The First International Baltic Harbour Porpoise Day
19th MAY 2003
The United Nations (UN) declared May 17th as the first International Day of the Baltic Harbour Porpoise.
Porpoises are closely related to dolphins and whales, which are collectively known as cetaceans. One of the smallest species of cetacean, the harbor porpoise population in the Baltic may also be heading for extinction unless urgent action is taken.
The incidental entanglement and death in fishing gear or `bycatch' both in static gill nets and in drift nets is undoubtedly a major factor in the decline in porpoise numbers in the Baltic and is preventing the recovery of the population, now estimated at only
The UN Agreement on the Conservation of Small Cetaceans of the Baltic and North Seas (UNEP/ASCOBANS) has established a Baltic Harbour Porpoise Day to raise awareness of the critical situation facing the only cetacean species native to the Baltic Sea.
In August, the parties to the Agreement - Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Germany, the
Netherlands, Poland, Sweden and the UK - will decide whether to adopt a recovery plan which may provide the last chance for this small cetacean.
Scientists have estimated more than two porpoises accidentally killed in fishing nets might critically affect this fragile population. This is why a ban on the use of drift nets in the Baltic essential to its recovery.
Drift nets have already been banned in other EU fisheries in the Mediterranean and the Atlantic because they are non-selective but the Baltic Sea has remained exempt even from the UN moratorium on large-scale drift nets. Other conservation measures are needed such as an end to the widespread use of deadly gill nets in the Baltic and through the creation of protected marine areas.