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Commentary on Coram et al. (2021) on the use of Facebook to understand marine mammal strangding issues in Southeast Asia

by Cindy Peter, Putu Liza Kusuma Mustika, Jo Marie Vera Acebes, Nantarika Chansue, Louella Dolar, Gin Swen Ham, Ellen Hines, Wint Hte, Gianna Minton, Louisa Shobhini Ponnampalam, Lindsay Porter, Vu Long, Rodney Westerlaken, Yin Yin Htay and Tara Sayuri Whitty

Abstract: We reviewed Coram et  al. (Biodivers Conserv 30:2341–2359, 2021,, a paper that highlights the use of social media data to understand marine litter and marine mammals in Southeast Asia. While we commend its intent, we fnd that the methodology used and conclusions drawn portray an incomplete and inaccurate perception of how strandings, stranding response, and analysis of stranding data have been conducted in the region. By focusing on investigative results revealed by a very limited search of one social media platform (Facebook), using only English keywords, and insufcient ground-truthing, Coram et al. (2021) have, unintentionally, given the perception that Southeast Asian scientists have not conducted even the bare minimum of investigation required to better understand the issue of marine litter and its impact on marine mammals. In this commentary we provide a more accurate account of strandings research in Asia and include recommendations to improve future studies using social media to assess conservation issues.

Importance of Mangroves for Bat Research and Conservation: A Case Study from Vietnam with Notes on Echolocation of Myotis hasselti

by Vu Dinh Thong, Annette Denzinger, Vu Long, Nguyen Van ang, Nguyen Thi Thu Hien, Nguyen Hoang Thien, Nguyen Khanh Luong, Le Quang Tuan, Nguyen Manh Ha, Nguyen Thanh Luong and Hans-Ulrich Schnitzler

March 2022 – Diversity – 14(4):258 – DOI:10.3390/d14040258

Abstract: Mangrove ecosystems play important ecological roles, including the mitigation of global climate change and biodiversity conservation. However, they have received little attention from scientists for the research and conservation of bats and general biodiversity. In Vietnam, bat species inhabiting mangroves have been relatively unstudied, while this ecosystem is located along the country’s coastal zones and has declined dramatically due to the development of agriculture, wind energy and other threats. To initially fill this gap, five bat surveys were conducted between September 2019 and November 2021 within Ha Long Bay and Ben Tre province, which contain representative mangrove areas of northern and southern regions of Vietnam, respectively. Bats were captured using mist nets, mobile nets and hand nets. Their echolocation calls were recorded and analyzed using the PCTape system and Selena software, respectively. Five species were captured and recorded: Cynopterus brachyotis, Macroglossus minimus, Myotis hasselti, Myotis pilosus and Taphozous melanopogon. They are all new to both Ha Long Bay and Ben Tre province. Four species (C. brachyotis, M. minimus, M. hasselti and M. pilosus) have been rarely documented from other ecosystems in Vietnam but have commonly been recorded and captured in mangrove areas. Of these species, M. pilosus is a globally “Vulnerable” species. While searching for prey, Myotis hasselti emitted high energy echolocation calls sweeping from about 96 to about 24 kHz with a signal duration of about 5 ms. This species sometimes uses social calls of a horseshoe-shaped structure, which last about 15 ms and are emitted about 26 ms in front of a search call. Results from our surveys indicated the importance and potential of mangroves for bat research and conservation.

Whale temples are unique repositories for understanding marine mammal diversity in Central Vietnam

by Michael R. McGowen, Long Vu, Charles W. Potter, Truong Anh Tho, Thomas A. Jefferson, Sui Hyang Kuit, Salma T. Abdel-Raheem and Ellen Hines

November 2021 – The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology 69:481-496 – DOI:10.26107/RBZ-2021-0066

Abstract: In recent decades, several studies and reviews have contributed new data on marine mammal composition and distribution in Vietnam, including surveys of whale temples along the coast in the southern part of the country. Whale temples have amassed a sizeable number of specimens that have been used as a valuable source of information concerning marine mammals in Vietnam. Previous studies have examined some whale temples in southern Vietnam, but contents of whale temples along the whole coast of Vietnam have not been fully documented. Here we surveyed 18 whale temples in the central part of Vietnam in Đà Nẵng, Quang Nam, Quang Ngai, and Thừa Thiên-Huế Provinces, an area that had not been scientifically documented previously. We identified and measured 140 individual marine mammals from 15 species, four families, and two orders (Artiodactyla, Sirenia). By far the most numerous species encountered (n=41) was the inshore Indo-Pacific finless porpoise (Neophocaena phocaenoides). We also encountered >10 skulls of two other taxa: bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops sp.) and the IndoPacific humpback dolphin (Sousa chinensis). Other delphinid species included Stenella longirostris, S. attenuata, Globicephala macrorhynchus, Grampus griseus, Feresa attenuata, Pseudorca crassidens, Lagenodelphis hosei, and Delphinus delphis tropicalis. We identified one specimen of humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) and three of Omura’s whale (Balaenoptera omurai), increasing the number of records of the recently described Omura’s whale in Vietnam to five. In addition, we identified three skulls or partial skulls of the dugong (Dugong dugon) in varying conditions, documenting their historical presence in an area where they are no longer present. These records further underscore the importance of whale temples both as places of historical culture and reverence, and important repositories of biodiversity data, from which information on former and current marine mammal distributions can be derived.

Using GIS and stakeholder involvement to innovate marine mammal bycatch risk assessment in data-limited fisheries

by Gregory M. Verutes, Andrew F. Johnson, Marjolaine Caillat, Louisa S. Ponnampalam, Cindy Peter, Long Vu, Chalatip Junchumpoo, Rebecca L. Lewison, Ellen M. Hines

August 2020 – PLoS ONE 15(8):e0237835 – DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0237835


Abstract: Fisheries bycatch has been identified as the greatest threat to marine mammals worldwide. Characterizing the impacts of bycatch on marine mammals is challenging because it is difficult to both observe and quantify, particularly in small-scale fisheries where data on fishing effort and marine mammal abundance and distribution are often limited. The lack of risk frameworks that can integrate and visualize existing data have hindered the ability to describe and quantify bycatch risk. Here, we describe the design of a new geographic information systems tool built specifically for the analysis of bycatch in small-scale fisheries, called Bycatch Risk Assessment (ByRA). Using marine mammals in Malaysia and Vietnam as a test case, we applied ByRA to assess the risks posed to Irrawaddy dolphins (Orcaella brevirostris) and dugongs (Dugong dugon) by five small-scale fishing gear types (hook and line, nets, longlines, pots and traps, and trawls). ByRA leverages existing data on animal distributions, fisheries effort, and estimates of interaction rates by combining expert knowledge and spatial analyses of existing data to visualize and characterize bycatch risk. By identifying areas of bycatch concern while accounting for uncertainty using graphics, maps and summary tables, we demonstrate the importance of integrating available geospatial data in an accessible format that taps into local knowledge and can be corroborated by and communicated to stakeholders of data-limited fisheries. Our methodological approach aims to meet a critical need of fisheries managers: to identify emergent interaction patterns between fishing gears and marine mammals and support the development of management actions that can lead to sustainable fisheries and mitigate bycatch risk for species of conservation concern.