Skip to main content

Article Category

News

Article available in the folowing languages:

Better data collection can lead to better whale and dolphin protection

Researchers in Germany and the United Kingdom have developed a world map showing that only 25 % of the world's ocean surface has been surveyed for whales and dolphins over the years. Only by regularly gathering data on marine organisms can scientists pinpoint the negative infl...

Researchers in Germany and the United Kingdom have developed a world map showing that only 25 % of the world's ocean surface has been surveyed for whales and dolphins over the years. Only by regularly gathering data on marine organisms can scientists pinpoint the negative influences and collect basic information for research and environmental protection, says the team. The study, presented in the journal PLoS ONE, suggests that international waters should be monitored more closely and that novel analytical methods should be developed. Researchers from Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg in Germany and the University of St Andrews in the United Kingdom analysed over 400 studies on whales conducted in the period 1975-2005. After digitalising many maps, the team discovered huge gaps. Most of the observations were made in the waters of economically strong countries in Europe and in North America. Bodies of water in the southern hemisphere had meanwhile been ignored - only the Antarctic waters are being monitored. 'Globally, a tremendous amount of effort has gone into surveying the distribution and abundance of cetaceans using visual shipboard and aerial line-transect surveys,' the authors wrote in the study. 'Despite this effort, our analyses showed that substantial gaps remain: only a quarter of the world's ocean surface was covered by line-transect surveys over a 30-year time period and many areas were insufficiently or never surveyed.' According to the researchers, the primary reason behind whale monitoring is the market for 'dolphin-friendly' tuna, whose production is successful only if dolphins are not killed by incidental capture. 'The eastern tropical Pacific has thus been studied more often than all other marine areas put together,' said lead author Dr Kristin Kaschner, a marine biologist at Freiburg. 'But even these relatively well researched areas lie on the lower end of the scale with regard to the necessary observation frequency. In order to track temporal changes, it is important to observe the populations of marine mammals as regularly as possible. This is currently only the case for 6% of the surface of all oceans.' So in order to ensure good research and the protection of marine mammals, scientists must gather enough information about whale and dolphin populations. The team found that whaling caused significant harm to the mammals in the past, but current activity is no less innocent. Military sonar systems, bycatch and water pollution are proving to be strong adversaries for the beautiful creatures. The researchers went on to say that global efforts are needed to maintain biodiversity, and in turn help develop new approaches to data collection. 'Gaps in data have an impact on all aspects of marine biology and planning, from fishery policy to marine protected areas,' said Dr Kaschner. 'The data we have on sharks, deep-sea creatures, and marine viruses is even patchier.'For more information, please visit:Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg:http://www.uni-freiburg.de/universitaet-enPLoS ONE:http://www.plosone.org/home.action

Countries

Germany