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Minke whale © Ursula Tscherter - ORES

The whale trappers are back with their cruel experiment

Anyone walking past my window might have heard my groan of disbelief at the news...
Boto © Fernando Trujillo

Meet the legendary pink river dolphins

Botos don't look or live like other dolphins. Flamingo-pink all over with super-skinny snouts and...
Risso's dolphin entangled in fishing line and plastic bags - Andrew Sutton

The ocean is awash with plastic – can we ever clean it up?

You've seen pictures of plastic litter accumulating on beaches or marine wildlife swimming through floating...
Fin whale

Is this the beginning of the end for whaling off Iceland?

I'm feeling cautiously optimistic after Iceland's Fisheries Minister Svandís Svavarsdóttir wrote that there is little...
Mykines Lighthouse, Faroe Islands

Understanding whale and dolphin hunts in the Faroe Islands – why change is not easy

Most people in my home country of the Faroe Islands would like to see an...

Dolphin scientists look like you and me – citizen science in action

Our amazing volunteers have looked out for dolphins from the shores of Scotland more than...
Atlantic white-sided dolphins

The Faroes dolphin slaughter that sparked an outcry now brings hope

Since the slaughter of at least 1,423 Atlantic white-sided dolphins at Skálafjørður in my home...
Fin whale

From managing commercial slaughter to saving the whale – the International Whaling Commission at 75

Governments come together under the auspices of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) to make decisions...
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Port River dolphins

New report reveals 100,000 dolphins and small whales hunted every year

When you hear the words ‘dolphin hunts’ it’s likely that you think of Japan or...

Minke whale hunts stop in Iceland

Iceland’s commercial hunt of minke whales has ended for this year. The common minke whale is the...

Icelandic whalers breach international law and kill iconic, protected whale by mistake

Icelandic whalers out hunting fin whales for the first time in three years appear to...

Doubts remain after Icelandic Marine Institute claims slaughtered whale was a hybrid not a blue

Experts remain sceptical of initial test results issued by the Icelandic Marine Institute, which indicate...

Japan set to resume commercial whaling

Reports from Japan suggest that the government they will formally propose plans to resume commercial...

End the whale hunts! Icelandic fin whaler isolated as public mood shifts

Here’s a sight I hoped never again to witness. A boat being scrubbed and repainted...

Australian Government to block Japanese whaling proposal

Japanese Government officials have reportedly confirmed that they will propose the resumption of commercial whaling...

Pregnant whales once again a target for Japanese whalers

Figures from Japan's whaling expedition to Antarctica during the 2017/18 austral summer have revealed that...

Did Icelandic whalers really kill a blue whale?

*Warning - this blog contains an image that you may find upsetting* They say a...

SOS alert for whales off Norway!

I have to admit to bitter disappointment when I arrived in Tromsø, northern Norway, a...

Norway's whaling season begins

April 1st saw the start of the whaling season in Norway. Despite a widely-accepted international moratorium...

Norway increases whaling quota despite declining demand

Norway's government has announced an increase in the number of minke whales that can be...

New Scottish porpoise MPA is great! But more work to be done…

WDC is delighted that the first Scottish harbour porpoise Special Area of Conservation in the Inner Hebrides and the Minches has been designated by Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Roseanna Cunningham. This is a tremendous campaign success for us and we’d like to thank the thousands of WDC supporters who got involved and urged the Scottish government to take action.

This is timely, as WDC join the EU’s Marine Natura 2000 Seminar in Malta this week to assess the sufficiency of the proposed European Sites of Community Importance in the Atlantic, Mediterranean and Macaronesian marine regions (the MPA network). At this important meeting where the EU wide Natura network is assessed, we will advocate that Scotland, along with the rest of the UK and our European neighbours, have more work to do to complete the Natura network, including for marine mammals (the network includes harbour porpoises, bottlenose dolphins, grey and harbour seals).

UK waters are home to about 50% of the European North Atlantic porpoise habitat, demonstrating an incredible biological richness compared to other Member States. Recognising this, the Scottish government should immediately designate the Outer Moray Firth and North Channel proposed Special Areas of Conservation for harbour porpoises, as advised by the UK Statutory Agencies in December 2014. Further, we look forward to an announcement from the UK, Welsh and Northern Irish governments that they plan to designate a further four sites for harbour porpoises in North Anglesey, West Wales, Bristol Channel and the southern North Sea, following the recent public consultation. The Dogger Bank site in the southern North Sea is special because it is shared between the UK, Germany and the Netherlands, and all three countries, along with other users in the region, need to put in place appropriate management, particularly of cumulative impacts.

Recognising recent research results showing high levels of pollutants that are likely to be affecting harbour porpoise reproduction, and increasing noise levels leading to wide spread and on-going disturbance impacts, the UKs status of ‘Favourable’ requires reconsideration.

We are also calling for the Sound of Barra SAC to include bottlenose dolphins at a Grade that ensures they are a primary reason for designation that would ensure management measures protect them, following the completion of important research by Dr Nienke Van Geel at the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS). Despite being a discrete population of just a dozen or so bottlenose dolphins, not observed mixing with the larger west coast population of 35 dolphins, the Sound of Barra bottlenose dolphins are currently included in the Network as a Grade D, meaning their presence in the site is non-signficant and the site does not require management for their conservation. Existing bottlenose dolphin SACs in Cardigan Bay, Wales and the Moray Firth, Scotland should encompass the whole range of these populations.


We are also calling for harbour seal SACs to be designated for important offshore feeding habitats. Like the offshore seabird foraging areas that have been put forward for Special Protected Area (SPA) designation, these harbour seal SACs should help to reverse the declining trend in some of the UK harbour seal populations.

And, with other European NGO colleagues (including Seas at Risk, of which WDC are a member), we are calling for a number of other Natura designations for a range of important marine species and habitats throughout European waters, to complete the Natura network.

Currently only 4% of EU marine waters are protected under Natura 2000, far below the 30% target internationally considered by scientists as necessary, if well managed, to sustain long-term ocean health. The EU Seminar will focus on Member States which are not sufficiently protecting threatened species, such as bottlenose dolphins and loggerhead turtles, and threatened habitats, such as reefs and sandbanks. Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Slovenia and Spain are among the Member States that are furthest behind in their protection efforts.

A 2015 report from the European Environment Agency showed that most marine life protected under the Natura 2000 network remains in poor or unknown condition, with only 7% of marine species and 9% of habitats considered to be in good conservation status.

Site based Management Plans and Conservation Objectives should be required for all designations, and wider conservation measures are also necessary throughout European waters, particularly for species such as cetaceans, who are offered ‘strict’ protection throughout their range.

The EU Directives have been found fit-for-purpose. The UK needs to maintain the level of protection and the spirit of the Directives, however our relationship with the EU proceeds.