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  BBC Online 23 Nov 05
UN urges protection for dolphins
By Richard Black

UNEP website 23 Nov 05
Fishing Nets Major Risk for Small Cetaceans

More than two-thirds of World’s Dolphins, Porpoises and Related Species at Risk from being Culled or Caught in Nets

Further risks include Pollution, Habitat Degradation and Military Sonar Convention on Migratory Species Told

Nairobi - Over 70 per cent of small cetaceans, animals which include dolphins and porpoises are threatened by entanglement in fishing nets a new survey unveiled today shows.

The second biggest threat is “directed” catches where the animals, which also include so called false killer whales, pilot whales and the narwhal are killed for food or uses such as crab and shark bait.

An estimated 66 per cent of the 71 species surveyed are at risk from such activities. Meanwhile, just over 56 per cent are threatened by pollution including contamination by heavy metals, pesticides and from ingesting marine litter.

A further 24 per cent are at risk from dam building, siltation, strikes from ferries and other factors linked with habitat degradation.

Almost 15 per cent are threatened by lack of food as a result of over fishing of the world’s ocean and nearly 13 per cent from culling by fishermen who fear they are a threat to fish stocks.

Noise pollution linked with underwater sonar and military manoeuvres are putting at risk over 4 per cent of species.

These are among the findings of a new report produced by the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) and the Regional Seas Programme of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

The report, compiled by Professor Boris Culik of Kiel University, Germany, was launched today at the eighth Conference of the Parties to CMS which is taking place at UNEP’s headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya.

It argues that eight small cetacean species including the Ganges river dolphin; the Atlantic spotted dolphin and Northern right whale dolphin, should be given new protection under the CMS agreement,.

Conservation of stocks of seven other species, currently covered under the Convention, should also be extended to other areas the report suggests. These include the white beaked dolphin in Canadian and United States waters and populations of Risso’s dolphin waters in waters off several coasts including south east South Africa.

Klaus Toepfer, UNEP’s Executive Director, said: “Small cetaceans are amongst the most well loved and charismatic creatures on the planet sometimes linked with heroic tales and legends. Sadly these qualities alone cannot protect them from a wide range of threats. So I fully endorse measures to strengthen their conservation through the CMS and other related agreements”.

“In doing so we can all play our part in helping to meet the target and time table, agreed at the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable development, which calls for reversing the rate of loss of biodiversity by 2010. And in doing so we can send a strong message that we can deliver this for not only small cetaceans, but for all the threatened animals and plants on this wonderful blue planet,” he added.

Robert Hepworth, Executive Secretary of the CMS, said: “No comparable encyclopaedia has been published. With the exception of the sperm whale, all of the species of toothed whales that migrate across the oceans are covered. These new findings on distribution, behaviour and migration will facilitate the application of targeted action plans designed to reduce the threats that so many of these species clearly face”.

BBC Online 23 Nov 05
UN urges protection for dolphins
By Richard Black Environment Correspondent, BBC News website

Small cetaceans are amongst the most charismatic creatures on the planet Klaus Toepfer, Unep The United Nations says additional protection measures are needed for dolphins and small whales.

A new global survey, released at a conservation meeting in Kenya, finds that more than 70% of species are at risk through snaring in fishing nets. Other major threats include intentional catching, pollution, habitat destruction and military sonar.

The UN Environment Programme (Unep) is calling for an upgrade of international protection on eight species. It wants the Ganges river dolphin, Atlantic spotted dolphin, Northern right-whale dolphin and five others species to be given Appendix II status under the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS). Existing protection measures on a further seven species should also be extended, it says.

A CMS summit is taking place this week at Unep headquarters in Nairobi.

Well loved

"Small cetaceans are amongst the most well loved and charismatic creatures on the planet," said Unep executive director Klaus Toepfer in a statement. "Sadly these qualities alone cannot protect them from a wide range of threats; so I fully endorse measures to strengthen their conservation through the CMS and other related agreements."

Appendix II status does not confer mandatory protection, but is designed to induce relevant countries to draw up conservation agreements. Two such agreements for small cetaceans are already in place, one in the Baltic Sea, the other covering the Mediterranean and Black Seas.

The Unep report attempts to calculate the relative importance of the various factors which put dolphins and whales at risk. It finds that 26.5% of the threat comes from accidental bycatch, 24.9% from deliberate hunting, and 21.2% from pollution.

Two years ago a scientific study found that about 800 cetaceans die each day through being snared in fishing nets. Other factors identitied by the new report include habitat degradation, depletion of fish stocks on which the cetaceans feed, culling, and noise, for example from naval sonar.

Dolphins' dive

Mark Simmonds, director of science at the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, believes that the Unep report may underestimate the true scale of the issue.

"What it's doing is indicating where there's very strong evidence of a direct threat to a particular species," he told the BBC News website from the Nairobi meeting, "and it's very difficult to get that kind of evidence.

"Many of these species we know very little about, particularly the deep diving ones. "On the other hand, we know enough to say that pretty much all the river dolphins are threatened, and in fact the next mammal to go extinct will probably be a river dolphin - it's as serious as that."

Further measures are being debated at the CMS meeting, including a proposal to list the Mediterranean population of the short-beaked dolphin onto Convention Appendix I. This would oblige countries around the Med to restore habitat and change trends which are contributing to the dolphin's demise - in this case, principally the reduction in stocks of sardines and pilchards which it eats.

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