European nations under pressure to save the critically endangered Baltic harbour porpoise

At a meeting of northern European nations held online this week, the issue of the critically endangered harbour porpoise population in the Baltic Sea was discussed and debated. The population in the central Baltic Sea numbers in the low hundreds and needs urgent action to stop it from going extinct. Recently, the EU Commission has put pressure on the member states to implement strict measures to protect the porpoises.

The countries gathered at a meeting of ASCOBANS[1], a regional agreement established to conserve small whales including dolphins and porpoises. They passed a resolution which commits to a detailed conservation plan for the population and to swiftly implement actions to address the primary threat to the remaining Baltic porpoises: the incidental bycatch in fishing nets. They also identified that other imminent threats, including chemical and noise pollution urgently need to be mitigated.  

Ida Carlen, who coordinates the Baltic harbour porpoise Recovery Plan, comments: ‘The situation is really urgent but we have some new hope with the recent movement within the European Commission to act on bycatch, the ICES advice on bycatch mitigation[2], published before summer, and now this new resolution. We see that ASCOBANS has an important role in acting as a coordinating expert organization, providing key focus for the development of mechanisms to address pressing issues related to small cetacean conservation’.

The ASCOBANS meeting also passed resolutions on a number of key threats to small whales including dolphins and porpoises across the agreement region which includes the Baltic, North and Irish Seas and adjacent Atlantic area, including noise pollution, overfishing and marine debris.

Taking part in the meeting were leading conservation and animal welfare organizations including Coalition Clean Baltic (CCB), Humane Society International (HSI), Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union (NABU), OceanCare, Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) and World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). In a joint statement they reaffirmed their support for the ASCOBANS agreement. They also highlighted the recently released open letter[3] to world leaders from more than 300 experts from more than 40 countries, calling for global action to protect whales and dolphins from the threat of extinction.


[1] https://www.ascobans.org/

[2] https://www.ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2020/Special_Requests/eu.2020.04.pdf

[3] https://www.mammalresearchinstitute.science/news/2020/9/1/the-real-and-imminent-extinction-risk-to-whales-dolphins-and-porpoises


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