Protected area for harbour porpoise off west Scotland

A group of harbour porpoise. Photo credit: Danielle Dion.

A marine protected area, or Special Area of Conservation (SAC), has been established by the Scottish government in the Inner Hebrides and Minches, an area known as a hotspot for harbour porpoise in west Scotland.

Earlier this year, the government had come under fire for initially delaying the plans. The United Kingdom is required under the EU Habitats Directive to establish Special Areas of Conservation for areas known to be important for harbour porpoise, and NGOs warned that harbour porpoise populations were already declining, calling on the U.K. to act fast.

The new protected area will offer some relief for harbour porpoise from a number of threats ranging from over-fishing to pollution and ocean noise. A total of 13,800 km² is now protected, supporting over 5,000 individuals of harbour porpoise.

Marine protected areas play an important role. They allow the ecosystem to recover so that it can withstand and adapt to the dramatic changes happening in our oceans. Harbour porpoise may be better off than other species, but worldwide they are still facing an array of threats to their survival. We need to do everything we can to understand how these threats are affecting harbour porpoise and then work with all stakeholders to develop effective countermeasures. Marine protected areas are one important piece of the puzzle
Dr. Anna Hall, President, Porpoise Conservation Society

According to the IUCN, the global abundance of harbour porpoise is at least about 700,000 individuals. However, some populations are in decline, and the Black Sea and Baltic Sea populations are threatened with extinction.

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