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Vaquita. Photo Thomas Jefferson

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Hopes raised for whale and dolphin protection after last minute landmark nature agreement

COP15 reception event with UK Environment Secretary
WDC's Ed Goodall (far right) at COP15 with Thérèse Coffey (centre) UK Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Nations from around the world have agreed to protect a third of the planet for nature by 2030 in a landmark deal aimed at safeguarding biodiversity.

Biodiversity refers to all the Earth's living things and the way they are connected in a complex web of life that sustains the planet we share, and this meeting was seen as a final chance for us to reverse the damage we have done and make peace with nature.

The agreement at the COP15 UN summit in Montreal, Canada, came very late and importantly, the often-overlooked ocean features significantly – great news for whales and dolphins. Our own WDC representatives at the summit worked directly with some of those governments attending, pushing for the strongest possible protections and measures that will benefit populations of whales and dolphins in the future.

We held a joint event on Ocean Action Day with Marine Conservation Society and Blue Marine Foundation, calling for no more backward steps when it comes to ocean protection ambitions. It was attended by all three UK environment ministers present at COP15 (Rt Hon Secretary of State Therese Coffey (pictured, centre), Rt Hon Lord Goldsmith and Rt Hon Lord Benyon), along with Sebastian Unger, who is responsible for ocean protection for the German Environment Ministry, as well as government representatives from other nations.

The COP15 summit in Montreal had been regarded as a ‘last chance’ to put nature on a path to recovery, and halting biodiversity loss by 2030 will require a monumental global effort.

Importantly, a last-minute push at the meeting saw the wording on the 30x30 initiative edited to ensure that this target is 30% of the land and 30% of the ocean. We know that protected areas, if delivered properly, can genuinely restore the ocean and be safe havens for whales and dolphins. 

There is also now a commitment to ensure urgent action is taken to halt the human-induced extinction of known threatened species. This gives us an opportunity to push for hugely expanded measures to reverse the declines of many populations of whales and dolphins, such as the critically endangered Vaquita, the North Atlantic right whale, Rice’s whale and Atlantic humpback dolphin. Endangered species covered would also include blue and sei whales, and Hector’s and Irrawaddy dolphins.  

Take a look at WDC's species guide

The COP15 summit’s 2030 targets also include reducing pollution from all sources and moving towards fishing practices that could be less harmful to whales and dolphins. All of these targets would see the ocean become a less hostile place for these amazing creatures and so restore their populations. 

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