Posted on 27 March 2018
Many of the world’s cetaceans (whales, dolphins or porpoises) are vulnerable to extinction, from Mexico’s vaquita porpoise to New Zealand’s Maui’s dolphin to the North Atlantic right whale.
Many of the world’s cetaceans (whales, dolphins or porpoises) are vulnerable to extinction, from Mexico’s vaquita porpoise to New Zealand’s Maui’s dolphin to the North Atlantic right whale. While these species can face a multitude of threats, the single greatest immediate threat is bycatch, or accidental capture or entanglement in fishing gear. At least 300,000 cetaceans die in fishing gear every year, and that is likely a significant underestimate.
New US regulations finalized last year offer hope, alongside decades of work to find solutions to the threat of bycatch. The new regulations under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) require any country exporting fish to the US to have marine mammal protections equivalent to those in the US—including measures against bycatch. Because the US is one of the world’s largest fish import markets, the new rule could positively influence fishing standards in major exporting countries including Canada, Chile, China, Japan, and Mexico. While the MMPA won’t require countries to enact the same laws as the US, exporting countries should be making progress on implementing its requirements to meet its full enforcement by 2022. Meaning that by then marine mammal bycatch should be properly monitored and mitigated.
WWF is working to ensure we make the most of this opportunity to reduce the global risk of bycatch to cetaceans. To that end, we commissioned a study determine where fisheries exports to the US have the greatest likelihood of overlap with significant cetacean bycatch. The results were shared with the US government and have been made available to others to enable the conservation and fisheries communities to focus our efforts where they are most needed. WWF will continue working governments, researchers, and fishers to find solutions that allow fishing to continue, but protect the world’s whales, dolphins and porpoises.