WWF calls to protect dolphins, whales and porpoises a chance
New report launched by WWF in collaboration with the Convention on Migratory Species, reveals the steep challenges scientists and policy makers are grappling with as they struggle to reduce bycatch in fishing gear the world over, to guarantee the survival of cetaceans. It further highlights the need to step up both public pressure, and for the fishing industry to protect cetaceans for generations to come.
Dolphins, whales and porpoises (cetaceans) are amongst the most intelligent animals on our planet and play a critical role in maintaining marine ecosystem health and therefore human health. Yet, a dolphin, porpoise or whale is accidentally killed in fishing operations somewhere in the world about every two minutes. In Peru alone, 15,000 to 20,000 dolphins and porpoises die every year as a result of being trapped in fishing gear.
Bradnee Chambers, CMS Executive Secretary:
“Bycatch remains the number one threat to many species of whale, dolphin and porpoise, and the deaths of such animals are a tragedy both for conservation and welfare reasons. Governments have long recognized this, and have committed themselves to taking measures to minimize incidental mortality. We are pleased to present this publication in partnership with WWF. It shows how civil society and the Convention can work together to support policy-makers and industry in reducing the risk of cetacean bycatch and entanglements.”
According to the report, the most promising solutions are fisheries-based and include the development of alternative gear to replace current fishing methods such as gillnets and the establishment of effectively managed marine protected areas and time-area closures.
Margaret Kinnaird, Wildlife Practice Leader, WWF:
“This report acknowledges that there are few existing methods and technologies with the potential to significantly reduce the huge numbers of cetaceans caught and killed in fishing operations the world over. It also lays the groundwork for scaling up tested solutions and reiterates the urgency to spark technical and social innovations to dramatically reduce mortality, working alongside fishing communities. We hope this report helps to draw stronger political attention to this vital issue which has widespread implications for the planet’s biological diversity. We have no time to lose.”
However, the case studies presented in this report highlight only a few examples where successful mitigation strategies have been effectively implemented. This challenge is further compounded by the dearth of data globally on fisheries, cetacean populations and their depletion rates as well as the overall impact of fishing on individual populations.
In the Russian waters, WWF works to minimize the by-catch of marine mammals, including large and small cetaceans, in various types of fisheries. Most partners in this activity are extractive companies that have certified their fisheries according to the standards of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). The condition for such certification is the use of fishing gear that minimizes the negative impact on marine ecosystems, including limiting the by-catch of non-target and rare species, including marine mammals. The volumes of this by-catch in Russian waters cannot be called global. Nevertheless, sometimes marine mammals get entangled in fishing gear. These are various seals, beluga whales, and even gray whales.
Andrey Vinnikov, Head of WWF-Russia Marine Programme:
"To reduce cetacean by-catch, we recommend that fishermen use sparing fishing gears that reduce incidental by-catch of non-target and rare species, as well as various scaring devices, including innovative ones, marking fishing gear, reducing the length of buoyraps for crab orders and so on. In addition, we work on preventing collisions of ships with large cetaceans."
A significant achievement in reducing bycatch of dolphins and porpoises is the introduction iof a ban on large-scale drifter fishing for Pacific salmon n 2016, during which the annual by-catch of small cetaceans ranged from several hundred to 2-3 thousand animals.