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No. 042/12 | Berlin, 30.03.2012

Greater protection for cetaceans and dolphins

20th anniversary of the ASCOBANS agreement

31 March 2012 marked the 20th anniversary of the signing of the ASCOBANS Agreement on the Conservation of Small Cetaceans of the Baltic, North East Atlantic, Irish and North Seas. The Irish Sea and parts of the North East Atlantic were included only recently. The goal of cooperation under ASCOBANS is to ensure transboundary protection of cetaceans and dolphins against adverse effects of human activities.

Federal Environment Minister Norbert Röttgen noted: "The protection of cetaceans and dolphins is particularly important to me. We have established marine protected areas in the North and Baltic Seas as part of the European Natura 2000 network of protected areas. These also help to protect our harbour porpoises. Conservation of the animals in these areas must be resolutely enforced. Natura 2000 is a quality label, and we must therefore be prepared to prevent any activities that are harmful to the environment. Fishing techniques that put harbour porpoises at risk must be replaced by more environmentally sound approaches."

In the 20 years of its existence ASCOBANS has initiated or contributed to many conservation projects for cetaceans, such as counts of cetaceans in the North Sea by aeroplane, monitoring of harbour porpoises in the Baltic Sea with underwater detectors, international conservation plans for the North and Baltic Seas and research on whale conservation. However, a number of serious problems persist. These include accidental bycatch during fishing, and underwater noise caused by the construction of offshore wind turbines. To address these problems Germany has established marine protected areas for which the necessary protection activities must be defined by the end of 2012. Targets include reducing bycatch of cetaceans by applying environmentally sound fishing techniques. In addition to this, research projects are being supported to study the effects on harbour porpoises of pile driving noise during the construction of offshore wind turbines and to develop noise control measures and concepts. A species conservation plan for harbour porpoises in Germany is also currently being developed.

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