As uncomfortable as it might be, scientists will need to
''triage'' the allocation of scarce resources to save marine
mammal species, a United States marine mammal scientist says.
It was inevitable marine mammals would be lost unless
scientists could be ''smart'' about the allocation of
precious resources, Duke University Nicolas School of the
Environment marine biology professor Dr Andrew Read said
yesterday during the first day of the 20th Biennial
Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals held at the
Dunedin Town Hall.
About 1200 marine mammal scientists from around the world are
in Dunedin this week for the conference, which will move to
the University of Otago campus for the rest of the week.
Its theme of marine mammal conservation ran through the
keynote addresses given yesterday.
Dr Barbara Taylor, of the Southwest Fisheries Science Centre,
said in the opening address conservation challenges included
by-catch in small-scale fisheries, habitat degradation from
overfishing, environmental contamination and global climate
It was not possible to monitor all species so scientists
would need to prioritise vulnerable species and make that
work as effective as possible, she said.
So, the next century would be critical for conservation as
human needs and maintaining the natural world came into
Scientists also needed to engage educators, media specialists
and others in the cause as well as informing the public about
how they could help save species.
Teams would become necessary and perseverance would be
important, as would having a single voice against issues such
as non-industrial gill netting.
''Solutions will take a long time. Every opportunity to
infect people with enthusiasm needs to be taken.''
However, the public support conservation had enjoyed in the
past was now in short supply.
''We need to engage the public in conservation issues.''
It was a challenge to capture that attention when there was
''zero body count'', a lack of simple ''villains'', such as
major industrial organisations, and no simple story, she
Added to that was when evidence of harm was likely to be
indirect and a population that was declining or not
recovering was ''not sexy science''.
Dr Read said modern conservation problems were ''wicked''
problems, complex, multi-faceted issues, often linked to
broader social problems such as food security and poverty,
without a simple solution. One example was climate change.
Scientists needed to recognise their limitations as natural
scientists and realise they did not know the first thing
about changing human behaviour.
Former Labour Cabinet minister Pete Hodgson also spoke on the
relationship between science and public policy as it related
to his experience dealing with the conservation problem of
by-catch of Maui dolphins in fisheries.