Cetacean-friendly seas


Cetaceans – marine mammals such as whales, dolphins and porpoises – face a growing number of threats due to an increase in exploitation of marine resources. As highly mobile species, they regularly cross national boundaries, meaning that international cooperation is required to implement effective measures for their conservation. Thus, ASCOBANS (Agreement of the Conservation of Small Cetaceans of the Baltic, North East Atlantic, Irish and North Seas) was concluded in 1991 under the auspices of the Convention of Migratory Species, entered into force in 1994, and extended to its present area coverage in 2008. Ten countries are currently Parties to the Agreement, and are obliged to focus on:


  • Habitat conservation and management.
  • Surveys and research.
  • Evaluation of bycatch and stranding data.
  • Improving legislation.
  • Information and education.


JNCC plays a major role in ASCOBANS, providing advice and baseline data to Government and establishing initiatives under the Agreement to conserve cetaceans. It also provides scientific support to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) at the annual Advisory Committee meetings and triennial Meeting of Parties.


The last Meeting of Parties, held 22-24 October 2012 in Brighton, was chaired by Mark Tasker, Head of Marine Advice. Kelly Macleod, JNCC’s Marine Species Advisor, attended as part of the UK delegation as scientific adviser.


The meeting agreed a number of measures to protect cetacean populations in European waters and was also attended by representatives of international organisations such as the European Commission, the International Whaling Commission, the OSPAR Commission, the sister agreement on conservation of cetaceans in the Mediterranean (ACCOBAMS), and The North Atlantic Marine Mammal Commission, as well as by relevant non-governmental organisations.


Following the Recovery Plan for Baltic Harbour Porpoises (Jastarnia Plan) and the Conservation Plan for Harbour Porpoises in the North Sea, a new Conservation Plan for the Harbour Porpoise population in the Western Baltic, the Inner Danish Waters and the Kattegat was agreed.


In addition, participants agreed priorities for research and conservation actions in the western part of the ASCOBANS Area (Irish Sea and the European North Atlantic).


Additional Information

To view the ASCOBANS Triennium Work plan 2010-2012 read the ASCOBANS Working Programme.


For more information on the Conservation Status of marine mammals in UK waters under the EC Habitats Directive visit the relevant Species pages.



Contact File


Kelly Macleod

Marine Species Advisor

Tel: +44 (0) 1224 266584


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