Tag Archives: 2014

Nick Gales’ First Blog as Society President

Well here we go – my first blog in my new role as President of this very fine Society.

Like all of us privileged enough to serve in the variety of roles that keep our Society vibrant, relevant, informative, influential and above all, attractive to be a part of, we do so in a voluntary capacity. We have to learn to balance our usually busy day jobs with the varied and (mostly) interesting roles we play for the society. The fact that my first blog has appeared a couple of months into my new role is a sign that I’ve yet to get that balance quite right! I promise to lift my game (particularly to my patient friends and colleagues on the Board)!

The first and most important task is to thank – most sincerely – out past President, Helene Marsh. Helene is quite simply a force of nature. Her drive, passion and depth of knowledge are a potent combination and have delivered measurable, positive impacts in marine mammal science and conservation. Thanks so much Helene for all you have done for marine mammals, and in this case, for the Society. It’s an overused metaphor, but you really have left very large shoes to fill!

So…the Australocene continues – two Australian Presidents (no – that’s not an oxymoron!) in a row. Its a great sign of our growing internationalisation; surely a healthy trend for our Society.

There are some very real – and in my view quite healthy – tensions emerging among our membership. Some of these were manifest in Dunedin where there were ‘robust’ views in the lead up, during and post our special events on issues of marine mammal killing techniques and killer whales in captivity – both complex and value-laden issues. While there were very few members who suggested that we had got it dead right for those sessions, there were almost equal numbers of people I heard from who said that we either went much too far, or not nearly far enough! So perhaps we did as well as was possible in steering our path on how our science should influence conservation and welfare issues.

I believe almost all in the Society would agree that we have an important role in issues like these – and many other marine mammal conservation issues where science intersects with disparate values, motivations and politics.

The tensions emerge primarily in resolving just what our role is and how we should enact it. None of us should be apologetic about having views on these issues that may not accord with some of our colleagues, but nor should we be intolerant or dismissive of those alternate views. This is a complex issue and there are many valid viewpoints.

Let’s start with the Society’s Mission: ‘… to promote the global advancement of marine mammal science and contribute to its relevance and impact in education, conservation and management’. We are unambiguously a global community focused on conducting and improving the quality and impact of our science (the growing impact factor of our Journal suggests we are making great progress on that front!).

I won’t try, in this blog, to outline a clear path for how we maximise the relevance and impact of our science, while avoiding the slippery slope to the role of advocate – a place where the well earned science credential of our Society would be devalued.

I, of course, have my views, and indeed I have spent almost my entire career in the challenging and interesting space where science interacts with the development of public good policy. But my role as President is not to promote my particular views, but rather, to ensure that I help facilitate, and indeed encourage, a respectful dialogue that takes accord of the divergent views and finds that acceptable pathway that ensures our science continues to make a difference.

In a couple of months I will meet with the Board and conference organising committee to further plan towards what is likely to be our largest ever gathering; San Francisco; 13-18 December 2015 (if you have not already done so – block it out in your diary and start saving your travel money!). The theme; ‘Bridging the past towards the future’ will ensure the conversation on influence and impact from our science will continue there, along with all the great diversity of the work and issues the conference will cover.

I will let you know how our meetings go in a later blog – but keep an eye out for the many conference updates in the meantime.

Best wishes to you all,

Mekong and Ayeyarwady Irrawaddy Dolphin Conservation Update

The following is an update on Mekong and Ayeyarwady Irrawaddy dolphin conservation, including a summary of a workshop held on June 1, 2014 in Phnom Penh to assess progress on implementation of the recommendations from the Kratie Declaration and to update Cambodia’s river dolphin conservation strategy.


A Final Presidential Blog from Helene Marsh

In a few hours (depending on the time zone), I pass the baton of President of the Society to the very capable hands of Nick Gales. I am sure his experience at the International Court of Justice has given him the gravitas required for the role!

It has (mostly) been a very interesting and rewarding experience to be Present of your Society and I feel very honored to have had the opportunity to serve in that capacity. I would like to thank all my fellow Board members for their support. I could not have done the job without their friendship and professionalism. Particular thanks to:

  • Nick Lunn and Ailsa Hall who are also leaving the Board after very long and faithful stints;
  • Jim Harvey and Heather Koopman who have bravely agreed to soldier on in their invaluable roles of Treasurer and Secretary (how could the Society manage without you);
  • Simon Goldsworthy and Coralie D’Lima who also rotate off the Board after giving stellar service as Member-at –Large and Student-Member-at Large respectively leaving Simon Northbridge and  Carolina Loch Silva and their newly elected colleagues to carry on their good work ;
  • Liz Slooten and Steve Dawson for such a great conference in Dunedin and leaving the Society in such excellent financial shape;
  • Alana Phillips and Shane Gero for their hard work as chairs of the Membership and Education Committees respectively and their attempts at educating me about social media (I still haven’t got a Facebook account though);
  • Giuseppe Notarbartolo di Sciara for his attempts to make the Society more international;
  • Daryl Boness for his outstanding stewardship of our journal;
  • Charles Littnan for his leadership in all things ethical, especially his hard work on developing the Code of Conduct and for organizing the Humane Killing Panel in Dunedin;
  • Doug Wartzok for his efficient administration of the grants-in-aid and for moderating the Killer Whale Panel in Dunedin at such short notice – a tough gig;
  • Barb Taylor for facilitating the production of a record number of Presidential Letters, some of which actually appear to have made some difference;
  • Bill Perrin for his taxonomic wisdom and deep insights into the history of the Society.

A special thanks to Shane for taking over the awards in Dunedin when Nick Lunn could not come at the last minute.

When I stood for President, I aimed to make the Society more international. How are we doing on that front?  Membership Secretary, Alana Phillips, has come up with some interesting stats.

  • Members from the USA comprise approximately 50% of membership.  It will be important to stage at least every second Biennial in the US to serve that constituency.
  • Presumably as a result of the Dunedin Biennial, the Society had more members in Australia and New Zealand in 2013 than ever before. For the first time, there are more Australian members than Canadian, although that situation will presumably revert when the 2015 Biennial is held in San Francisco.
  • Membership is increasing from Central and South America; Brazil and Mexico have the 6th and 8th most members respectively and we can expect membership from that part of the world to be boosted by the 2017 Biennial in Mexico.
  • Although Monaco has the distinction of having the highest per-capita membership of any country, membership from Europe is not as high I would like, presumably because of competition with the European Cetacean Society. I hope that European membership might be boosted by a joint meeting with that Society in 2021. Negotiations to that end have commenced…
  • Membership from Asia is still low apart from Japan (5th) – perhaps we need to be thinking about an Asian Biennial in 2025!

However, I am less sanguine about the geography of marine mammal research effort. Between 2008 and 2012, only 12 % of papers in marine mammal were about taxa in low income countries, even though the coastal and riverine populations of marine mammals in such countries are disproportionately at risk. Bob Brownell recently pointed out that 9 of the 12 taxa of  small cetaceans listed on the IUCN Red List as “Critically Endangered” are from low income countries. The conservation of these populations needs to be informed by science. I recently attended a workshop on one of these species the Mekong River dolphin in Phnom Penh in Cambodia. Although the survival of this dolphin population is far from certain, its prospects have improved as a result of assistance from a team of international experts. This team is hoping to be able to provide similar expertise to assist in the conservation of the Ayeyarwady dolphin, a liaison that has been facilitated by a Presidential letter  – demonstrating that our science can make a difference.

I wish the new Board all the best and look forward to seeing you all in San Francisco in 2015.

Warm regards,


Helene Marsh

Marine Mammal Science is now online only!

A friendly reminder from the Society for Marine Mammalogy

Are you wondering why you have not received a copy of Marine Mammal Science in the mail recently?

Two years ago, the majority of Society members voted during the annual April ballot in favor of switching to an electronic-only journal and eliminating the printed version. There was an announcement of this on the Society’s website for several months, but it is possible you missed it if you do not periodically check the site and did not attend the annual member’s meeting at the biennial conference. It took some time to plan for the transition, and now it has become a reality.

At present, you will not automatically receive e-mail notices when a new issue of the journal is out, although we are looking into whether we might get this changed. Regardless, Marine Mammal Science will continue to be published quarterly (January, April, July and October), and if you sign up for e-mail alerts, Wiley will automatically e-mail you when a new issue is released.

If you used the online version of the journal in the past, you will already know that you must go to Marine Mammal Science through the Society’s website while logged in as a member. This will give you full access to the journal as part of your Society of Marine Mammalogy membership benefits. If you try to log in to Marine Mammal Science directly through wileyonline.com, you will not succeed in obtaining access to articles by using your SMM member ID and password. Of course many of you can also gain access to the journal through an institutional membership if your institution has paid to have access.

Is Marine Mammal Science still the same as before?

Yes! The journal will continue to operate as it has, maintaining the high standards it has had for papers being accepted.

Having more pages available to publish does not diminish the need to keep Marine Mammal Science as a high quality journal. Indeed, we still cannot possibly publish all papers submitted, so we must also select papers to consider based on their relative importance and likely degree of interest to the readership of the journal.

Benefits to having an entirely electronic journal:

1) We now publish a greater number of pages without a change in membership fees (now 1600 pages per year, up from 1000)

2) Allows colored figures in papers without charge to authors (previously it cost $600 per printed color figure)

3) Eliminates charges for mailing copies of issues to members

4) Eliminates issues getting lost in the mail (as was a common occurrence in the past)

5) Contributes to conservation by saving trees and eliminating the carbon cost of shipping print copies all over the world

If you have not already done so, we invite you to read our first two electronic-only journal issues published January and April 2014.

If you have questions about this change or about Marine Mammal Science in general, you can e-mail me at mmsci@megalink.net.

Daryl J. Boness
Marine Mammal Science