Thursday, April 09, 2009

Marine Protected Areas too small for whales and dolphins

Current Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are too small to adequately serve whales and dolphins according to the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS). The international organization is calling for a global network of MPAs to save the ocean's most beloved inhabitants. "A worldwide effort must be made urgently to identify and define whale and dolphin critical habitats and hot spots," said WDCS Research Fellow, Erich Hoyt. "Then we need to map this information with other species and data to create networks of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in national waters and on the high seas. It is like creating a sort of worldwide web for whales and dolphins but connecting not just the animals, but the special places where they live, and the people there too." Whales migrate thousands of miles annually. In fact, the humpback whale holds the world record for the longest migration. Dolphins are wide-ranging and will follow food sources. According to WDCS, 40 percent of the 300 existing MPAs for marine mammals are too small to offer any protection to whales and dolphins. "Probably less than 1 percent of the world's marine mammal critical habitat has been identified much less protected," added Hoyt. "We have discussed strategies for cost-effective measures to attack this huge workload with surveys and other studies. Clearly the emphasis will need to be on rare and endangered species, but we also need to protect healthy populations so that they don't join the endangered ranks." WDCS made the statement last week at the first international conference on marine mammal protected areas held on the island of Maui Hawaii. The conference included over 200 marine mammal scientists, MPA managers and other experts from 40 countries.

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