Protected area for harbour porpoises established in Baltic Sea

by    DiveSSI    9th January 2017
Harbour Porpoise mother with calf (c) S.Koschinski
Harbour Porpoise (c) Dr. Michael Dähne

Area south of Gotland is important breeding site

The government of Sweden will set up a protected area for the endangered harbour porpoises of the inner Baltic Sea.

Covering one million hectares between Öland and Gotland, it will be Sweden's largest protected area.

The move came about after the SAMBAH project announced that there were only about 500 harbour porpoises left in the Baltic Sea, northeast of Rügen.

"The new protected area is particularly important for their reproduction. During the mating and calving season, the animals are concentrated in this area and they can now be effectively protected at this critical phase from dangers such as becoming bycatch in fish nets or from underwater noise,” said Dr Harald Benke in German.

A whale expert, he is also the Director of the German Oceanographic Museum. For the first time, scientists had evaluated data from acoustic data loggers for two years to assess the abundance and distribution of harbour porpoises in the Baltic Sea. This was done within the framework of SAMBAH.

They discovered that the area south of Gotland appeared to be an important breeding area for them.

As the German Oceanographic Museum is one of the world's leading facility with experience in the acoustic recording of porpoises, we were very pleased to work with the international network of the Baltic Sea countries, thereby allowing such good results to be achieved by SAMBAH,” said Michael Dähne, Curator for sea mammals at the German Oceanographic Museum, in German.

In cooperation with the Federal Office for Nature Conservation (BfN) and the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Reactor Safety (BMUB), the German Oceanographic Museum in Stralsund has been studying the behaviour and distribution of harbour porpoises in the Baltic Sea since 2002.

The German Parliament had recently called for the continuation of acoustic monitoring in a bid to protect the harbour porpoises.

The pioneering work in Stralsund, from 2002 to 2007, has proven the method to be particularly useful in recording porpoise populations in areas with limited numbers of the animals. As a result, the SAMBAH project was funded by EU funds (Life+) and the BfN, and successfully implemented.

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9th January 2017
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