Myanmar's Marine Life

Latest update March 18, 2019 Started on September 1, 2018
sea

Myanmar is starting the challenging work of establishing a network of marine protected areas. However, there is still a lot to learn about the marine life along its coasts. A first important step is to document key species and identify critical habitats so we can put in place effective protections. We are conducting habitat surveys along Myanmar’s coastline in key biodiversity areas. In some places, these will be the first ever detailed surveys of marine life. What will we find?

September 1, 2018
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In The Field

We visited a mud flat on the east coast. We were there at low tide a day before the full moon (= a really low tide). A few women were collecting a range of invertebrates to sell and eat at home. They were happy to talk with our team about their catch.

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Some of the team checked out the crater of the island's mud volcano. See anything strange in this photo?

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okay, so some of you reached out to me asking what is strange (besides being in the middle of a mud crater)... everyone is in the photo twice. Having fun with "pano" shots...

Late lunch. This is a typical midday meal in this region of Myanmar.

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Myo Naing Win, Min Khant San, and Thaung Htut tried out the ROV as a modified drop camera in the South-West area of Manaung Island. In this simple way, we can get a data point in about 1 min and then quickly move onto another point along a transect. The yellow tether connects the unit’s camera to a topside unit at the surface and then that transmits the video imagery to a tablet by wifi. The video can be recorded. Min Khant San is using a towel to block out the strong sunlight so he can better see the image on the screen.


– as relayed by Kate Holmes

Before heading out on the water, we had the chance to talk with migrant fishers who were processing their catches in their temporary camp. They generously allowed us to ask lots of questions and take photos.

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U Mya Than Thu joined WCS five years ago after a long career with Myanmar's Department of Fisheries (36 years!). He recently produced books on Myanmar's sea turtles and marine fish based on his expertise. Here he is wearing his WCS hat proudly as we head out to explore a small, remote island to the North East of Manaung Island.

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The Seagrass species name is Halophila decipiens (HD) which rarely found in Rakhine. Today, I found during Coral reef habitat survey at North East shallow water area (subtidal zone) of the Tike Kyun (near Manaung Island), Rakhine.


_a field update from Thaung Htut

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Preparation

We conducted Participatory Mapping in two villages called YaeMyatWa and PanPe village, in Manaung Island, Rakhine. Marine habitats (sea grass, coral reef, fishing ground, etc...) were identifed by local people (fishermen). Facilitated by RCA (Rakhine Coastal Conservation Association) and WCS, and organised by DOF (Department of Fishery) and GAD.


_A field update by Aung Ko Thet

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In The Field

Coming back to the port

We have a Trident ROV to test for our work. We can drive it around horizontally for exploring, but now we’d like to use some of it’s features to catch images of the substrate for habitat mapping. We’d like to drop it straight down and be able to watch the drop and capture video clips of the habitat, from just above the bottom. And we’d like to be able to do it quickly so we can cover lots of ground in our limited time here. We were able to make some quick modifications using materials we had with us on the fishing boat: rope, fishing line, dive gear, dive weights, a clip, zip ties, and the pieces of a quadrat that we usually use for seagrass surveys.


– as relayed by Kate Holmes

Trident ROV test

We have a Trident ROV to test for our work. We can drive it around horizontally for exploring, but now we’d like to use some of it’s features to catch images of the substrate for habitat mapping. We’d like to drop it straight down and be able to watch the drop and capture video clips of the habitat, from just above the bottom. And we’d like to be able to do it quickly so we can cover lots of ground in our limited time here. We were able to make some quick modifications using materials we had with us on the fishing boat: rope, fishing line, dive gear, dive weights, a clip, zip ties, and the pieces of a quadrat that we usually use for seagrass surveys. – as relayed by Kate Holmes

Posted by WCS Myanmar on Monday, March 18, 2019

The fishing boat we took today is a common style here. It is reliable but very noisy. I said “IT IS VERY NOISY!”.
_Kate Holmes relayed from the field

We are working with an excellent partner: The Rakhine Coastal Region Conservation Association (RCA). Here, two staff of RCA – U Min Min Tun and U Naing Htoo – are preparing their maps for the day. RCA and WCS are conducting Participatory Mapping surveys in two communities each day.

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The first dive by the team at Manaung Island.

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U Antt Maung is our Divemaster. He looks very calm before the first dive.

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Yet another very early start to the day. The boats are not able to leave the port when the tide is low. So, we’re off to explore, starting at 4 am!

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Preparation

Our objectives for this week are expansive:


  • Foster continued collaboration between partners

  • Conduct Participatory Mapping around Manaung Island

  • Conduct a scoping survey of Manaung Island’s near-shore marine habitats; collect data to inform habitat mapping

  • Brain-storm questions around research design for Manaung Island

  • Conclude the week with an agreement on the methodologies that we can use going forward

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On the ferry ride we ate sticky rice wrapped up in leaves. No plastic, thank you very much!


– Kate Holmes, relayed from the field.

After two days of traveling, with 4 am starts, we made it to Manaung Island. Our team has swelled to 18 people from 4 institutions. We plan to collect a range of data, test some approaches, and dive in remote corners. This means bringing A LOT of equipment including a borrowed compressor. Here the team has piled up the gear on the ferry dock before the break of dawn.


– Kate Holmes, relayed from the field.

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Expedition Background

With extensive coral reefs, seagrass beds, mangrove forests, and other key habitats, Myanmar’s marine environment supports biodiversity of global importance: cetaceans, dugongs, corals, sea turtles, and a range of important invertebrates. However, very few surveys have been conducted to document key species, identify critical habitats, and put in place effective protections. WCS and its core partners - the Rakhine Coastal Region Conservation Association (RCA) and Pathein University’s Marine Science Department - are embarking on habitat surveys along Myanmar’s coastline in key biodiversity areas. In some places, these will be the first ever detailed surveys of marine life. This information will provide the critical baselines for no take zones and other management areas in a new, inshore fisheries co-management project as well as build the scientific basis for future Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).

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