There are over 80 species of cetaceans in the world. The total number is still unknown because new species of dolphins, beaked whales and whales continue to be discovered. In addition, the available information on their state of worldwide conservation covers less than half of the species.
Protecting cetaceans is an important part of protecting marine ecosystems in general. The Habitat Directive advises to create marine protected areas for these species, and consequently, Spanish laws state the presence of cetaceans as one of the reasons for creating National Parks.
These marine animals’ social nature and their distribution near the coast, and in shallow waters, have awakened humans’ sympathy, and they are one of the most considered marine species in protection agreements. But this sociability also places them at risk when they become trapped in fishing nets, collide with vessels or are the victims of sonar.
What Oceana Does
Oceana leads campaigns to collect scientific data on cetacean sightings. This information is included in sea bottom studies to focus on the need to declare marine protected areas.Oceana also conducted specific studies on the status of cetaceans in the Galician and Bay of Biscay and the need to boost efforts to protect them.
Selectivity in fishing gear and the use of non-aggressive gear with the environment is another Oceana strategy to protect cetaceans. The use of driftnets in the Mediterranean is one of the severest ones because they trap thousands of cetaceans, turtles and other species indiscriminately. Trawling also has a direct impact on accidentally catching cetaceans and destroying their habitats.
Oceana is working to establish measures that minimize the impact with vessels and eliminate the sonar that affects cetaceans’ communication and orientation.
Recently, Oceana has conducted a research in the Galician and the Bay of Biscay area. The study proposes declaring marine protected areas with interest for cetaceans in that area as stated by the Habitat Directive and made possible by Spanish laws.