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German environment minister Hendricks welcomes winners of the creative competition “The last 300”

On the 9th July representatives of the environmental associations WDC and ASCOBANS met the German Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks to present the three wining contributions of the creative competition “the last 300” for the protection of the Baltic Harbour Porpoise. Furthermore, the groups handed over a list of claims listing the necessary measures to protect the endangered harbour porpoise population in the Baltic Sea. 

Only a few hundred harbour porpoises live in the Baltic Sea near the Darss Peninsula . By-catch in fishing nets, loss of their habitats and increasing underwater noise pollution has led to the decrease of the population. The NGOs which also incuded NABU and OceanCare, alongside WDC and the intergovernmental organisation, ASCOBANS made an official statement concerning this problem: ‘The harbour porpoises have a chance to recover if we take action and find means to protect them. We have a duty to ensure their survival according to German and European environmental law.’  – said Fabian Ritter, campaign lead for WDC.

Scientific investigations revealed that harbour porpoises are still living in the area between Southern Sweden, Poland and Germany, but their exact number remains indistinct. 

In order to ensure the survival of the harbour porpoises on the long term, the associations have asked for improved protection in the conservation area network Natura-2000, located in the North Sea and Baltic Sea. Whale disturbing activities need to be stopped in those areas. This includes fisheries with gillnets as well as mining for raw materials and intensive shipping traffic. At the same time, ASCOBANS’ action plan for the harbour porpoise (also called Jastarnia-Plan) needs to be implemented as soon as possible. Sustainable fishing methods preventing by-catch should be favored. ‘Some of Germany’s coastal areas are under protection, but years after the designation there is still a lack of regulating management. Military exercises and other environmental harmful activities are permitted, even inside the conservation areas. Harbour porpoises are protected formally but not practically.’, according to the groups at the meeting. 

The creative competition, “The last 300” was an attempt by WDC, NABU, OceanCare and ASCOBANS to get the public involved and to look into the subject in a creative way. Winner of the competition is 15 year old Laura Stattkus with her stop motion movie “Hello little whale” 

The groups used the contributions as an appeal to the Environment Minister to take an active part in the protection of harbour porpoises. 

More information in German at www.schweinswal.eu