Coordinating protection for harbour porpoise

14 Mar 2016

harbour_porpoiseFOI requests from Whale & Dolphin Conservation reveal the back-story, but the bigger picture is that we risk missing a chance to coordinate on management

In January the JNCC and Natural Resource Wales launched a consultation on setting up marine sites to protect harbour porpoise in English, Northern Irish and Welsh waters. Unfortunately due to questions about the quality of underpinning evidence, the Scottish Government delayed proposals for sites in Scotland. Irrespective of the detail – which was openly aired via some extremely revealing FOI requests – some of our campaign members have stood by the evidence provided by the Statutory Agencies and have been urging Marine Scotland to introduce four proposed Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) for Scotland, urgently.

As we start to use our seas for a whole new raft of offshore activities, management measures are needed to effectively plan, mitigate or avoid activities that may negatively affect porpoises and their important habitats. Threats include noise pollution (for example, from pile driving, active sonar, acoustic deterrent use), becoming entangled in fishing gear such as (gillnets and tangle nets), collisions (with vessels and possibly tidal turbines), impacts from vessels that cause disturbance and – perhaps most importantly – the combined effects of all of these activities, known in European planning policy jargon as ‘cumulative effects.’

We need to ensure adequate protection of harbour porpoises wherever they are, which means taking action to manage wider impacts within and outside of SACs, such as tackling chemical and litter pollution, reducing overall noise levels, turning around habitat loss and prey depletion.

As Scotland’s sites are delayed it also delays our ability to manage all these activities and related threats together in a coordinated way, across ocean basins (like the North Sea), and not just in UK waters. Let’s hope we see progress on this soon….

For more info read Whale & Dolphin Conservation’s blog: Porpoiseful protection?

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