A special protection area for harbor porpoises around the Inner Hebrides and the Straits of Minch
While the European Commission is to refer the United Kingdom to the Court of Justice of the European Union for “failure to propose sites for the protection of the harbor porpoise,” Scotland has confirmed the creation of a special area of conservation (SAC) of 13,540 km2 in the Hebrides for the harbor porpoise (Phocoena phocoena).
With a twenty meter long, the harbor porpoise is the smallest cetacean and most widespread in European waters and around Scotland. The WDC (Whale and Dolphin Conservation) campaigned for many years to obtain protection for the harbor porpoise whose number is down mainly because of marine pollution and drowning related to bycatch.
The increasing pollution of the oceans is today the main threat to the porpoise
The increasing pollution of the oceans is today the major threat to porpoises. The most dreaded pollution is due to heavy metals such as mercury, lead or cadmium that attach themselves in cetaceans’ muscles and liver. Pollutants such as PCBs and DDT (whose concentrations begin to decrease) bind in fatty tissue. Tar residues and those streaks of oil cause skin necrosis and, added to other causes of poisoning, lead to a general weakening of the animal, which helps to increase the number of porpoises affected by diseases and parasites. PCB levels over 70 ppm (parts per million) can cause sterility seals and porpoises, outdated content in a significant number of porpoises.
WDC success of the consultation pays off in Scotland
Given this situation, the WDC has decided to act earlier this year by asking the public to express its opinion on the plans proposed by the governments of England, Wales, North Ireland and Scotland in order to create six special areas in the UK where porpoises could be protected against major threats such as fishing nets and pollution. Following the participation of nearly 9,000 people in the country, a special conservation area is going to be created around the Inner Hebrides and Scotland Minches and will be the largest conservation area of harbor porpoise in Europe. Now hope that the Welsh, English and Northern Irish government will follow the example of Scotland to create protected areas for harbor porpoise in the Irish and Celtic Seas.