Conservation management of common dolphins: Lessons learned from the North‐East Atlantic
Evans, Peter G.H.
Pierce, Graham J.
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(1) The short-beaked common dolphin is one of the most numerous cetacean species in the North-East Atlantic and plays a key functional role within the ecosystem as a top predator. However, in 2013, its conservation status for the European Marine Atlantic, under Article 17 of the Habitats Directive, was assessed as ‘Unfavourable-Inadequate’. Of key concern for this species is fishery bycatch, with pollution also being an issue. There are, however, major knowledge gaps concerning the extent of the effects of such pressures on the species. (2) Implementation of national observer bycatch programmes and bycatch mitigation measures under EC Regulation 812/2004 has been important. The responsibility for this is currently being transferred to the EU fisheries Data Collection Framework and Technical Measures Framework, the potential advantages and disadvantages of which are discussed. Collection of data and samples through national stranding schemes in some countries has enabled assessments of life-history parameters, dietary requirements, and the effects of stressors such as pollutants. (3) Nevertheless, in order to improve the conservation status of the North-East Atlantic population, a number of key actions are still required. These include the implementation of a species action plan, finalization of a management framework procedure for bycatch, and coordination between member states of monitoring programmes. It is important that there is monitoring of the state of the common dolphin population in the North-East Atlantic management unit through regular surveys spanning the range of the management unit, as well as continued assessment of the independent and interactive effects of multiple stressors. Above all, conservation status would be improved through application and enforcement of existing legislation in European waters. (4) This paper provides a summary of the current state of our knowledge of common dolphins in the North-East Atlantic along with recommendations for conservation management that may also be relevant to the species in the Mediterranean Sea.
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