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A review and assessment of the status of the harbor porpoise in the North Atlantic. In: A. E. Dizon, S. J. Chivers & W. F. Perrin (Eds.),
Molecular Genetics of Marine Mammals. Special Publication Number 3, The Society for Marine Mammalogy, pp 209-226.
International regulations protecting most small cetacean species are lacking, despite the fact that a large number of these species experience significant levels of non-natural mortality due to directed hunts, incidental capture during fishing operations, polluted habitats, and/or loss of habitat. Significant declines in many populations are a reality, and several small cetacean species face the threat of extinction. The harbor porpoise, Phocoena phocoena, is one species of concern, particularly in the North Atlantic. Documented declines in some populations, as well as bycatch rates in other regions that almost certainly exceed the potential rate of increase of the population, have raised concern for this species in U.S., Canadian, and European waters. Critical information necessary for effective management of this species is absent. In particular, a lack of information on harbor porpoise stock structure in the North Atlantic hampers management efforts, because abundance and bycatch estimates can not be effectively applied to assessing the biological significance of the bycatch until stock structure is known. Future research directions should include estimates of harbor porpoise abundance and bycatch for those regions of the North Atlantic that have not yet been assessed, as well as genetic, pollutant, movement, and life history studies aimed at discerning stock level differences. When complete, these data can be synthesized to provide a comprehensive description of harbor porpoise population structure in the North Atlantic. Only then will management and conservation efforts for harbor porpoise populations and the fisheries with which they interact be effective.