Pacific island governments and partners are meeting in Apia, Samoa, to plan and prepare for a whale conservation campaign that will begin in 2016.
The campaign focuses on science, conservation management planning and education material to enhance whale conservation in the Pacific region.
The Pacific Year of the Whale will be launched in 2016 with an action plan to be completed for evaluation in 2018. This will enable a path forward to continue whale conservation activities.
According to the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission (IWC), between 1900 and 1965 industrial fleets killed over two million large whales on their feeding grounds. There has been a decline in the Humpback Whale population since 1965, from more than 14,000 whales to less than 1 per cent of that number.
There are many threats faced by whales: climate change, pollution, other marine debris and entanglement in fishing gear.
Within the Economic Exclusive Zones of the 21 Pacific island countries and territory members of SPREP, there are at least 30 different whale and dolphin species. These include the largest Blue Whale, and Baleen Whale species like the Minke, Fin, Sei and Humpback Whale, among other toothed cetaceans like the False Killer Whale, short-finned pilot whales and many dolphin species such as pan-tropical spotted, striped and Risso’s dolphins.
Proposals for action for the whale conservation campaign include:
- The promotion of responsible whale watching
- A socio economic update of whale watching activities in the Pacific
- Survey and impacts of deep-sea mining on cetaceans
- Strengthening education and outreach
- And studying the cultural transmission of humpback song in New Caledonia and across the Pacific islands.