, I managed to see a school of dolphins swimming in the South China Sea when I was conducting research on marine turtles at Kuala Setiu Bharu in Terengganu.
Below is the notes regarding the seminar as stated by MIMA:
"Seminar on Marine Mammals Conservation in Malaysis: Adopting Sustainable Management Strategies
9 April 2009 (Thursday)
MIMA Seminar Room, Kuala Lumpur
Cases of mammal stranding or death indicate its presence and points to possible threats. For example, several incidents have been recorded and the more recent ones include the stranding of injured Bryde's whale in shallow waters off Kota Kinabalu in December 2006; a strayed dugong calf first time sighted in the waters off Terengganu (Pulau Kapas) in August 2006; a newborn dugong (named Si Tenang) caught accidently in a fisherman's net in Pasir Gudang, Johor in 1999. One other recent unfortunate incident is of a ten meter long Bryde's whale found beached at Sungai Nenasi estuary, Pahang in October 2008. The marine mammals were unable to be saved in most of the incidents.
Marine mammals belong to the endangered animal species and are currently protected under the Fisheries Act 1985 and the Wildlife Act 1972 in Malaysia. The list of 20 species of marine mammals licted in the act are however obsolete because they were based on sightings and reporting of stranding and carcases found.While laws exist to protect some species, the list is by no means complete. Although great concern and public outcry has been shown over the fate of these marine mammals, the scarcity of research, information on species composition and distribution of marine mammals are little known; thus hindering the effort to draw an appropriate management plan for marine mammals in Malaysia. Furthermore, plans for their rescue are also non-existence. Presently, the information about marine mammals in Malaysia is merely based on limited research and autopsy of carcasses.
Although marine mammals are still being sited around our waters, the overall population numbers of marine mammals continue to dwindle over time at an alarming rate. There are various threats involved on marine mammals' survival. Traditional hunting for meat, starvation, vessel collisions, dynamite fishing, entanglement in fishing gears, disease, and degradation of seagrass areas caused by sedimentation and pollution from coastal development and palm oil plantations, and other anthropogenic threats are amongst the main reasons for the decline. One of the most critical deficiencies in marine mammal conservation today involves the lack of a proactive, forward-looking approach to conservation and management of resources, besides hindrance by the lack of data, including information on health and demography of marine mammals stocks. Besides that, a prevailing theme of marine mammal conservation involves declining quality of ecosystems and over-utilization of resources needed to maintain healthy marine mammal stocks.
Indeed, it is an opportune time to have sustainable and effective management of marine mammals, besides giving priority to dedicated efforts to educate the public and implementing realistic conservation and management strategies to avoid their extinction. Looking at this important issue, the Maritime Institute of Malaysia (MIMA) is organising a Seminar on "Marine Mammals Conservation in Malaysia : Adopting Sustainable Management Stretegies" on the 9 April 2009 as an efffort to educate and discuss realistic conservation and management strategies for marine mammals.
The objectives of this Seminar include:
- to heighten awareness on the need for marine mammals conservation in Malaysia;
- to identify the issues threatening marine mammals survival and respond of countries on the matter;
- to review the current status of rehabilitation of stranding marine mammals in the country's waters; and
- to learn about international responses and initiatives taken for marine mammals' conservation and options for improvement of management in Malaysia."