Marine Mammal Strandings:
The Philippine Response
With 28 species of marine mammals occuring in the Philippines, marine mammal strandings are not rare occurences. Read more.
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Marine Mammal Strandings: The Philippine Response

Edited by Crissy Canlas from the unpublished work *“Marine Mammals In The Philippines: Research Efforts, National Stranding Response Network” by Bautista-Barcelona, A. et al.

With 28 species of marine mammals occurring in the Philippines, marine mammal strandings are not rare occurrences. To better prepare for these strandings, the Philippine National Marine Mammal Stranding Response Network (PNMMSRN) was created in order to provide clear directions as to what to do and who to contact for assistance. Its specific objectives are as follows:

- Provide for the welfare of live animals,
- Minimize risk to public health and safety,
- Support scientific investigation and
- Advance public education.

The PNMMSRN is a product of the Inter-Agency Task Force for Marine Mammal Conservation (IATFMMC). This Task Force was created in December of 1993, upon the issuance of Special Order No. 1636 by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). It was placed under the leadership of the Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (PAWB). Member agencies included the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), the Department of Tourism (DOT), the Silliman University Institute of Environmental and Marine Sciences (SU-IEMS; formerly the Silliman University Marine Laboratory), the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute (UPMSI), World Wide Fund for Nature – Philippines (WWF-Philippines) and Bookmark Inc.

As of 2004, the network is composed of eight (8) rescue teams representing the provinces of Cagayan, Batangas, Palawan, Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental, Bohol and Misamis Oriental. Monitoring a total of 59 known cetacean sites throughout the Philippine archipelago, the network consists of 296 individuals trained to provide the proper response for stranded marine mammals, as well as handle the dissemination of information regarding the importance and conservation of these animals.

Stranding response teams:
1. The Palawan Marine Mammal Rescue Society (PMMRS), 1998
2. The Bohol Rescue Unit for Marine Mammals (BRUMM), 1999
3. The Balayan Bantay Dagat, 2000
4. The Negros Oriental Marine Mammal Rescue Task Force, 2000
5. The Mindanao Marine Wildlife Watch, 2001
6. The Northeast Luzon Marine Mammal Stranding Response Team, 2002
7. The Roxas Marine Mammal Rescue and Conservation Group, 2002
8. The Negros Occidental Provincial Bantay Dagat, 2004

These teams were provided with marine mammal rescue training, upon their request. The training involved a three-part process that included lectures, a practicum, and a workshop to develop an action plan for the teams. Lectures covered basic marine mammal information such as their biology, identification, role in ecology, conservation importance, and an analysis of their conservation status – both on a national and local scale. National policies on marine mammals were emphasized. More technical topics included stranding theories and patterns, the coordination of a stranding response, rescue and monitoring procedures, and specimen and data collection. Rescue teams were encouraged to document their stranding procedures into a stranding report and send copies of these to BFAR (local or national offices) and WWF.

Although some of the member stranding response teams mentioned earlier are no longer active, trained individuals, researchers and active member agencies continue to respond to strandings in their own capacities after 2004, bearing in mind the goals of the stranding network. Local groups with the support of NGOs such as the Environmental Legal Assistance Center, Inc. (ELAC), Econature Philippines, Physalus and donor agencies initiated refresher trainings in their respective provinces, expanding the stranding network and welcoming new volunteers, such is the case of the BRUMM. Conservation International-Philippines and WWF-Philippines continue to conduct trainings and refresher courses, such as the one organized for Roxas Marine Mammal Rescue and Conservation Group in 2005, PMMRS in 2006, and seven municipalities in Batangas in 2008.

More recently, some private companies or groups have conducted stranding response trainings in various regions in the country. Expanding the network and strengthening existing groups and increasing public awareness is well and good however, it should be kept in mind the ultimate goal of responding to a stranding, which is to provide for the welfare of the live animals. Animals should be released back out to sea or to their natural environment as soon as possible and if deemed unhealthy or in a bad condition, the animals should be aided to die as humanely as possible. Animals should not be kept in captivity. Given the economic and environmental state of our country, rehabilitation facilities are not the priority. Efforts and funding should instead be channeled towards population, ecosystem and habitat conservation. Most of all keeping animals in captivity for future entertainment purposes in the guise of rehabilitation and conservation is not a humane, practical or sustainable option. Most importantly, it is illegal.

Through the efforts of the different agencies, organizations, local government units, and individuals working together on projects such as the Philippine National Marine Mammal Stranding Response Network (PNMMSRN), various coastal communities in the Philippines are more aware and better prepared for marine mammal strandings. These local communities understand that the better alternative to butchering stranded marine mammals, is helping them back out to sea.

*’Marine Mammals in the Philippines: Research Efforts, National Stranding Response Network’ by Andrea Leonor B. Barcelona, Jo Marie V. Acebes, Edna R. Sabater, Ma. Theresa R. Aquino, Arnel Andrew Yaptinchay, Ma. Louella Dolar, and Jose Ma. Lorenzo Tan.