Workshop: Marine Mammal Stranding Response: a collaborative approach

Workshop: Marine Mammal Stranding Response: a collaborative approach

Posted by Enrico Gennari on December 1, 2016

Representatives from MARS (Marine Animal Rescue Society) traveled from Canada to deliver the very informative presentation and practical course.

November 2016:  Marine mammal strandings are a regular occurrence around our vast South African coastline, with more than three cetaceans beaching in Mossel Bay alone this year. Once beached, it is extremely difficult for a whale or dolphin to return back to the ocean without help. And sometimes hard calls to euthanize it must be made in the interest of the animal itself.

Oceans Research are among the first to respond to reports of these strandings and are very aware of the need for a protocol and most importantly a response network at least at a provincial level. Dr Enrico Gennari, Director of Research for Oceans Research, has spent almost two years collaborating with various figureheads to organise a marine mammal stranding workshop in Mossel Bay, which went ahead on Monday 14th and Tuesday 15th November.

Experts traveled from Canada’s Marine Animal Response Society (MARS) to provide the course, including stranding expert, Dr Tonya Wimmer. MARS delivered a very involved workshop covering how to correctly handle stranded marine mammals, while keeping public safety at the forefront. As well as the theory, there was a practical element using a replica whale and dolphin, plus the equipment required for assisting in the animal’s return to the ocean. The workshop also addressed protocol from the point at which a stranding occurs, and how to set up a protocol.

The South African attendees pushed even forward, brainstorming a GAP analysis, looking at identifying needs and ways forward. From a logistical point of view, local municipalities end up having to deal with the “hot potato”.

Dr Gennari is eager to apply what was learned during the two-day workshop “this could represent the foundation of a stranding network for the Western Cape, as it has outlined the need for it. One thing was clear, local group efforts even though important, are not enough. A structure and specific training needs to be implemented at a provincial level, supporting the work of all municipalities” He plans to discuss the setup of a protocol at the next provincial coastal committee meeting.

Oceans Research interns and specialists, plus local fire fighters and local government personnel attended the workshop. The feedback from the workshop was very positive, and everyone thoroughly appreciate the hands on practical work, which drove home what they had learned during the theory element. However the greatest achievement was without doubt recognizing the need for a standardize response protocol, proper training, and the initiation of a provincial stranding network.

A short video of the workshop can be viewed by clicking here.

The workshop was funded by Garden Route Casino Community Trust, the Mossel Bay municipality, the Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning, and Ocean Care, and hosted by the NSRI and Oceans Hotel.

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