Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Report of the 1st National Indonesian Marine Mammal Stranding Workshop, Sanur Bali 25-28 November 2013

Apologies for the hiatus; I’ve been busy with my returning back to Australia and wrapping up three 1st responder training workshops in Indonesia beforehand. I realised that I had not given a report on the 1st National Indonesian Marine Mammal Stranding Workshop we conducted in Bali last November (25-28 Nov 2013), hence I whipped up the report I made to our funding agencies and tailored-suit it for this blog. The followings are the gist:
The 1st National Indonesian Marine Mammal Stranding Workshop was conducted in Bali from 25 to 28 November 2013 to increase the capacity of Indonesian and Asian 1st responders in the handling of live stranded marine mammals, increase the understanding of the science behind marine mammal stranding events, provide skills on how to determine the cause of death of marine mammals through necropsy and strengthen and widen the Indonesian and Asian stranding networks, including  capacity building and public awareness strategies.

This workshop was endorsed by the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries of Indonesia; sponsored by Ocean Park Hong Kong, Ocean Park Conservation Foundation Hong Kong, International Whaling Commission, and WWF Indonesia; coordinated by myself (Putu Liza Mustika) from Whale Stranding Indonesia and Nimal Fernando from Ocean Park, Hong Kong; and supported by the Indonesian Biodiversity Research Center, the Indonesian Veterinary Medical Association and the University of St Andrews Scotland. Mr Agus Dermawan as the Director of the Area and Species Conservation of the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries officially opened the event on the evening of 25 November 2013.

The first day of the workshop covers key identifying features of the species most likely to occur in Indonesian and adjacent waters, stranding networks , the basic biology needed to make initial assessments of stranded cetaceans and onshore and in water training for 1st responders, covering several common live-stranded cetacean scenarios. Main mentors were Lindsay Porter (University of St Andrews) & Grant Abel (Ocean Park Hong Kong).

The following two days had a series of lectures covering topics including cetacean anatomy, triage, acoustic trauma, by-catch, acoustics & acoustic pathology, toxicology and cetacean necropsy procedures. Key speakers included Nimal Fernando (Ocean Park Hong Kong) for triage, medicine, acoustic pathology, bycatch pathology, general pathology and necropsy, Simon Northridge (University of St Andrews) for by-catch issues, Pat Fair (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration - NOAA) for toxicology, Kathy Larson (Ocean Park, Hong Kong) Cetacean Anatomy and Cetacean Disease and Dr Matthias Hoffman-Khunt for acoustics. A wet lab demonstrating general cetacean necropsy procedures and the extraction and preservation of ear bones for the investigation of potential acoustic trauma was conducted on the last day by Nimal Fernando. 

The workshop involved 60+ participants from seven countries (30 from Indonesia; the rest were from Malaysia, the Philippines, Myanmar, Cambodia, China, Sri Lanka) and international speakers from Hong Kong, the USA, UK, and Singapore. 

Workshop in a glance

The first day of the workshop was dedicated for first responder workshop and training, both led by Grant Abel (Ocean Park Hong Kong) and Lindsay Porter (University of St. Andrews). The majority of participants felt that the first responder section was most beneficial for them; likely because most participants were field practitioners instead of veterinarians.

The veterinary section covered the 2nd and 3rd day of the workshop. ‘Triage and First Response’ (by Nimal Fernando) was considered very useful for the know-how of 1st responders (in hindsight, this lecture should be moved to the first day to give participants a better understanding of 1st responder principles).  The bycatch session was well-received by the participants, possibly because many of them are involved in fisheries-related conservation programs. The combination of bycatch theories (including how to identify fishing net marks on an animal’s skin – delivered by Simon Northridge of the University of St Andrews) and bycatch pathology (delivered by Nimal) was conducted seamlessly to give the audience a better understanding on how to investigate possible bycatch fingerprints in stranding cases. Some participants were asking about chronic entanglement (i.e., cases where animals are found moving around the waters with entangled fishing gears) and how to release the animals from such entanglement. Two participants specifically considered bycatch and bycatch pathology as one of the most useful topics for him/her in the evaluation forms.

Patricia Fair delivered two toxicology lectures: ‘Introduction to Toxicology’ on Day Two and ‘Marine Mammals and Toxicology’ on Day Three. The second lecture was particularly more practical for field practitioner. A participant specifically mentioned the need of another toxicology training for him/her.

Acoustic was an interesting topic for many participants, particularly those coming from countries or regions where seismic activities are often conducted (such as Indonesia and the Philippines). Matthias Hoffman-Khunt (University of National Singapore) explained the theories behind underwater acoustic and why excessive noise could be lethal to cetaceans. Nimal then delivered the acoustic pathology lecture that explained the veterinary aspects of acoustic trauma. The two combined lectures were also considered well-executed. A participant specifically considered acoustic pathology as most useful for him/her in the evaluation form.

The wet laboratory work for cytology (Chan San Yuen, Ocean Park) was an interesting break from the lecture. For future workshops, this session could be allocated for the end of Day Two (first day of vet) to reduce fatigue and provide participants some relief from lectures. 

The necropsy location was at the Turtle Conservation and Education Center in Serangan Island, about 20 minutes’ ride from the venue (Sanur Beach Hotel). Most participants had never witnessed a necropsy before, hence it generated a lot of interest. A turtle pond was dried to accommodate a depressed stage for the vet team (led by Nimal) to conduct the necropsy (see Appendix 2 for photographs). Only veterinarians, lecturers and participants who were willing to join the hands-on demo were allowed inside the pool. Other participants would either stand on the edge of the pool, looking down to the necropsy table, or watch the necropsy process from two live-feed TVs. Necropsy target was a finless porpoise (Neophocaena phocaenoides) with total length of 135.5 cm, by-caught by a fisher in Paloh, West Kalimantan (click here for the story of that finless porpoise, thanks to Dwi Suprapti and her West Kalimantan WWF crew). Prior to the dissection, Simon gave some technical comments on fishing net marks and other external features of bycatch on of the finless porpoise skin. Nimal started and led the necropsy. He also gave direct commentaries, translated by my dear friend Jaya Ratha from Conservation International for Indonesian participants.  Although we know that the circumstances of death was bycatch, the necropsy process could not find the technical cause of death, primarily due to the fact that storage time had reduced the carcass condition (still Code 2, edging to Code 3 when frozen). However, the vet team did find the stomach to be full of semi-digested fish and no sign of lung drowning; the first sign was diagnostic for by-catch. Participants generally viewed the necropsy demo as favorable. Six participants specifically considered necropsy as one of the most useful topics for him/her in the evaluation forms.

Despite the many suggestions for improvement, the workshop was considered a success by almost 90% participants. Due to the different nature of field conservation and veterinary works, many participants were originally confused as to why the workshop had a large section of veterinary aspects. They eventually understood that the veterinary aspects were delivered to provide them with a larger picture of the stranding phenomenon. 

Nonetheless, for future workshops with similar contents (e.g. the 2nd National Stranding Workshop), a clear division of the workshop is suggested. Participants should be clearly informed that the workshop consists of two parts: the First Responder (with hands-on demo) and the Veterinary (with necropsy subject to availability). Participants should be given a clear instruction to indicate whether they are going to attend the First Responder section only, the Veterinary section only, or the two sections. This division is important to avoid any participants questioning their own participation in the workshop due to irrelevant content. 

Translation process is another important aspect to the workshop. Due to human resource shortage, I was the main verbal translators for the whole workshop. I was assisted by Jaya Ratha for verbal translation of toxicology, anatomy, disease, cytology wet lab and necropsy sessions. However, two translators were insufficient for a three days’ workshop. We suggest adding 1-2 extra translators for 2nd National Workshop to reduce fatigue and avoid possible mistakes. Unfortunately, professional translators are not advisable for this type of workshop due to the specific and technical terms translators must master. The deployment of two LCD projectors (instead of just one), beaming up two versions of the presentations (English and Indonesian versions) was very helpful in supporting the translation process. 

National discussion summary

The national discussion on marine mammal stranding was conducted in the evening of 27 November with threat mapping as the main agenda (Figure 1). The threat mapping discussion was based on a thematic mapping conducted by Grant, Lindsay, Nimal, Yanti and myself back in May 2013. 

The most frequently mentioned threats were by-catch (18 times), boat collision (15 times), sonar and unsustainable coastal and riverine development (13 times), and oil and gas industry (12 times). Marine debris (9 times) and blast fishing (8 times) were perceived as medium threats, whereas direct catch were mentioned three times. Managers at six places perceived that the marine mammals in their waters might be subjected to at least an unknown threat (hence, ‘unknown’).


General conclusion

We distributed evaluation questionnaires at the end of the workshop. Of the 39 filled in questionnaires, 37 of them gave grading to the workshop. A total of 21 people (56.8%) said it was “good”; 12 people (32.4%) said it was “very good”.  With almost 90% people satisfied with the workshop, it is safe to conclude that the 1st National Indonesian Marine Mammal Stranding Workshop was successful, leading to the plan to conduct regular biennial national workshops in the future.  

The involvement of 20 overseas participants from Malaysia, the Philippines, Myanmar, Cambodia, China, and Sri Lanka is viewed as favorable to the workshop process and also to general networking. The need to bilingually translate any questions from overseas participants for local participants’ benefit did, naturally, prolong the workshop process. The involvement of overseas participants should be repeated for the 2nd National Indonesian Marine Mammal Stranding Workshop in late 2015, with additional countries, e.g., Timor Leste and Vietnam.

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