Endangered species study in Brunei Bay begins

National 2 minutes, 36 seconds

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

A TEAM of international researchers is here in the sultanate to conduct a research on the status of endangered marine species inhabiting the Brunei Bay.

Lead researcher Associate Professor Dr Saifullah A Jaaman of Universiti Malaysia Terrengganu’s (UMT) Institute of Oceanography and Environment (INOS) said the research will look into large marine endangered mammals such as the Irrawady Dolphin and Dugong as well as the Sea Turtle.

The research, which began yesterday, will span three days and include experts such as a sea turtle biologist from UMT as well as a marine ecologist from China.

“What we are looking to find (during this research) is the population ecology for these marine species which includes their population density and distribution, social behavior as well as their interactions with humans,” he told The Brunei Times yesterday.

Dr Saifullah said the research is in collaboration with China’s First Institute of Oceanography, which is also funding the study. He added the project is a multinational research that involves experts from Thailand and Indonesia.

The multinational nature of the research is due to the fact that the marine endangered species that are being studied are migratory, with Brunei Bay being its number one stop.

“Studies have shown that satellite tagged sea turtles that nest in Peninsular Malaysia or the Sulu Sea will always stop at Brunei Bay before moving on to anywhere else,” he said.

“After conducting an expedition in 2006 (on the Malaysian side of the bay) we found that the Brunei Bay is where these species feed as it houses pristine seagrass meadows that are the main diet of sea turtles and dugongs,” he added.

Dr Saifullah said since then, a number of studies have been done on the Malaysian side of the Brunei Bay however there have been no studies conducted on the Brunei side of the bay, which he added differs in landscape.

The Malaysian side of the bay is mostly open waters, he said, whereas the Bruneian side of the bay contains a number of islands as well as estuaries.

However, Dr Saifullah said both sides of the bay are significant for the research.

“We have no idea what these marine endangered species are doing when they migrate to the Brunei side (and) that is what we hope to find out during this research,” he said.

“We want to know the exact story of what goes on in the lives of these species that are present in the Brunei Bay and that means the whole of the bay, both Malaysian and Bruneian,” he added.

Dr Saifullah and his team will be assisted and guided by Mohd Vol Hj Momin and Bohari Abdullah, managing partners of Sakam Enterprise, a tour operator promoting eco-tourism.Mohd Vol said that the research can provide a platform to further strengthen conservation on large endangered marine mammals in the sultanate, which he added was dwindling in numbers.

“Throughout our survey, after talking to local fishermen and dive operators, sightings of dolphins are significantly decreasing and sightings for dugongs are at present, zero which was not the case 10 years ago,” he said.

The Brunei Times