The harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) is widely distributed in shelf waters of the temperate North Atlantic and North Pacific Oceans and in some semi-enclosed seas (e.g. the Black, Baltic Seas and the inland sea of Japan). Although still numerically abundant as a species, at least in comparison to many other cetaceans, the harbour porpoise has experienced major declines in portions of its range, including and perhaps most notably the Baltic Sea. Whatever other factors may be involved, however, it is very likely that incidental mortality in fishing gear has played a major role in reducing porpoises to a small fraction of their historical abundance in the region, and is now contributing to preventing their recovery.
ASCOBANS has adopted an interim goal of restoring the population of harbour porpoises in the Baltic Sea to at least 80% of its carrying capacity. Scientific analyses for the southernwestern Baltic proper (southern tip of Öland to Gulf of Gdańsk) indicate that recovery towards the interim goal of 80% of carrying capacity could only be achieved if the bycatch were reduced to two or fewer porpoises per year.
The need for a Baltic harbour porpoise recovery plan has been recognised for a considerable time not only by ASCOBANS, but also by other relevant international bodies.
The original ASCOBANS Recovery Plan for Baltic arbour Porpoises (“Jastarnia Plan”) was the result of a collaborative effort organised under the auspices of ASCOBANS. It was the culmination of a series of scientific initiatives and meetings over several years, starting in 1997. Since 2005, annual meetings of the so-called Jastarnia Group have been held. This expert working group, composed of representatives from the environment and fisheries sectors of the countries surrounding the Baltic Sea, discusses progress made and further implementation priorities for the Jastarnia Plan and makes recommendations to the
ASCOBANS Advisory Committee. The present revised version of the Jastarnia Plan was produced by the Jastarnia Group.