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Prestigious award for IWC funded scientist

The Society for Marine Mammalogy has recognised the work of the Sarawak Dolphin Project’s Cindy Peter.

A short talk given by Cindy to the Society’s Convention last December has earned the J. Stephen Leatherwood Award. This is an award for the most outstanding student presentation on marine mammals of South and Southeast Asia, with a particular emphasis on conservation.

The Sarawak Dolphin Project received funding from the IWC’s Small Cetaceans Voluntary Fund, supporting its work to assess the threats, particularly from fishing, to dolphin and porpoise species in Kuching Bay, Malaysia. Between 2011 and 2013 the team conducted intensive, seasonal boat surveys, gathering data to help understand the different populations in the area, and their interaction with fishing activity.

During this time, and using a small boat, they conducted 248 hours of sighting surveys and covered 3670 km. The project was able to present a range of findings to both the IWC and the Society for Marine Mammalogy. These included mapping strong overlap between cetacean populations and fishing activity, and establishing the increased risk posed by unattended nets.

The Sarawak Dolphin Project also met the IWC objectives of delivering a capacity-building legacy and engaging with the local community. Two Malaysian students achieved MSc degrees working on this project, and are now internationally recognised as focal points for cetacean conservation in the region. The team also worked with coastal fishing communities to support the development of a local stranding response network, and to raise awareness of the threat posed by fishing nets. The next stage is to explain the need to reduce the amount of time nets are unattended.

Responding to the award, Cindy acknowledged the commitment and contribution of all the members of the Sarawak Dolphin Project team: Gianna Minton, Anna Norliza, Jenny Ngeian, Prof. Andrew Alek Tuen and Prof. Gabriel Tonga.

J Stephen Leatherwood (1944-97) was a renowned cetacean scientist whose later career was based in Hong Kong, and who worked tirelessly to raise awareness of the plight of the baiji, also known as the Chinese River Dolphin.

For more information on the IWC Small Cetaceans Fund, including the Sarawak Dolphin Project, click here.

To read the report of the Sarawak Dolphin Project to the IWC, click here.


Click below to read the following Sarawak Dolphin Project research papers:

Evaluating the Effectiveness of Community Workshops Designed to Increase Awareness of Coastal Cetacean Conservation Issues.

Population Estimates and Distribution Patterns of Irrawady Dolphins and Indo-Pacific Finless Porpoises in the Kuching Bay, Sarawak.

Cutaneous nodules in Irrawaddy dolphins: an emerging disease in vulnerable populations.