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 Extending the entanglement response network - the Dominican Republic

The latest IWC entanglement response network training concluded successfully on 4 April, 2014.  The two-day event was the first in the Dominican Republic, and was held in a protected sanctuary in Samana Bay, the primary breeding ground for the majority of North Atlantic humpback whales during the winter. 

The training was sponsored by the World Society for the Protection of Animals, with additional support from the IWC, NOAA (USA), the Sistema Nacional Areas Protegidas and Ministerio de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales of the Dominican Republic.  Attendees included representatives of these agencies, along with local NGOs and boat operators nominated by the regional office of the Sanctuary.  In addition, two participants from the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment, were also able to attend, thanks to support from WSPA.

The first day of entanglement response training began in the classroom and sessions covered local and global context, legal issues, tools, techniques and safety protocols.  Led by David Mattila of IWC/NOAA, the group also discussed the ultimate goal of preventing entanglements from occurring in the first place.

On the second day, two small boats were deployed with one used as a 'whale,' towing rope and debris to simulate entanglement, and the other to conduct the 'rescue,' putting the theories into practice.  The rescue boats contained one instructor and two trainees at a time, and fourteen participants were able to test out the techniques on the water.  The remainder observed from the 'whale' boat and the nearby shore.

The fourteen trainees were evaluated and most were deemed appropriate for lead roles in entanglement response teams.  Thanks to the WSPA funds, the IWC trainer was able to leave the custom tool kit used during the training, as well as other necessary equipment (buoys, rope, helmets and additional safety gear).  The complete tool kit will be kept in readiness either at the offices of the Sanctuary or the Whale Watch Boaters Association. 

This training has helped the Sanctuary and the Samana community take another step forward in the stewardship of North Atlantic humpback whales.  The next IWC entanglement response workshop is likely to take place in Tonga. 

For photographs of the Samana training, and other entanglement response workshops, click here.