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Fisheries interactions with cetaceans in Kuching Bay, Sarawak
Samantha Ambie, Cindy Peter, Gianna Minton, Jenny Ngeian, Anna Norliza Zulkifli Poh, Andrew Alek Tuen
International Whaling Commission
Interview-based surveys were conducted in Kuching Bay, Sarawak, Malaysia between 2011 and 2014, and from 2016 to 2019. A total of 286 fishermen from eight fishing communities in the survey area were interviewed using an adaption of the CMS Dugong Questionnaire to assess fishermen’s level of experience, fishing effort and practices, local perceptions, and their interactions with cetacean populations in Kuching Bay. The main types of fishing gears recorded were gill nets (including set nets and drift nets), trammel nets, trawl nets, longlines, handlines and crab traps which vary of season and target species. The majority of respondents (98.7%) have observed cetaceans either frequently or occasionally while traveling to and from fishing sites. Respondents reported several negative interactions with cetaceans, with depredation and net damage being the most commonly reported as well as entanglements in fishing gear. Over the entire study period, 36% of fishermen reported having experienced an entanglement in their own fishing gear in the past year, and in some cases repeatedly over the years. Interviews conducted between 2016 and 2019 established that 58.1% of respondents who had experienced bycatch in their nets (n=62) were able to disentangle and release the animals alive. This suggests the need to provide training on safe handling and release techniques that may help in cetaceans’ chance of post-release survival. Irrawaddy dolphins (Orcaella brevirostris) were reported to be the most frequently caught species (72.9%). Mutualistic relationships were also reported between fishers and cetaceans in Kuching Bay, with fishers viewing cetaceans’ presence as an indicator of fish concentrations and many fishers feeding discarded fish to dolphins. This overall positive perception of cetaceans, together with a longstanding relationship with the research team may motivate fishers to participate in bycatch mitigation trials.