Assessing Management Efforts for Large Whales

by Fiona Graham, RJD Intern

Sometimes imposing a regulatory action alone is not enough. Implementing a new policy aimed at reducing the mortality of a species or group of species requires scientific studies to gather the information necessary to enact that policy. Some important questions to be asked are which species need protecting? Where are they most vulnerable, both spatially and temporally within their life cycle? What threats are they faced with? Once a clear idea of how and why a species needs protected is formed, regulations can be put into place using that information to conserve that species. While this may be a great start, following up with an assessment of the management that has been put into place can be just as important. Maximum effectiveness depends upon strong science from beginning to end.

A recent study by Julie Van Der Hoop and colleagues provides one such assessment of management attempting to mitigate human induced mortalities of large whales in the Northwest Atlantic. To do this, the team complied reports of strandings, mortalities and necropsies from 1970 to 2009 for 8 species of large whales, and determined temporal and spatial trends. They found that 66.9% of mortalities were related to human activities, and that the leading cause of death was entanglement in fishing gear.

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