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Management of Antarctic baleen whales amid past exploitation, current problems, emerging threats and complex marine ecosystems

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  • UserRebecca Leaper (Tasmanian Aquaculture and Fisheries Institute University of Tasmania) & Cara Miller (Pacific Islands Programme, WDCS International)
  • ClockTuesday 15 June 2010, 11:00-12:00
  • HouseBritish Antarctic Survey, Room 307.

If you have a question about this talk, please contact Christian Franzke.

The massive reduction of whales as a result of commercial operations is one of the single largest human impacts to the Southern Ocean ecosystem. Systematic hunting of over 1.3 million whales, in only 200 years, almost eliminated an entire trophic level of the marine ecosystem. While the setting catch limits of zero for conservation and management purposes (the moratorium) has saved many heavily-exploited populations from extinction, at the same time there has been a dramatic expansion of special permit scientific whaling, conducted both within and outside of designated whale sanctuaries.

A growing concern is that there are multiple known and emerging threats to whales as they recover from historical over-exploitation, not confined to directed or indirect take. These emerging threats range from global problems – such as climate change and marine pollution – to localised issues including fishery activities, shipping, habitat disturbance and unregulated wildlife tourism. These threats are most likely to be multiple, complex and differing between regions. They not only pose new challenges for our scientific understanding of baleen whale species recovery, but also for management and conservation of the Antarctic marine ecosystem as a whole.

Here we synthesise our understanding of whale species recovery in light of emerging human induced threats, and within the historical context of over-exploitation. We also discuss the possible ways to take forward this scientific understanding to underpin conservation efforts that include ecosystem-based management and the precautionary approach, concepts that form the modern basis for oceans management.

This talk is part of the British Antarctic Survey series.

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