Marine Mammals in the Gulf of Mottama

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This is one of our main projects. Using interviews, social media searches, and boat-based surveys, we have been studying marine mammals in the Gulf of Mottama since late 2018.  From our boat-based surveys, we have confirmed what coastal community members have told us in interviews: the Gulf of Mottama is home to Indo-Pacific Finless porpoises (Neophocaena phocaenoides), Irrawaddy dolphins (Orcaella brevirostris), and Indo-Pacific Humpback dolphins (Sousa chinensis)!

This is the first research project on marine mammals in this area, and one of the few projects ever conducted on marine mammals on the coastline of Myanmar. There is still a lot to learn about marine mammals in the Gulf of Mottama and in Myanmar!  This is part of our work with the Gulf of Mottama Project, which includes a focus on biodiversity conservation in the Gulf of Mottama.

Sousa chinensis in Gulf of Mottama
From our first sighting of Sousa chinensis! Photo by Wint Hte.

Our boat-based survey area is off the eastern coast of the Gulf of Mottama, with a very skillful boatman and with the kind hospitality of a local village. Our main priorities for this project in 2019-2020 include:

  • Estimate population of these three species in the area, through line transect surveys
  • Produce maps of where these species are found in this area, and try to understand what patterns there might be depending on season, environmental conditions, etc.
  • Estimate the number of each species that dies each year due to bycatch (accidental capture) in fishing gear, to assess how serious this threat is to these populations
  • Learn more about community perceptions about these species
  • Engage more with the community to communicate about marine mammal conservation, and even train local “marine mammal rangers” if there is any interest
  • Conduct more interviews to get a stronger idea about how the abundance, behavior, and location of marine mammals may have changed over the years; this area has a very dynamic environment, so it will be interesting to see!

We are also conducting a survey of social media sites, to see what reports of marine mammals (and other big marine animals) might be posted online. We are basing this on the work of one of our colleagues and friends, Long Vu, who did something similar for the coastline of Vietnam.

Please contact us if you have any information on marine mammals in the Gulf of Mottama or even other parts of Myanmar’s coastlines, or if you want to learn more!

 

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