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Katie looking for dolphins_Katie Dyke

My magical island adventure – proof you don’t have to leave the UK to have amazing dolphin encounters

You don't have to travel outside of the UK to enjoy awesome wildlife encounters. Around...
Risso's dolphin: WDC/Nicola Hodgins

Remarkable Risso’s dolphins – how we’re studying them to protect them

And just like that, another season of field research studying remarkable Risso's dolphins came to...
Dead dolphins on the beach

Faroe Islands whale and dolphin slaughter – what have we done and what are we doing?

The massacre of 1,428 Atlantic white-sided dolphins at Skálafjørður on the Faroe Islands on 12th...
© WDC

The horror – reflecting on the massacre of 1,428 dolphins on the Faroe Islands

Like you and millions of people around the globe, I felt horrified by the news...
Bottlenose dolphins in never-ending lockdown at Loro Parque, Tenerife

The whales and dolphins trapped in never-ending lockdown – hearing their stories

Every whale and dolphin in captivity is an individual with a life history and around...
Orcalab

Surviving not living. Why we have to end lockdown for captive whales and dolphins

I first visited OrcaLab in British Columbia over 30 years ago and vividly remember my...
Shorewatchers

Our volunteer citizen scientists are making waves in Scotland

I'm lucky enough to do a job that I love. For the last seven years...
The dolphins, including a newborn, got into trouble in Stornaway Harbour - WDC/Nicola Hodgins

Success for emergency rescue after dolphins got trapped in Scottish harbour

I'm stationed for a month on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. We've...
All policy news
  • All policy news
  • Create healthy seas
  • End captivity
  • Prevent deaths in nets
  • Stop whaling
Sperm whale © Douglas Hoffman

Featured policy news item

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Nunc magna elit, gravida at lectus vitae,...
sea_world_orlando_rob_lott

Holiday giant Thomas Cook stops selling tickets to Seaworld and Loro Parque

Holiday giant Thomas Cook stops selling tickets to Seaworld and Loro Parque Following a three...

Endangered Southern Resident orca loses newborn calf

In heartbreaking news from the Pacific Northwest, the Center for Whale Research has reported that...
srkw_shoup_2003_text

U.S. Defense Bill weakens protections for whales

24 July 2018, Plymouth, MA: The FY2019 National Defense Authorization Act conference report was released...

Doubts remain after Icelandic Marine Institute claims slaughtered whale was a hybrid not a blue

Experts remain sceptical of initial test results issued by the Icelandic Marine Institute, which indicate...
f0k5103-2

Did Icelandic whalers really kill a blue whale?

*Warning - this blog contains an image that you may find upsetting* They say a...
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One step closer to more salmon for endangered Southern Resident orcas

On June 28, 2018, the Klamath River Renewal Corporation (KRRC) filed “The Definite Plan” for...
monodon_monoceros-wdc3

Narwhals and Bowhead whales threatened by new Arctic shipping routes

A NASA-funded study has warned that marine creatures like whales and dolphins will be exposed...
japanese_whaling_2005_-_minke_whales_credit_jeremy_sutton-hibbert_for_use_until_28.2.17_1

Japan set to resume commercial whaling

Reports from Japan suggest that the government they will formally propose plans to resume commercial...
hvalfjordur_035

Iceland flouts international ban to slaughter first protected fin whale of new hunting season

Icelandic whaling company Hvalur hf has slaughtered an endangered fin whale today in defiance of...
l92_dave_ellifrit_cwr

Southern Resident orca L92 missing as community returns to the Salish Sea

We are very sad to share news announced today by the Center for Whale Research...
whale_alert_flag_san_juan_county

New actions in the Northwest to help Southern Resident orcas and salmon

As the Washington State Task Force starts to examine threats to the endangered Southern Resident...
All articles
  • All articles
  • About whales & dolphins
  • Create healthy seas
  • End captivity
  • Prevent deaths in nets
  • Scottish Dolphin Centre
  • Stop whaling
Katie looking for dolphins_Katie Dyke

My magical island adventure – proof you don’t have to leave the UK to have amazing dolphin encounters

You don't have to travel outside of the UK to enjoy awesome wildlife encounters. Around...
Risso's dolphin: WDC/Nicola Hodgins

Remarkable Risso’s dolphins – how we’re studying them to protect them

And just like that, another season of field research studying remarkable Risso's dolphins came to...
Dead dolphins on the beach

Faroe Islands whale and dolphin slaughter – what have we done and what are we doing?

The massacre of 1,428 Atlantic white-sided dolphins at Skálafjørður on the Faroe Islands on 12th...
© WDC

The horror – reflecting on the massacre of 1,428 dolphins on the Faroe Islands

Like you and millions of people around the globe, I felt horrified by the news...
Bottlenose dolphins in never-ending lockdown at Loro Parque, Tenerife

The whales and dolphins trapped in never-ending lockdown – hearing their stories

Every whale and dolphin in captivity is an individual with a life history and around...
Orcalab

Surviving not living. Why we have to end lockdown for captive whales and dolphins

I first visited OrcaLab in British Columbia over 30 years ago and vividly remember my...
Shorewatchers

Our volunteer citizen scientists are making waves in Scotland

I'm lucky enough to do a job that I love. For the last seven years...
The dolphins, including a newborn, got into trouble in Stornaway Harbour - WDC/Nicola Hodgins

Success for emergency rescue after dolphins got trapped in Scottish harbour

I'm stationed for a month on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. We've...
All policy news
  • All policy news
  • Create healthy seas
  • End captivity
  • Prevent deaths in nets
  • Stop whaling
Sperm whale © Douglas Hoffman

Featured policy news item

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Nunc magna elit, gravida at lectus vitae,...
sea_world_orlando_rob_lott

Holiday giant Thomas Cook stops selling tickets to Seaworld and Loro Parque

Holiday giant Thomas Cook stops selling tickets to Seaworld and Loro Parque Following a three...

Endangered Southern Resident orca loses newborn calf

In heartbreaking news from the Pacific Northwest, the Center for Whale Research has reported that...
srkw_shoup_2003_text

U.S. Defense Bill weakens protections for whales

24 July 2018, Plymouth, MA: The FY2019 National Defense Authorization Act conference report was released...

Doubts remain after Icelandic Marine Institute claims slaughtered whale was a hybrid not a blue

Experts remain sceptical of initial test results issued by the Icelandic Marine Institute, which indicate...
f0k5103-2

Did Icelandic whalers really kill a blue whale?

*Warning - this blog contains an image that you may find upsetting* They say a...
iron_gate_dam_klamath

One step closer to more salmon for endangered Southern Resident orcas

On June 28, 2018, the Klamath River Renewal Corporation (KRRC) filed “The Definite Plan” for...
monodon_monoceros-wdc3

Narwhals and Bowhead whales threatened by new Arctic shipping routes

A NASA-funded study has warned that marine creatures like whales and dolphins will be exposed...
japanese_whaling_2005_-_minke_whales_credit_jeremy_sutton-hibbert_for_use_until_28.2.17_1

Japan set to resume commercial whaling

Reports from Japan suggest that the government they will formally propose plans to resume commercial...
hvalfjordur_035

Iceland flouts international ban to slaughter first protected fin whale of new hunting season

Icelandic whaling company Hvalur hf has slaughtered an endangered fin whale today in defiance of...
l92_dave_ellifrit_cwr

Southern Resident orca L92 missing as community returns to the Salish Sea

We are very sad to share news announced today by the Center for Whale Research...
whale_alert_flag_san_juan_county

New actions in the Northwest to help Southern Resident orcas and salmon

As the Washington State Task Force starts to examine threats to the endangered Southern Resident...

How to protect the whales and other marine mammals of the Antarctic’s Southern Ocean

I’ve just returned from France where a friendly group of scientists from 11 countries were gathered to put our heads together to help protect the whales, dolphins and other marine mammals who live in the Antarctic’s vast Southern Ocean. 

Can’t believe how much I learned during the week: One scientist talked about seeing a sea full of fin whales around the Antarctic peninsula – so many that it challenged the current population estimates for fin whales all around Antarctica. Of course, we heard the usual amazing orca stories of them working together to wash seals off ice floes or poking heads up through an ice hole right beside you, eyeball to eyeball. And so many seal stories. Most seals are central place feeders – they like to have their dinner in one main spot. Turns out elephant seals feed all over the place – meals on the run. I can identify with that.

The icy waters around Antarctica occupy more than 15% of our planet’s surface and are home and feeding ground to more than a quarter of all marine mammal species. All of the large whale populations were dramatically cut down by whaling mainly in the 20th Century, yet, in other ways, Antarctica remains one of the least altered marine ecosystems on Earth. The whales could recover some of their numbers if climate change and rising temperatures don’t halt the process.

Vast areas of the high seas throughout the world’s oceans have no protection for the creatures who live there. Hence, our meeting. If you look at a map of the world that shows the areas of sea that are protected, you’ll see a pattern – the areas that have protection are relatively close to land. Because protection is granted and enforced by individual countries, the sites that are protected are areas that fall under national jurisdiction. But what about the whales and dolphins who don’t live in national waters? What if you are a whale who lives in the Southern Ocean in Antarctica – who protects your home?

The first step for protection is identifying the most important areas, or habitats, used by the whales for feeding, breeding, resting and socializing. That’s why, in 2013, along with scientists Giuseppe Notarbartolo di Sciara and Mike Tetley, I helped devise a new tool for conservation – the Important Marine Mammal Area, or IMMA. We knew that there was a lot of information on where whales and other marine mammals are found, but no standardized scientific way of presenting this information to help make conservation happen.

Whenever I talk to people about our IMMA idea, I get a great response. It’s partly because whales, dolphins and other marine mammals are good indicator species. Fish, squid and other animals in the sea are largely invisible at the surface but whales and dolphins, tethered to the surface by the need to breathe, can reveal secrets about the health of the ocean, the diversity of species and potentially the effects of climate change, all by monitoring their habitats and movements in the sea. Whales and dolphins are also iconic ocean residents with the power to move scientists as well as policy makers to make positive conservation changes.

 In the international waters of Antarctica, a special commission has been set up to create marine protected areas. They will now be able to draw upon our IMMAs for the region in their efforts. In all, we proposed 15 new candidate IMMAs. These include vital habitats for humpback, minke, blue, southern right and fin whales as well as crabeater, leopard, Weddell, Ross, southern fur and southern elephant seals, New Zealand sea lions and orcas. One huge area that the Antarctic scientists feel passionately about and has been made a candidate IMMA is the circumpolar ice edge which serves as a magnet for feeding and breeding marine mammals all around Antarctica. >

The next step is for these 15 new candidate IMMA from the Southern Ocean s to go to an independent review panel and, once approved, they will join more than 100 more IMMAs that have been identified in the Pacific and Indian oceans and in the Mediterranean. Over the next few years we will extend our IMMA work to every corner of the ocean.

I was fortunate to be able to co-chair this Southern Ocean summit of scientists – each of them an expert on certain Antarctic animals and habitats – and we drew upon the work of many more scientists to make our proposals for the new candidate IMMAs. The Antarctic scientists I met are dedicated, but also fun to work with. We laughed and told stories and we all worked hard on our IMMA submissions – even though we would rather be out photographing dorsal fins, riding the waves, or even just standing on an ice floe waiting for an orca to pop up. The bottom line for all of us is the resolve to help extend the protections for the whales, dolphins and other marine mammals to their important habitats – their homes in the sea. 

If you’d like to make a donation to help this vital work, we promise to use it wisely.

With thanks to the French Biodiversity Agency for funding the workshop through the IUCN Global Marine and Polar Programme.

About Erich Hoyt

Erich is a Research Fellow at WDC and Co-chair of the IUCN Marine Mammal Protected Areas Task Force. He is a director of the Far East Russian Orca Project (FEROP). View references to Erich's published material on Google Scholar. Follow Erich on Twitter.