Pacific Countries and Territories discuss cetacean conservation


Pacific States discuss cetacean conservation
Pacific Island states and territories are meeting in Auckland on 28-29 July, to agree a way forward to conserve the whales and dolphins of the Pacific Islands Region. Many species in the region, such as the blue whale, the humpback whale, the orca and the bottlenose dolphin, are endangered by a number of threats, including entanglement in fishing gear and by-catch, direct hunting, climate change, habitat degradation, pollution, underwater noise and collisions with ships.

The group will agree on an Action Plan containing the region’s most urgent priority actions. The agreement is officially referred to as the Memorandum of Understanding for the Conservation of Cetaceans and their Habitats in the Pacific Islands Region (more commonly called the Pacific Cetaceans MoU) and was concluded in 2006 under the auspices of the Convention on Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS), with the close collaboration and support of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP). This is the second official meeting, and brings together governments, NGOs, and intergovernmental organisations, who together can achieve more than each group could on their own. Objectives include developing a better understanding of the threats facing these species, and finding effective ways to achieve healthy populations and ecosystems. The meeting is being convened through the ongoing collaboration between the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (also known as CMS), and the Secretariat for the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP).

The MoU for the Conservation of Cetaceans in the Pacific Islands Region was negotiated between 2003 and 2006, and currently has eleven signatories (Australia, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, France, Niue, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu). The First Meeting of Signatories was held in Samoa in March 2007. The meeting endorsed an initial work programme to develop an Action Plan for the MoU that would be compatible with the Whale and Dolphin Action Plan that has been recently developed by the Secretariat for the Pacific Regional Environment Programme, which coordinates conservation actions by Pacific Island governments across 32 million sq km of ocean.

Key elements to be discussed at the Auckland meeting will include threat reduction, habitat protection, (including migratory corridors) education and public awareness, responses to strandings and entanglements and sustainable and responsible cetacean-based tourism.

Director of Marine Connection Margaux Dodds comments; “We sincerely hope that this will also provide a platform to discuss the recent takes of wild dolphins from waters around the Solomon Islands. Being a signatory to the MoU, we believe they have to be answerable for allowing takes of wild dolphins without the required NDF (non deteriment finding) report as required under CITES law before any takes should be authorised. The Solomon Islands have not adhered to this and as such are in breach of international wildlife law and we await the outcome of this meeting with great interest”.