MoU for Small Cetaceans and Manatees of Western Africa and Macaronesia

Atlantic humpback dolphin
Atlantic humpback dolphin
The marine mammals that live in the estuaries of, and off the coast of, western Africa play a vital role in the ecosystems of the region, yet they face many threats to their wellbeing and survival, including deliberate and accidental catching, coastal development, pollution and habitat degradation.

The marine mammals that live in the estuaries of, and off the coast of, western Africa play a vital role in the ecosystems of the region, yet they face many threats to their wellbeing and survival, including deliberate and accidental catching, coastal development, pollution and habitat degradation. Protecting the dolphins, porpoises and small toothed whales of this region from these various threats requires cooperation between countries in this region. To this end, the CMS oversaw the creation of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) concerning the conservation of the manatee and small cetaceans of western Africa and Macaronesia. Macaronesia is a collective name for the islands found in the North Atlantic Ocean near Europe and north Africa, and consists of the Azores, Madeira, the Savage Islands, the Canary Islands and Cape Verde.

The small cetaceans found in the waters of the western African and Macaronesian region include over 30 different species, or one third of the world’s known species of small cetaceans. These species include the Atlantic humpback dolphin, long-beaked common dolphin and harbour porpoise. However, despite the many different species of small cetacean found in this region, we have only relatively sparse information on how well these species are faring in these waters, compared with the information we have for other regions of the globe. For instance, scientists generally know less about cetaceans in this region than they do about the cetaceans in the hostile marine environments of the polar seas.

While working to remedy this lack of information, scientists working to conserve cetaceans in the coastal environment of western Africa and Macaronesia must also tackle multiple threats to the long-term survival of vulnerable marine mammal species in this region, which has a growing human population and overexploited resources.

This MoU has been agreed to by representatives from the following countries – Angola, Benin, Cape Verde, Chad, Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Portugal and Niger.

The MoU action plan

The action plan agreed upon for this MoU seeks to balance the interests of local communities and fishermen and the social and economic development of the region with the need to reduce or eliminate threats to small cetaceans, manatees and their habitats, to ensure their conservation. The action plan covers many different areas, including national, regional and international collaboration and co-operation, legislation and policy, ecosystem and habitat protection, threat reduction, research and monitoring, capacity building, education and awareness, and tourism based on small cetaceans.