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The Sperm Whale is currently not protected by law in Papua New Guinea. The Marine Mammal Forum is a first step in creating future legislation to protect whales and dolphins.
Photo: Chris Johnson

July 20, 2001
Marine Mammal Forum
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Log Transcript

The Odyssey crew have spent the last few days in Port Moresby, where the Ocean Alliance together with The Papua New Guinea National Museum and Art Gallery and the United States Embassy hosted a two day Marine Mammal Forum.

United States Ambassador, Susan Jacobs and Dr. Frank Bonaccorso, curator of the National Museum, officially opened the forum.

Ambassador Susan Jacobs:

    "I would like to welcome you to the first workshop sponsored by these three organizations on marine mammals protection. I think this is a really important topic.

    It's wonderful that we have representatives from the government here, from conservation groups, from international organizations and we all care about the same thing - the protection of these wonderful creatures that we share the earth with. I know that you are going to have really interesting discussions. I think that one of the really good things for Papua New Guinea is that you haven't killed everything yet, so you have a chance to save these things."

Dr.Frank Bonaccorso:

    "It turns out that we are now up to about 25 species that are confirmed. Present by museum photographs or expert sightings are New Guinea and Greater Melanesia. Also, we know that there are four or five other species that we are pretty sure that we know that are here based on their distribution based on nearby areas in Indonesia, the Solomons or Australia. Papua New Guinea is a very diverse place for marine mammals."

The aim of the forum was to bring together fisheries officials, policy and decision makers and environmental management groups to discuss the status of marine mammal protection in Papua New Guinea waters. Currently, only the dugong, a relative of the manatee, is protected by law.

Thirty representatives from local and national government departments and international conservation groups attended the Marine Mammal Forum in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea this week.
Photo: Genevieve Johnson

In the first meeting of its kind in Papua New Guinea, the participants of the forum discussed the possibility of policy development related to cetaceans. Discussions included the prospect of adding whales and dolphins to the protected species list and identifying critical habitats as areas of regional importance, including preferred breeding and feeding grounds as well as migration corridors. We also discussed the setting up of a nation-wide sightings network and the long-term economic opportunities that may develop as a result of protecting whales. Industries that include whale watching and documentary filmmaking.

Although the Ocean Alliance has conducted the first comprehensive whale research in Papua New Guinea since the 1970s, more research needs to be undertaken. Further surveys identifying cetacean distribution, abundance and diversity need to be completed to complement the work the Ocean Alliance has conducted over the last six months.

All participants agreed that the forum was a huge success and a crucial first step toward protecting all marine mammals in Papua New Guinea. The fact that so many key political and conservation groups were brought together to focus on the issue of whales is extremely important and very timely considering the annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission is due to begin in London, England on Monday.

The forum concluded with the compiling of key issues that culminated in the drafting of an initial document and the forming of the first ever marine mammal advocacy group in PNG. This document compiled after several hours of discussion and input from all interest groups, outlines the next potential steps for Papua New Guinea in regards to the future protection of all marine mammals in their waters.

Log by Genevieve Johnson

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