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Marine Mammal Conservation: over the horizon

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New research, published in Endangered Species Research, demonstrates that marine mammals are at a crucial crossroads as bycatch, climate change and pollution continue to drive decline. Despite this, however, there are stories of success with some populations showing signs of recovery as a result of management interventions.

Map taken from Nelms et al. 2021

The report presents a review of key threats to marine mammals alongside identifying knowledge gaps and required actions. The key threats include: climate change; fisheries bycatch; reduction in prey availability; commercial and subsistence take; marine mammals as bait in fisheries; coastal and freshwater development; MREIs; noise; plastic pollution; chemical contaminants; and pathogen pollution.

Continuing, the authors discuss and present evidence concerning conservation mechanisms, such as bycatch mitigation and spatial conservation, monitoring and sampling, policy, guidance and assessments. An extensive review of research and monitoring techniques is also given; valuable information for MPA managers, practitioners and policy makers.

The publication concludes with a pertinent section highlighting specific taxa and populations that require urgent focus; a call to action. Noting the extinction of the Baiji in 2006 with the Vaquita, unfortunately, close behind.

“While very few marine mammal species have been driven to extinction in modern times, continued increases in anthropogenic pressures on our marine and freshwater ecosystems are placing new and powerful stressors on many species and populations.”

Nelms et al. 2021

You can read and download the full publication here