Ronny Ling is the current President of ORRCA, the Organisation for the Rescue and Research of Cetaceans in Australia. ORRCA operates in NSW, QLD and WA and has often been active in our local waters, rescuing marine mammals in distress. Ronny tells us the organisation is always looking for volunteers … so if preserving and assisting marine wildlife is a passion of yours, don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Hi Ronny. What’s your current role with ORRCA (Organisation for the Rescue and Research of Cetaceans in Australia) and what’s involved with this position?
I am currently the President of ORRCA, and have been for the past 17 years
I am actually in charge and responsible for everything the organisation is involved with. If an important decision has to be made, it is my role to make the right one.
I see, more importantly, that my role is to make sure all ORRCA members are safe while they are at an incident, and that we are in the best position to get the best result at these incidents.
Why did you join the organisation, and how long have you been a member?
I have been a member for 27 years, and joined the organisation with the view of helping make a difference to marine mammals who find themselves in trouble.
What can you tell us about the history of ORRCA and why it was formed?
ORRCA was formed as a direct result of a False Killer Whale stranding at Crowdy Head in the winter of 1985.
Firstly, the organisation set about training members to respond to whale strandings in NSW.
We have now grown to cover all marine mammals and incidents, not just in NSW, but in QLD and WA as well.
We give advice and train government authorities in marine mammal incidents, and educate the public about marine mammals and the problems they face.
What types of sea creatures (generally) does ORRCA assist?
Marine mammals, that is, whales, seals, dolphins and dugongs.
Tell us about a few of the rescues/operations ORRCA has been involved with in recent years on the Mid North Coast of NSW (i.e. Coffs Coast, Port Macquarie, Manning-Great Lakes)?
ORRCA volunteers responded to a large number of incidents in the past 12 months on the Mid North Coast. Seals in particular kept our members on their toes during the start to winter last year. We were inundated with juvenile seals that required a lot of monitoring.
We also responded to several strandings in the area, including Coffs Harbour, South West Rocks, Port Macquarie, Crowdy Head, Tuncurry, and Seal Rocks.
ORRCA rescuers were also needed to collect data from dead animals, and track entangled whales in this area.
ORRCA relies heavily on volunteers. Are you currently recruiting and if so, what skills/equipment do potential new volunteers need to have?
ORRCA is always looking for new members. We hold training workshops in various locations around the country during the summer (less busy) time of the year.
ORRCA members come from all walks of life, vary in ages, and are from all different backgrounds. The only qualification you need is to have a desire to help marine wildlife in need. Our next training session on the Mid North Coast is at Coffs Harbour on Saturday 22nd April.
What has been the most rewarding aspect of your role with ORRCA to date?
The most rewarding thing has been being able to assist some of these animals in need and to be able to help others gain the skills to do it as well.
What do you feel are some of the biggest challenges facing the larger marine life on the Mid North Coast currently?
The biggest impact on marine wildlife in Australia (and the rest of the world) is the influence of man. No matter whether man’s actions on the ocean environment and its creatures has been deliberate, or not, it has been devastating.
Problems such as overfishing and by catch, whaling, sealing, habitat destruction, pollution, noise pollution, military use, runoff problems and siltation, shark meshing and drum-lining, breaching of legislation and regulations for animal protection, and lack of knowledge and understanding have had a huge impact on these animals, and a lot still continue to.
How can members of the public assist ORRCA – particularly if they see a marine mammal struggling, or in danger?
If people have concerns for a marine mammal that they think may be injured or in distress, the best action is to call the ORRCA 24 hour hotline on 9415 3333.
And never do anything that could injure or put you or others at risk – marine mammals can be large, unpredictable and dangerous, so it is best to wait for trained rescuers to arrive.
Where can we find out more info?
For more information on ORRCA and becoming a volunteer, go to: www.orrca.org.au call 9415 3333, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Interview by Jo Robinson.