Cetacean Survey Finds Savu Sea to be Major Habitat and Migration Route for Marine Mammals

Sea off Indonesia needs to be protected

Kupang, Indonesia | November 12, 2013

To get the latest update on cetaceans (marine mammals), the potential impact of human interaction with the whale species, as well as to provide technical assistance on the zoning and management plans of Savu Sea Marine National Park (TNP Laut Sawu), The Nature Conservancy (TNC) Indonesia Program in collaboration with Dr. Benjamin Kahn from APEX Environmental, Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries, National Marine Conservation Area Authority (BKKPN), Marine Conservation Council of East Nusa Tenggara (ENT) Province and supported by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) conducted a Rapid Cetacean Assessment (RCA). The survey began on 27 September 2013 in Labuan Bajo and ended on October 14, 2013 in Kupang.

Savu Sea, located at the crossroads between the Pacific and Indian Oceans has sea trenches that can reach more than 2000 meters in depth. The combination of strong currents and deep sea canyons maintains ideal temperatures and can protect coral reefs from bleaching during the rise of sea water temperature. This condition makes the existing habitats more productive and supports the large fish populations like tuna that give the Savu Sea the distinction of "bread basket" of Nusa Tenggara. This in turn makes Savu Sea a highway for migration as well as breeding ground for a variety of marine creatures such as whales and dolphins.

The survey found at least 1,595 fauna from different marine species that called Savu Sea as home or pit stop during their migration. The survey also found at least ten species of marine mammals: gray dolphin, fraser dolphin, long beak dolphin, spotted dolphin, bottle nose dolphin, sperm whale, humpback whale, false killer whale, melon head whale, and the endangered blue whale. Another interesting finding in this survey is the existence of the rare blue whales, which is generally found in cold water and sperm whales during their migration to mate. "After encircling an area of nearly 1,800 square kilometers and a total of 169 hours of survey time, we find Savu Sea very special. This region has a very high biodiversity and is the perfect place for migration and also as a habitat of various species of whales and dolphins, seabirds, and other marine fauna," said Benjamin Kahn explaining the results of the survey on the second day (1/ 11) of Savu Sea Marine National Park Management Coordination Meeting which was held in Kupang, ENT. "The management of migration corridors should be applied in this area to reduce threats such as overfishing, shipping, oil and gas exploration and production, plastic pollution, as well as the activities of coastal communities," he then added.

TNC Indonesia Country Director Rizal Algamar welcomed the cetacean survey as a great example of collaboration between parties. "This kind of scientific approach drives us to actively be involved in the development of marine protected areas. The survey results have shown great potential of Savu Sea region, both for the development of sustainable fisheries or tourism, and therefore we fully support the establishment of the Savu Sea Marine National Park," he added.

Savu Sea is one of the most resilient and adaptive tropical marine ecosystems in the world in terms of future climate change impacts, particularly sea temperature rise. If properly protected, the Savu Sea will become a refuge for coral reefs, large marine life and productive fisheries amid global climate change. The Savu Sea Marine Protected Area Development Project is part of the International Climate Initiative (ICI) and was made possible through support provided by The Nature Conservancy and the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety.

The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at

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