We are one giant step closer to better protection of porpoises through the designation of UK harbour porpoise Special Areas of Conservation (SACs), a special type of marine protected area required under European law.
The UK government nature conservation advisor, JNCC, has released a very important report that provides the scientific evidence to demonstrate which areas of the UK contain “discrete and persistent areas of relatively high harbour porpoise density”.
Decisions about what areas might be protected for harbour porpoises in UK waters will be based on this important report. Amongst others, it identifies sites in the Moray Firth, large areas of the west coast of Scotland, including the Minches and Sea of Hebrides, North Sea in English waters, and three areas in Wales, off Anglesey, west Wales and the outer Bristol Channel – areas that the Welsh government have already begun pre-consultation on.
WDC have been calling for protection of harbour porpoise critical habitat for many, many years – almost 2 decades in fact. So this is a very important step towards better management of human activities to ensure harbour porpoise conservation and we are 100% behind it!
We are also really pleased (and proud!) that this report reflects our own analysis conducted to encourage the UK and devolved governments to put these protective sites in place.
Another very important JNCC report that analysed land-based porpoise and bottlenose dolphin data was also released. WDC know the value of land-based data, because we run our own Shorewatch community programme in Scotland, with data collected by and more than 600 WDC volunteers at 23 sites all around the coastline. This new JNCC report, that is based on Seawatch Foundation data and includes WDC data, demonstrates how important some areas around the UK coastline are for porpoises and bottlenose dolphins. We were disappointed that the results of this work were not included in the formal analysis to determine the porpoise SACs but we are pleased that it has been undertaken, none-the-less.
We now await JNCCs formal advice on what the harbour porpoise SACs will look like, and what measures are proposed for management of human activities to ensure protection of porpoises. WDC have already provided our advice on harbour porpoise management options to Defra and the devolved administrations.
We hope all this information will be available for public consultation in the summer. WDC have been campaigning to get porpoise protection since the very beginning and we plan to see it through to the end – so we will let you know when we hear more news!