By catch and Stranded Marine Mammals Awareness Talk
10 Jan 2015, Sabah: WWF-Malaysia in collaboration with the Sabah Wildlife Department, the Department of Fisheries Sabah and the Wildlife Rescue Unit organised an awareness talk on issues regarding stranded marine mammals and catching of non-target species (by catch). The talk was held at the State Library in Kudat and was attended by 64 participants, mainly local representatives from 5 coastal communities from Kudat, Banggi Island, Kota Marudu, Pitas and Tigabu Island.
One of the objectives of the awareness talk was to share guidelines and protocols for the rescue of stranded and accidentally caught marine mammals. Talks were presented by the respective agencies on these animals as knowledge of the population, distribution and threats to marine mammals is still low amongst locals. Dolphins, whales, and dugongs were highlighted at the talk as a group of marine mammal species found in Malaysian waters. These marine mammal species are protected under the Fisheries Act 1985 and the International Trade in Endangered Species of 2008 (Act 686). The agency responsible for the management and conservation of these species is the Department of Fisheries Sabah as well as the Wildlife Department, the Department of Veterinary Services and Animal Industry.
Moreover, the awareness talk aimed to establish a network between these agencies and members of the local villages. This collaboration is pivotal especially when there are incidences of stranding as nearby communities are frequently unsure of the best ways to save these mammals. Therefore, it is necessary to provide training to relevant stakeholders on best practices when encountered with similar cases. Participants of the talk were briefed on the emergency rescue protocol to equip them with rapid and effective measures to save stranded marine mammals.
Stranding of marine mammals such as dolphins, whales and dugongs often occur on the coast of Sabah and Sarawak. In addition, there are several incidents in which non-target marine species (such as turtles and Whale Shark) were found dead in fishing nets. In addition, the real threats to the populations of marine mammals come from illegal hunting, fishing and catching, illness and the loss of marine habitats such as sea grass. Marine mammals are also growing slow and the slow breeding rate makes these animals more vulnerable to extinction.