Project

Banda & Ceram Seas Marine Mammal Survey, east Indonesia: 5-15 November 2016

Goal: A Rapid Ecological Assessment (REA) for Marine Mammals in the Banda and Ceram Seas, Maluku Province, Indonesia.

A successful Rapid Ecological Assessment (REA) for Marine Mammals in the Banda and Ceram Seas was conducted on a bluewater sailboat from 5-15 November 2016, covering 1022 kilometers of trackline (552 nautical miles) during 108 daylight survey hours. The project was led by APEX Environmental and The Coral Triangle Center, with funding from the USAID-Sustainable Ecosystem Assessment program.

The Banda-Ceram Seas Marine Mammal REA was specifically designed to address the data-deficiency of this important species group in one of the most remote regions of eastern Indonesia with exceptional oceanic features such as clusters of seamounts, isolated oceanic islands, canyons, ecological corridors and vast, deep yet sheltered bays - all strongly influenced by the Indonesian Throughflow current.

The REA route included the following islands and surrounding waters:

Ambon - Haruku - Saparua - Nusa Laut - central S Ceram - the Banda Neira island group - W Ceram and Piru Bay - Manipa Island and Manipa Strait (the main channel between the islands of Ceram and Buru).

The marine mammal biodiversity recorded during the REA was exceptional. A total of 16 marine mammal species - 15 species of whales and dolphins and the dugong - were identified during the visual and acoustic assessment (this survey included hydrophone listening stations). A total of 49 separate sightings were recorded, resulting in a minimal animal count of 1771 individuals. A suite of other data were also noted for each sighting such as environmental parameters, group size and group composition and various behaviours.

Species positively identified included:

Blue whales, Bryde's whales, beaked whales, sperm whales, dwarf sperm whales, pilot whales, false killer whales, melon-headed-whales, pygmy killer whales, Risso’s dolphins, Fraser's dolphins, spinner and spotted dolphins, common and Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins, as well as the dugong.

Blue whales were the most frequently sighted large cetacean. This REA build on previous work done in the same waters (Kahn 2005, 2014 and unpublished data), confirming the Banda-Ceram seas important ecological role as a migratory end-point or "destination" for this endangered species – the Banda Blues. The REA included approx. 10 hours of intensive ecological tracking of blue whales, logging locations, durations and blow rates for long, uninterrupted series of surfacings. Sightings of mother-calf blue whale pairs, combined with habitat use observations of typical and frequent foraging behaviour of the mothers (as opposed to migratory behaviour) further confirms the Banda-Ceram Seas as critical blue whale habitat for both calving and nursing

In addition to the exceptional marine (mammal) bio-diversity, distribution, relative abundance and habitat use for priority species; the REA also recorded seabird diversity, marine IBAs (Important Bird Areas), the occurence of other large marine life (“non-cetaceans” such as billfish, oceanic sharks, turtles, mola mola) as sighted from deck. No in-water activities were planned for this REA. An important component of the REA was an initial treat assessment for marine mammals in these waters. The main and immediate threat are the numerous plastic trash fields recorded and categorized along all survey routes. In total we recorded

Fisheries interactions (i.e. net entanglements, propeller cuts from speedboats, accidental and possible targeted takes), shipping (international sealanes run through this area, as well as high local shipping densities and fast ferries) and oil and gas activities are other threats by ocean industries that need to be considered in marine mammal management plans.

This boat-based project in a remote and data-deficient region of the Coral Triangle also doubled-up as a Training-of-Trainers (ToT) project for the field team, which included marine monitoring and surveillance staff from the Coral Triangle Center and the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Affairs.

Upon completion of the REA, a post-survey meeting was arranged at Pattimura University's Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries Management Learning Center. This half day seminar was attended by many local stakeholders, who had the first opportunity to provide feedback on the initial REA outcomes as presented (Kahn et al., 2016). One of the recommendations from local stakeholders was that the Banda-Ceram Seas Marine Mammal REA:
• has already provided important new knowledge on both species diversity, critical and preferred habitat use and initial threats.
• has created opportunities to collaborate with local stakeholders on marine mammal monitoring and conservation.
• will further assist with marine conservation planning for Maluku Province, including the development of a new provincial network of Marine Protected Areas.

A comprehensive Technical Report will be released by early 2017, including all the REA’s results, discussion and initial management recommendations. Additional marine mammal conservation projects in the Banda - Ceram Seas region will be conducted in 2017 and 2018.

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Benjamin Kahn
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News release by Benjamin Kahn, Yoga Putra and Marthen Welly.
A recent Rapid Ecological Assessment (REA) for Marine Mammals, conducted by the Coral Triangle Center and APEX Environmental, has successfully identified several new hotspots for oceanic cetacean species, such as Blue whales (Balaenoptera musculus) and Sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus) as part of a diverse oceanic cetacean species assemblage in the Ceram Sea, Maluku Province, Indonesia.
The REA survey, which was led by scientist Benjamin Kahn, included Ambon Bay to West Ambon, West and Northwest Ceram, Kelang Island, Buano Island, Manipa Strait, North Buru, and into the remote Ceram Sea – including the isolated area of Sanana and Mangoli in the Sula Islands District of North Maluku. Supported by the USAID Sustainable Ecosystems Advanced (USAID SEA) Project, the survey was conducted non-stop during 10 field days, from October 15 to 24, 2017, and covered 1,017 kilometers of track line, with a total of 98.5 hours of daytime observation watches.
A total of 48 separate cetacean group sightings were recorded, resulting in a minimal animal count of 1,248 individuals based on a conservative method using surface-only observations on group composition and behaviors from 11 species, including Blue whales (Balaenoptera musculus), Bryde’s whales (Balaenoptera brydei), Cuvier’s beaked whales (Ziphius cavirostris), Pilot whales (Globicephala macrorhynchus), Orcas or Killer whales (Orcinus orca), Melon-headed whales (Peponocephala electra), Fraser’s dolphins (Lagenodelphis hosei), Risso’s dolphins (Grampus griseus), Oceanic Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus), Spotted dolphins (Stenella attenuata), and Spinner dolphins (Stenella longirostris).
Other REA activities included hands-on training of the survey team in all facets of the survey and additional standardized data collection on non-cetaceans, seabird biodiversity, and observations on threats including categorisation of marine debris fields (plastic trash), fisheries interactions with cetaceans and commercial shipping activities.
In 2016, the REA survey confirmed the Banda Sea as the end-point destination for a population of Blue whales, which migrate from the Southern Ocean off Australia to Indonesian waters via the migratory passages of the Lesser Sundas and Timor-Leste. This year, the Ceram Sea has been confirmed as an important extension of this critical habitat. Furthermore, the Manipa Strait (between Ceram and Buru Island) has also been identified as a migration corridor of regional importance to marine conservation.
In 2018, as a follow-up activity for both surveys, CTC and APEX Environmental will conduct several technical workshops and capacity building activities in Ambon (Maluku) and Sorong (Papua).  Emphasis of these workshops will be on the field training techniques, skills for marine monitoring teams, as well as the conservation and management skills for decision makers and policy development. In addition, another REA is planned for Oct-Nov 2018 to build on the outcomes of the earlier surveys. The survey’s outcomes and recommendations will assist the Maluku government with the development on a provincial network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), as part of a national marine spatial planning initiative.
For more information please visit:
 
Fantastic work Benjamin and team!
 
Wonderful work Benjamin and CTC! Excited to learn more and use tourism expeditions to assist with additional data points.
 
Benjamin Kahn
added a project goal
A Rapid Ecological Assessment (REA) for Marine Mammals in the Banda and Ceram Seas, Maluku Province, Indonesia.
A successful Rapid Ecological Assessment (REA) for Marine Mammals in the Banda and Ceram Seas was conducted on a bluewater sailboat from 5-15 November 2016, covering 1022 kilometers of trackline (552 nautical miles) during 108 daylight survey hours. The project was led by APEX Environmental and The Coral Triangle Center, with funding from the USAID-Sustainable Ecosystem Assessment program.
The Banda-Ceram Seas Marine Mammal REA was specifically designed to address the data-deficiency of this important species group in one of the most remote regions of eastern Indonesia with exceptional oceanic features such as clusters of seamounts, isolated oceanic islands, canyons, ecological corridors and vast, deep yet sheltered bays - all strongly influenced by the Indonesian Throughflow current.
The REA route included the following islands and surrounding waters:
Ambon - Haruku - Saparua - Nusa Laut - central S Ceram - the Banda Neira island group - W Ceram and Piru Bay - Manipa Island and Manipa Strait (the main channel between the islands of Ceram and Buru).
The marine mammal biodiversity recorded during the REA was exceptional. A total of 16 marine mammal species - 15 species of whales and dolphins and the dugong - were identified during the visual and acoustic assessment (this survey included hydrophone listening stations). A total of 49 separate sightings were recorded, resulting in a minimal animal count of 1771 individuals. A suite of other data were also noted for each sighting such as environmental parameters, group size and group composition and various behaviours.
Species positively identified included:
Blue whales, Bryde's whales, beaked whales, sperm whales, dwarf sperm whales, pilot whales, false killer whales, melon-headed-whales, pygmy killer whales, Risso’s dolphins, Fraser's dolphins, spinner and spotted dolphins, common and Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins, as well as the dugong.
Blue whales were the most frequently sighted large cetacean. This REA build on previous work done in the same waters (Kahn 2005, 2014 and unpublished data), confirming the Banda-Ceram seas important ecological role as a migratory end-point or "destination" for this endangered species – the Banda Blues. The REA included approx. 10 hours of intensive ecological tracking of blue whales, logging locations, durations and blow rates for long, uninterrupted series of surfacings. Sightings of mother-calf blue whale pairs, combined with habitat use observations of typical and frequent foraging behaviour of the mothers (as opposed to migratory behaviour) further confirms the Banda-Ceram Seas as critical blue whale habitat for both calving and nursing
In addition to the exceptional marine (mammal) bio-diversity, distribution, relative abundance and habitat use for priority species; the REA also recorded seabird diversity, marine IBAs (Important Bird Areas), the occurence of other large marine life (“non-cetaceans” such as billfish, oceanic sharks, turtles, mola mola) as sighted from deck. No in-water activities were planned for this REA. An important component of the REA was an initial treat assessment for marine mammals in these waters. The main and immediate threat are the numerous plastic trash fields recorded and categorized along all survey routes. In total we recorded
Fisheries interactions (i.e. net entanglements, propeller cuts from speedboats, accidental and possible targeted takes), shipping (international sealanes run through this area, as well as high local shipping densities and fast ferries) and oil and gas activities are other threats by ocean industries that need to be considered in marine mammal management plans.
This boat-based project in a remote and data-deficient region of the Coral Triangle also doubled-up as a Training-of-Trainers (ToT) project for the field team, which included marine monitoring and surveillance staff from the Coral Triangle Center and the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Affairs.
Upon completion of the REA, a post-survey meeting was arranged at Pattimura University's Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries Management Learning Center. This half day seminar was attended by many local stakeholders, who had the first opportunity to provide feedback on the initial REA outcomes as presented (Kahn et al., 2016). One of the recommendations from local stakeholders was that the Banda-Ceram Seas Marine Mammal REA:
• has already provided important new knowledge on both species diversity, critical and preferred habitat use and initial threats.
• has created opportunities to collaborate with local stakeholders on marine mammal monitoring and conservation.
• will further assist with marine conservation planning for Maluku Province, including the development of a new provincial network of Marine Protected Areas.
A comprehensive Technical Report will be released by early 2017, including all the REA’s results, discussion and initial management recommendations. Additional marine mammal conservation projects in the Banda - Ceram Seas region will be conducted in 2017 and 2018.