Whale Summit: Disappearing Dolphins Clamour for Attention

Written by on July 1, 2009 in Marine Life, Policy & Ocean Law
Bottlenose dolphin, Black Sea, Crimea, Ukraine - (c) Andrey Nekrasov/WWF-Canon

Bottlenose dolphin, Black Sea, Crimea, Ukraine – (c) Andrey Nekrasov/WWF-Canon

The World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) claims small whales are disappearing from the world’s oceans as they fall victim to fishing gear, pollution, and habitat loss as there are no conservation measures such as those developed for great whales.

They have published a report, “Small Cetaceans: The Forgotten Whales,” that states that the inadequate conservation measures are pushing dolphins, porpoises and small whales toward extinction as their survival is overshadowed by efforts to save their larger cousins.

“Although great whale species of the world are by no means secure and still require conservation attention, the situation is just as critical for these smaller, seemingly forgotten species,” said Dr. Susan Lieberman, Director of the Species Programme for WWF-International.

Efforts to protect great whales have been underway for some time and an international commercial whaling moratorium is in effect since 1986.  Not only is the hunt for small cetaceans largely unmanaged, but several of the pro-whaling nations taking part in the International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting this week object to discussing small cetacean conservation altogether.

There isn’t really much information on smaller whale numbers.  58 percent of the small cetacean species are classified as “data deficient,” which means there is not enough information available to even determine whether they are threatened or not.  In contrast, only 27 percent of great whale species are listed as data deficient, even though many of the reasons why smaller whale species are difficult to study also apply to the great whales.

Spinner dolphins, Northwest Hawaiian Islands  -  Photo by Dr. Dwayne Meadows - NOAA/NMFS/OPR

Spinner dolphins, Northwest Hawaiian Islands – Photo by Dr. Dwayne Meadows – NOAA/NMFS/OPR

According to the IUCN Red List, population trends – whether the species is increasing or decreasing in number – are unknown for 60 of the 69 small cetacean species. The 9 remaining species are in decline.

“If small cetaceans are not central to negotiations on current whaling, it is possible that conservation successes achieved for great whales could simply result in a shift of problems from great whales to small cetaceans,” the report states.

IWC 61 runs June 22 to 26 in Madeira, Portugal.


Copyright ©  2009 by Marine Science Today, a publication of OceanLines LLC

About the Author

About the Author: Celia is Director of Business Operations for OceanLines LLC and is a frequent contributor to both OceanLines and Marine Science Today. She is a certified diver and her favorite topic is marine biology, especially stories about whales. .


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