Marine Mammal Research Feature
More than $700 000 in funding for non-lethal whale research was announced by the Australian Government in June. A $267 000 Indo-Pacific Cetacean Research and Conservation Fund (IPCF) will support four three-year projects in Papua New Guinea, Pakistan, Fiji and Bangladesh, while a $440 000 Bill Dawbin Postdoctoral Fellowship was awarded to Dr Amanda Hodgson of Murdoch University for applied cetacean research. The work will be administered through the Australian Marine Mammal Centre based at the Australian Antarctic Division. The international work of the centre recognises the large-scale movements of many marine mammal species and accommodates Australia’s national and international obligations. The following five stories provide an overview of some of the projects.
Surveying Pakistan’s whales and dolphinsSurveys of whale and dolphin populations off the Balochistan coast of Pakistan will contribute to understanding and conserving marine mammals in the North Arabian Sea.
The project, headed by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in Pakistan and funded through the Indo-Pacific cetacean research initiative, will determine cetacean abundance, diversity, and seasonal habitat use along a 700 km coastal stretch.
The survey area lies within a WWF ‘Global 200 eco-region’ – a high priority conservation area – and within the Indian Ocean Whale Sanctuary. Despite this, there are currently no marine protected areas in Pakistan.
‘The study will help to identify the important areas needing protection and management. The priority hotspots can then be assessed for possible declaration of Marine Protected Areas,’ Deputy Director General of the WWF in Pakistan, Dr Ejaz Ahmad, said.
Throughout the duration of the project there will be an emphasis on awareness and capacity-building of local government staff, students and coastal communities in marine mammal conservation. Some of the preliminary survey work will be done in consultation with fishing communities, who will help researchers identify cetacean hotspots.
‘A public awareness and education program within the project will help raise awareness about cetaceans and change the attitudes and behaviour of the general public,’ Dr Ahmad said.
‘Capacity-building of stakeholders that include government officials, fisher-folk and students, will help and motivate them to understand cetacean conservation and participate in conservation efforts.’
Information gleaned from the surveys will help manage habitat destruction as a result of development activities on the Balochistan coast, and evaluate the impacts of these actions on marine life, particularly cetaceans.
Dr Ahmad said the project will contribute to a trans-boundary conservation program for cetaceans, involving non-government organisations of nearby countries, including the Green Front of Iran and the Oman Whale and Dolphin Research Group.
‘We also hope that this work will contribute to the establishment of a sustainable ecotourism industry in the region focussed on dolphin and whale watching, which will benefit local communities,’ he said.
Corporate Communications, Australian Antarctic Division
What is the IPCF?The Indo-Pacific Cetacean Research and Conservation Fund aims to promote positive conservation outcomes for cetaceans in the Pacific and Indian Ocean regions by:
- building a stronger scientific base for cetacean policy and conservation in the Indo-Pacific region, particularly within developing countries;
- deepening the pool of academic expertise about cetaceans within developing countries in the Indo-Pacific region;
- contributing to cetacean research efforts for the global public good;
- developing partner country capacity to solve local cetacean research, conservation and management issues; and
- fostering linkages that encourage solutions to cetacean research and conservation challenges.
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Next story in marine mammal research feature: Fiji focuses on endangered humpback whales