Thursday, December 31, 2015

New Year notes for the past semester

A Bryde's whale (Balaenoptera edeni) we encountered off the Uluwatu Temple, Bali, November 2015

Since this is the last day of the year, I thought I’ll just write myself some pointers of what I did during the second semester of 2015. Starting with July-August where my colleagues and I were trying to set up CETASI, real pain in the admin. I have to credit Yanti Purnomo as the star in navigating the bureaucratic waters in Indonesia, but Adityo Setiawan, Jaya Ratha and Erdi Lazuardi also provided tremendous support.

August saw me returning to Bali for the Cetacean National Plan of Action (NPOA) meeting. It was a productive meeting; I assisted WWF Indonesia and the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries to build up the early version of the document. So far, the document includes issues such as bycatch, tourism, seismic and acoustic, ocean noise, alternative livelihood, captivity and Marine Mammal Protected Areas. Kudos to Sarminto Hadi, Miasto Yudha and team for pulling off the meeting. We also had our first stranding training workshop for the expatriates in Bali at Seminyak with Whale Stranding Indonesia and Soul Surf Project Bali. Well, not just for the expats, for we also had local participants (and a girl flying from Sabah Malaysia just for this training!), but it was definitely the first English-speaking training that I delivered, and I actually enjoyed it. The CETASI also had our first annual meeting (at my father’s place in Bali, actually), and we carry with us a list of homework to be done... which hasn’t all been done...(palm/face).

October brought me the preparation for Peninsula survey with Conservation International and Oceans Initiative (Rob Williams). The survey was funded by the Allchin Foundation, so I’m very grateful to them. I was progressing with the Asian dolphin watching tourism paper that I had wanted to submit, but not yet... (hopefully this coming January!!). I was also wrapping up a project with WWF Indonesia (Indarwati Aminuddin) on sustainable marine tourism (Indar asked me to assist in developing indicators for said tourism in Indonesia).  I was also included as an author for one of the book chapters on coral reef tourism, edited by Anja Pabel and Bruce Prideaux of the Central Queensland University. The book is due in mid-2016.

My November was dotted with a line transect survey off the southern Peninsula of Bali, an NPOA meeting, the preparation for alternative livelihood project with ACIAR and Murdoch University, and another stranding training workshop at Tanjung Benoa, facilitated by CONRAD Bali. The Peninsula survey was particularly fruitful. We found at least eight species of cetaceans in south Bali: spinner dolphins (Stenella longirostris), spotted dolphins (Stenella attenuata), Fraser’s dolphins (Lagenodephis hosei), Risso’s dolphins (Grampus griseus), bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops sp.), Sei whales (Balaenoptera borealis), Bryde’s whales (Balaenoptera edeni), and sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus). Other marine megafauna observed include sea turtles (possibly olive ridley/Lepidochelys olivacea or green turtles/Chelonia mydas), sunfish (Mola mola), manta rays (Manta birostris), a whale shark (Rhincodon typus), an unidentified reef shark and an unidentified sea snake. Avian species encountered were Christmas frigatebird (Fregata andrewsi), lesser frigatebird (Fregata ariel), Great crested tern (Sterna bergii), little tern (Sterna albifrons), little pied cormorant (Phalacrocorax melanoleucos), red-necked phalarope (Phalaropus lobatus), Wilson’s storm petrel (Oceanites oceanicus). Here I want to specifically thank Hanggar Prasetio (CI Indonesia), Rob Williams (Oceans Initiative), the Bali International Diving Professionals (BIDP), Iwan Dewantama (CI Indonesia), Melna Saraswati (CI Indonesia) and Gus Tulang (CI Indonesia) for their amazing support. And of course, once again my gratitude to the Allchin Foundation for the grants, without which the survey wouldn't have been done. 

The Cetacean National Plan of Action meeting produced the semi-final version of the NPOA document. All important issues are included; we just have to make sure we’re not reaching for the stars in the deliverables. SMART targets are the key word here. I also have the pleasure of working with Neil Loneragan and Vanessa Wildwaters of the Murdoch University on alternative livelihoods for artisanal fishers. The project is just starting, and they enlisted me in the team due to my experience with dolphin watching tourism, often touted as a feasible alternative income for artisanal fishers. We originally wanted to do the first brain storming workshop in mid November, yet some volcanic activities in Mt Rinjani Lombok had made Virgin and Qantas cancelling Bali-related flights. Now the first workshop for this project is going to be in early February 2016, also in Bali.

My December gave me frantic days in wrapping up the Peninsula survey data and interim report before flying to the US for the 21st SMM conference in San Francisco. Main points of the conference? Gosh... a lot! So many great and informative talks that I can’t list them all here. I presented a talk on the pre-conference stranding workshop organised by Brian Sharp et al from IFAW (Sunday 13), a speed talk on Marine Mammal Protected Areas (Thursday 17) and a poster on cetacean bycatch in Indonesia (also Thursday 17, co-authored with Simon Northridge of University of St. Andrews Scotland and Yanti Purnomo of CETASI). My coming to San Francisco was due to the hard work of many colleagues, notably Giuseppe Notarbartolo di Sciara, Ellen Hines and Lindsay Porter. Because of coming to SF, I had the chance to meet my colleagues working in Asia again, particularly in the Southeast Asian region. Oh, and Cindy Peter (Malaysia) and Jo Marie Acebes (the Philippines) won the Stephen Leatherwood Award, so congrats to Cindy and Jom!!

What’s my January will be? Well, finishing the Peninsula survey report, submitting the tourism paper (I SHALL!!), helping the MMAF with the NPOA... and starting the book chapter draft. I also need to follow up on some leads I obtained from the San Francisco trip, including 1-2 papers to be written (sigh/yes!). Then I will fly back to Bali in February to do the alternative livelihood workshop with Murdoch Uni etc, and at least one stranding training. Possibly going to an exotic place for a whale watching workshop, but I won’t tell now, cos my participation is not confirmed yet (fingers crossed!). As for March and beyond... well, let them come... I will try to do better than this passing 2015...

Anyway, Happy New Year to you all. Thank you 2015 for whatever you’ve given me, and may we be the wiser, smarter, more efficient, healthier and more peaceful in 2016... 

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