ConservationConservation Plans

Conservation Plans for cetaceans

Dolphins are threatened species that could disappear from our waters if correction measures are not taken promptly. MPAs can be established with their corresponding management plans in which the necessary actions are determined so that the target species find in them favourable conditions for feeding, reproduction or migration. But it can not be forgotten that for these species, the dimensions and limits of these protected areas might not have any sense. They can help, but they are not enough, by themselves, to ensure that the conservation objective for the species is achieved: to maintain a favourable conservation status.

Therefore, the MPAs are necessary but not enough and they can not be seen as the global solution for the conservation and sustainable management of the marine environment. The limitations of marine reserves can be highlighted especially in the case of marine species that extend across large areas. The marine environment is characterized mainly by being immense, three-dimensional and extraordinarily dynamic. To limit the conservation efforts to areas with rigid limits is obviously insufficient when dealing with conservation of the vast majority of marine species. It is necessary to take into account the special requirements of these species if conservation is to be effective. In addition, the human activities that might be causing a threat are not usually restricted to a particular area, and the management of activities within an area can not deal with external threats that are transported into the area as a result of the three-dimensional nature of the marine environment. This is one of the reasons why MPAs have detractors in the scientific community.

However, MPAs continue nowadays being the main and most extensively used tool for the conservation of cetaceans. There are many areas designated for the conservation of cetaceans, small and large all over world. For example, the SAC for bottlenose dolphins and harbour porpoises under the European Union’s Habitat Directive; the extensive cetacean sanctuary ‘Pelagos’ in the Ligurian Sea and many others of small dimensions such as the ‘Losinj Dolphin Reserve’ in Croatia in the Mediterranean; the Stellwagen Bank and the Gully Canyon in the North-east Atlantic; the ‘Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale Sanctuary’ in the Pacific; etc.  

Facing this situation, the main challenge of this work is to progress towards the effective conservation of the species and their habitats. Therefore, it needs to be emphasized that the design and creation of MPAs is not the final aim of this work, but just one more action within the future conservation plans for the species, in which these areas and their management plans would be framed.

For this reason we need a conservation plan that brings in the requirements for the conservation of the species at an appropriate scale, as it does not bind itself to a particular protected area but is applied to a more extensive geographical area, usually that of the competences of the involved authorities.

The conservation plan establishes some priority lines of action. There are different types of actions in it: management, legislative, research, monitoring, capacity building and public awareness. In this way, an organised structure is established for implementing, in the most effective possible way, the necessary actions to preserve or reach a favourable conservation status for the target species and its habitat.

In this sense, Alnilam has participated in the development of the conservation plans for several species of cetaceans in Spanish Mediterranean waters, in collaboration with CIRCE.

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