By Jessica Wingar, RJD Intern
Conservation of threatened species is very critical in order to maintain the state of our oceans. There is a wide range of reasons for why the species needs to be conserved from threat of boat strikes to disease outbreak. However, humans cause many of these threats. In an effort to protect these threatened species from humans, marine protected areas, or MPAs, can be established. In this study, researchers were looking at whether it would be more effective to establish a series of MPAs or to restrict shipping through the International Maritime Organization, IMO, in order to protect the Mediterranean fin whale. The researchers looked at the advantages and disadvantages to all of the options available to determine what would be the best method of protection for a wide-ranging cetacean such as this species of fin whale.
Researchers from University College London and Stockholm University looked at the current state of the Mediterranean fin whale and the causes of its need for conservation to devise the most effective course of action to protect this species. This species of fin whale is on the IUCN’s red list as Vulnerable. The main threat facing this species is collisions with ships. One of the issues facing the protect of Mediterranean fin whales is that a lot of the Sea is not governed by any particular country. However, some of the countries bordering the Mediterranean are currently trying to create a collection of MPAs to protect these waters.
In the study, the researchers concluded that including IMO in the conservation of whales would lead to increased protection of these animals. One of these reasons is that this organization has the tools to monitor the area in order to decrease factors that lead to whale and boat collisions. One of these ways would be to order a reduction in boat speed. If IMO puts this law into place, it becomes mandatory for all of the member nations of IMO to follow this. IMO is also respected in the shipping industry, so by them recognizing the threat of ships to whales, other vessels will follow creating a cascading effect. In addition, changes can occur quickly under IMO and ships are more likely to feel inclined to follow the rules of IMO than if the area was a MPA.
Studies of this nature are very important because they discuss an alternative plan for protection and start a discussion about the pros and cons of each plan. IMO and the governments of the countries involved will, hopefully implement the plan for conservation that the researchers devised. Thus causing greater plans for the protection of the Mediterranean fin whale.
Geijer, C. K.A., and Peter J.S. Jones. “A network approach to migratory whale conservation: Are MPAs the way forward or do all roads lead to the IMO?” Marine Policy 51 (2014): 1-12.