08 February 2013

Subic Freeport hosts 1st SEA Marine Mammal Stranding Network Symposium

Marine biologists from ten Southeast Asian countries pooled their expertise here since Monday to establish a network that would effectively deal with the growing incidence of marine mammal stranding in the region.

The 1st Southeast Asian Marine Mammal Stranding Network Symposium and Workshop held at Camayan Bay Resort here on February 4-9 drew 50 marine mammal stranding experts and scientists from the Philippines, Taiwan, China, Malaysia, Japan, Thailand, Indonesia, Cambodia, Singapore and Hong Kong.

The symposium was organized by the Subic-based Ocean Adventure Marine Park, Hong Kong’s Ocean Park Conservation Foundation (OPCF), and Subic’s Wildlife in Need (WIN), in collaboration with the Institute of Environmental Science and Meteorology at the University of the Philippines (UP-IESM), and the Philippine Marine Mammal Stranding Network (PMMSN).

Among the resource speakers were Dr. Lien Chen Chou (National Taiwan University), Gail Laule (WIN), Timothy Desmond (Ocean Adventure), Timothy Ng (OPCF), and PMMSN president Dr. Lemuel Aragones.

In a briefing, Ng explained that the ultimate objective of the symposium is to establish a regional stranding station for the marine mammal stranding network representatives to work together and effectively respond to stranding reports.

Ng said that the OPCF is supporting numerous conservation groups and marine mammal stranding chapters in Southeast Asia, including the Philippines, by providing financial support and technical assistance.

“Ocean Park Conservation has a long history of conservation connection with the Philippines, and for this Ocean Park has donated HK$2.5 million to the Philippine conservation NGOs, various universities and different institutions to support their 30 conservation projects,” Ng said.

For his part, Desmond said that the symposium-workshop aims to engage stakeholders and experts in an exchange of knowledge about the current and future affairs of marine mammal stranding networks in the region, the diseases the animals are confronting, and the condition of the ocean in the area.

Desmond added that in the Philippines, when marine mammal stranding experts show up in the community, they interact with local people in such a way to transform residents’ attitude towards marine conservation.

“We point out that these animals are of value to the entire eco-system where they live in,” he explained.

Experts in the symposium also noted that in the past, stranded dolphins and whales were usually slaughtered by fisher folks for meat. Today, however, people are more aware of the importance of saving these animals, prompting them to report any stranding incident to authorities, they added.

Meanwhile, Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) chairman Roberto Garcia commended the initiatives of the symposium organizers, saying that Subic Bay and the nearby coastal areas would benefit from the establishment of a marine mammal stranding network, as they are among the local places where strandings occur.

Garcia added that Ocean Adventure and Wildlife in Need, both members of the PMMSN, have been playing important roles in saving and documenting incidents of stranded marine mammals in the area.

He also noted that Ocean Adventure has conducted workshops on marine mammal (cetacean) stranding for the local Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) professionals, technical personnel, veterinarians, and members of the Municipal Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management Council (MFARMC) nationwide.

Because of the efforts done by the Ocean Adventure in disseminating information on marine mammal stranding, members of local aquatic resources councils and residents in coastal communities have been at the forefront of rescuing stranded marine mammals, Garcia also observed. (RAV/MPD-SBMA)

Dr. Lemuel Aragones, president of the Philippine Marine Mammal Stranding Network (right) stresses a point during a press conference in the on-going Southeast Asian Marine Mammal Stranding Network Workshop and Symposium held at the Camayan Beach Resort in Subic Bay Freeport. Joining him are Timothy Ng, deputy director of Ocean Park Conservation Foundation-Hong Kong; Timothy Desmond of Subic Bay Marine Exploratorium Inc.; and Gale Laude of Wild Life in Need.