There is very little known about marine mammal (whale, dolphin and dugong) status in Papua New Guinea (PNG) waters. Currently 19 species of marine mammals are confirmed for PNG, with more species likely to be found with additional future research. The two species of particular interest in PNG are the two vulnerable inshore dolphin species, the Australian snubfin dolphin, Orcaella heinsohni and Australian humpback dolphin, Sousa sahulensis. Although both species can be found in northern Australia, neither of these species are currently known from any other location in the Pacific Islands. There is limited research currently being undertaken on marine mammals in PNG, however, there are numerous existing records in the published and unpublished literature. A PIDU scholarship student Wilma Mavea has compiled all known existing records, which provided the base data for the PNG Sighting and Stranding Database (PSS).
PSS is a sighting and stranding database that was adapted from the very successful Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority Eye on the Reef program (http://www.gbrmpa.gov.au/sightings-network/). The PSS will provide safe long-term storage for all known marine mammal records for PNG waters, which can be utilised, as required, by researchers, government offices and community groups. Although PSS focuses on PNG waters, any sightings from adjacent waters in New Guinea, the Pacific Islands and Indonesia are also valuable. Regular reports (to be available on the PNG Dolphin Project website) will summarise the data held within PSS. The PSS user agreement provides more information on data use and user privacy.
Why is PSS important?
In order to conserve and protect marine mammals in PNG and adjacent regions, it is important to know:
- what species occur in PNG,
- direct and indirect threats,
- mortality rates and causes, and
- potentially important areas that may need further protection (such as through Marine Protected Areas).
Dedicated research is very expensive and time-consuming, therefore citizen science and public sighting records are a very important source of information, particularly when a photograph/movie clip accompanies a record. PSS will be available to researchers and government offices (such as the PNG Conservation Environment Protection Authority) to provide essential information for future research and conservation efforts. The first important step from PSS during 2019 will be to summarise ‘what species occur in PNG’ to produce a public identification leaflet, and a peer-reviewed paper.
Please Add Your Sightings
Each sighting, stranding or entanglement record is important, – particularly when accompanied by photograph or movie clip, and adds valuable information to our knowledge of marine mammal status in PNG waters. You may have seen a new species for PNG waters, or documented a threat that was previously unknown. Your assistance to record marine mammal sightings in PNG waters, and adjacent regions, is greatly appreciated!
ADD YOUR SIGHTING