An open letter urging action be taken to save dolphins, whales and porpoises from the brink of extinction has been signed by over 350 conservationists from 40 countries. According to the group of conservationists and scientists, half of the 90 living species of Cetaceans are at risk of extinction, with 13 of these “critically endangered” or “endangered”, and another two including the small vaquita on the “knife edge” of extinction.
Overexploited and polluted seas mean many will be declared extinct within our lifetime, the letter says, including large whales. “Let this be a historic moment when realising that whales are in danger sparks a powerful wave of action from everyone: regulators, scientists, politicians and the public to save our oceans,” said Mark Simmonds, a senior marine scientist with Humane Society International who coordinated the letter.
The letter went on to add that while the conservation of whales, dolphins and porpoises “may be a concern that seems remote to many people, the Covid-19 pandemic has shown our connection to nature is a key component in our own wellbeing. Whales, dolphins and porpoises are seen and enjoyed all over the world, and are valued as sentient, intelligent, social and inspiring species. We should not deny future generations the opportunity to experience them”.
By far the biggest threat facing these species is their accidental capture in fishing equipment and nets, which kills an estimated 300,000 whales, dolphins and porpoises a year.
Fishing-related threats to cetaceans population sizes also need to be “urgently” addressed.
To reverse this bleak outlook, scientists are calling on world governments to implement fully resourced monitoring of endangered species and bolster international bodies dedicated to saving them, such as the International Whaling Commission and the Convention for the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals.
The renewed plea stems from mounting pressure from the scientific community on world leaders on dolphins, whales and porpoises.
Members of the International Whaling Commission have established an “extinction initiative” to track looming extinctions and create action plans.