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1st Edition of Marine Protected Areas for Whales, Dolphins and Porpoises

What do we need to do to protect cetaceans and ecosystems besides creating MPAs?

From within MPAs as well as outside them:

We need to cut down on the amount of pollution flowing off the land and into rivers and seas.
We need to ensure that human activities in the sea (fishing, shipping, large-scale whale watching and other marine tourism) do not make it difficult or impossible for cetaceans to live and thrive. We need good marine protection laws and good enforcement of these laws in national as well as international waters.
And with all these things, since we are still learning about the best management to maintain or improve an area, we need to invoke the precautionary approach often. We need to recognize that marine protection, as well as management, is an evolving, iterative process in which we learn by doing and then evaluating the results. It is particularly important that the management structures and limitations put in place at the creation of a new MPA do not restrict or hinder the evolution to better management.

The 21st century will almost certainly see unprecedented use of the world ocean for international shipping; fishing and mariculture; oil, gas and mineral development, as well as, unfortunately, its traditional use as world dumping ground, including wastes from land. Much of this is fuelled by a growing world population currently considered most likely to peak at around 9 billion in 2070 50 per cent more people than the 6 billion alive today (Lutz et al, 2001; Wilson, 2002). Another factor is human technological prowess that will enable exploration and development in the deep high seas. Our task, those of us who care about cetaceans, is to make a place for cetaceans in the sea to ensure that what is rightfully theirs and has been for millennia is well protected.

The main thing to say about MPAs is that we must start somewhere. MPAs, such as they are, provide one starting point for protecting cetacean habitat. It remains for us now to take up the challenge and build on this, to take these areas that appeal to tourism marketing boards as well as to ministries of the environment wanting to be seen to be doing something, and to extend them as needed, to help shape the policies and to participate actively in the management. Over time, it is only by taking up the challenge of each area, to fulfil the dreamed-of mandate, that we can hope to turn these into powerful, enduring marine conservation tools not end points, but living, working tools for local communities, for the world at large, for whales and dolphins.

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