German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN)

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Protecting Harbour Porpoises Video Transcript


The German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation has worked for many years to protect harbour porpoises. This is the smallest cetacean species found in the North and Baltic Seas, and the only native one. They only grow to a length of about two metres with weights of up to 80 kilograms. These toothed whales are mostly seen singly or in groups. They reach maturity fairly late. Females bear a single calf in early summer. The calf stays with the mother for up to ten months. There are numerous international conservation efforts under the HELCOM and OSPAR conventions. Perhaps the most important is ASCOBANS, a regional agreement. Management plans for harbour porpoise mainly target the threats faced by these sensitive marine mammals. A notable threat is human-induced underwater noise from seismic surveys and ship propellers. In recent years the main source of noise is from the construction of offshore wind turbines like these. Harbour porpoises are still sighted fairly regularly in the western Baltic Sea. But eastward of the Darss Sill they are classed as endangered. Gill net fishing is one of the causes. Harbour porpoises can get caught up in the nets and drown. Porpoises navigate by echolocation. They do this by making clicking noises that can be picked up by underwater microphones. Over 300 of these porpoise detectors were put out across the Baltic Sea for the first time in an international project in 2011. Provisional results show that harbour porpoise are found right up into Finnish waters. But their numbers are evidently very small.  Scientists from the German Marine Museum in Stralsund are now working with the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation to devise management plans for harbour porpoise. The aims are to minimise threats, safeguard breeding and feeding grounds and in this way to stabilise the populations – so that these fascinating marine mammals, like this rare white harbour porpoise, can continue to live in our seas.

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