Submitted by admin on Sun, 12/22/2013 - 23:07
December 22, 2013 by admin
General News
SPREP has announced that, in partnership with several other agencies, it will promote a number of new initiatives in marine mammal conservation in 2014. These initiatives directly support implementation of the SPREP Marine Species Action Plans 2013-2017  and will strengthen SPREP’s ongoing work in this area.

Strengthening reporting of marine mammal strandings

A new website (www.apodstrandings.org) is now available to improve the documentation of whale and dolphin strandings throughout Oceania.

“I am very pleased to be able to announce this valuable tool to enhance our understanding of whales and dolphins across the vast SPREP region,” said SPREP Director General, David Sheppard.

“It will greatly improve the ability of our member countries and territories to document and report whale strandings.  This web-based system will not only provide an opportunity for expert advice in the identification of unusual species, but will also, for the first time, enable all countries, no matter how remote some of their islands may be, to provide valuable reports in real time – all that is required is an internet connection. The availability of a public, searchable website will improve documentation of sources of mortality and encourage greater awareness of strandings in Pacific island nations.”
apodstranding webpage
The SPREP region is home to almost half of the world’s species of cetaceans (whales and dolphins). Some species are well-known and have been extensively studied, both in the Pacific and elsewhere.  Others, however, may be very poorly known – for example, the world’s newest species of cetacean was identified in 2007, from the molecular analysis of a tissue sample collected at Tabiteuea Island in Kiribati in 2003. 

 Stranded or beachcast whales and dolphins are a valuable source of information on species identity and diversity, particularly for many of the remote and often inaccessible islands of Oceania.

While most strandings are likely the result of natural causes, an apparent increase over the last few decades has been attributed to human activity, such as acoustic disturbance from military sonar and oil exploration; or environmental change, including increasing pollutant loads or susceptibility to diseases.

The website is primarily intended to serve SPREP members by providing a simple user-submitted form for documenting a stranding event and uploading photos. Stranding information and photos are stored in a searchable database, which is exportable to standard formats for display in Google Earth or other GIS systems.

An annual review of the stranding records will be coordinated by the South Pacific Whale Research Consortium.The annual report will be forwarded to the International Whaling Commission and the Secretariat for the Convention on Migratory Species, as well as SPREP member countries.

The development of the website has been supported by a Pew Marine Conservation Fellowship, through a Memorandum of Understanding between SPREP and the South Pacific Whale Research Consortium.

International Conference on Marine Mammal Protected Areas

Although whale sanctuaries have been declared by national governments across some 18 million square kilometres of the waters of the Pacific islands region, a lack of capacity and funding has meant that there has been only a limited opportunity to build on this framework to deliver better protection for the marine mammals inhabiting this vast area.

Protected areas for marine mammals have been declared in many parts of the world. Practitioners work in isolated waters, from the Chilean fjords to remote Pacific islands, and often lack technical and scientific expertise. International Conferences on Marine Mammal Protected Areas (ICMMPA) were convened in 2009 and 2011, to provide a forum to facilitate both formal and informal connections between Marine Mammal Protected Areas that share common species, populations, threats and other issues. 

Recognising SPREP’s primary role in conserving marine mammals and their habitats across the Pacific islands region, the organisers for ICMMPA 3 have issued an invitation to SPREP to play a major role at the Third International Conference on Marine Mammal Protected Areas to be held in Adelaide, 9-11 November 2014. 

“ICMMPA 3 was already on SPREP’s radar as an important meeting for marine mammal conservation in the Pacific islands region”, said Mr Sheppard.

“We are delighted to accept this invitation to play a leading role in this meeting, and will be seeking to maximise the opportunities that the Conference will offer to develop the capacity of SPREP members to deliver improved conservation of marine mammals across the wide oceanic realm of the SPREP region.”

Dugong conservation

SPREP will work with the Convention on Migratory Species, national authorities and experts to improve the conservation of dugongs and sea grass beds under a programme funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF).  Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands will be the priority countries.

Strengthening Partnerships

SPREP has recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) to collaborate on programmes of mutual interest. The MoU lists key activities for collaboration which include promoting research and development of environmental modeling approaches to cetacean habitat protection and promoting the development and implementation of effective national cetacean management plans in the Pacific island countries and territories.

SPREP and the International Whaling Commission have also agreed to closer cooperation on issues of mutual interest. The first joint project, a workshop for Pacific islands countries and territories on how to safely disentangle rope and nets from whales, will be held in 2014.

 
For further information, contact Mike Donoghue, Terrestrial and Marine Species Adviser.