Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals 1979 (CMS)

Humpback whale flukes
Humpback whale flukes
Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals 1979 (CMS) - WDC has been working through the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) for many years and is a Partner organisation to the Convention. Entered into force on 1 November 1983 the Convention is the sole international treaty that seeks to specifically address the conservation needs of migratory animals.

The Earth’s natural resources are currently being consumed by people at rates and in ways that place unsustainable pressure on many of the world’s ecosystems and species. This unsustainable pressure comes in the form of various threats such as manmade climate change, the spread of diseases around the planet as a result of international trade and travel, the destruction of natural habitats and urban development, light pollution, noise pollution, pesticide use and the trade in wildlife.

These threats put most of the world’s species at risk in one way or another. Some species, however, are at more risk than others. Species that migrate seasonally from one part of the world to another may be driven to extinction unless they are protected from excessive manmade threats in every one of the habitats they live in throughout the year.

WDC believes that human resource consumption does not necessarily have to negatively impact on the survival and wellbeing of migratory species such as whales and dolphins, and we are far from alone in believing this. Indeed, representatives from more than 100 countries around the world regularly meet to agree on plans of action to protect the wellbeing of threatened migratory species and the different habitats they live in throughout the year. These meetings are held as a result of an international treaty called The Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals, or CMS for short. CMS is the only global convention specifically concerned with the conservation of migratory species and is overseen by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

Countries whose representatives have signed up to the CMS are known as ‘Parties to the CMS’. All Parties to the CMS acknowledge the importance of acting to conserve migratory species whenever it is possible and appropriate to do so. CMS adopts a two-tier approach, with the parties drawing a distinction between species identified as “endangered” (listed in Appendix I to the CMS) and those considered to have an “unfavourable conservation status” (listed in Appendix II to the CMS), with differing obligations and policies prescribed in relation to each category. In doing so, strict protection measures are prescribed for such species, including regulating anthropogenic activities that may cause harm to such species and or their habitats.

Parties also agree:

  • to promote, cooperate in and support research into migratory species
  • to try to provide immediate protection to migratory species that scientists classify as being threatened with extinction
  • to try to conclude global or regional agreements promoting the conservation and management of migratory species that, while not immediately threatened with extinction, would nevertheless benefit from international cooperation to protect their habitats and promote their continued survival

The agreements that Parties to the CMS can sign up to come in many forms. One type of agreement is referred to simply as an Agreement (with a capital ‘A’). Another form of agreement that Parties to the CMS can enter into is called a Memorandum of Understanding, or MoU for short. There are 4 Agreements and MoUs that so far have been agreed upon by Parties to the CMS aiming to directly help the conservation of migratory whales, dolphins and porpoises.

There are currently two CMS Agreements relevant to the conservation of migratory whales, dolphins and porpoises: -

  • ACCOBAMS – an Agreement to protect whales, dolphins and porpoises of the Mediterranean Sea, Black Sea and the Contiguous Atlantic Area (‘Contiguous’ means ‘next to’ or ‘neighbouring’). You can see the Agreement website forACCOBAMS via this link.
  • ASCOBANS – an Agreement to protect small whales, dolphins and porpoises of the Baltic, north-east Atlantic, Irish and North seas. You can see the Agreement website for ASCOBANS via this link
 

There are currently two CMS MoUs relevant to the conservation of migratory whales, dolphins and porpoises: -
 
At its latest Conference of Parties in 2011, CMS agreed a comprehensive global work plan for cetaceans with potentially wide ranging consequences for these species. This initiative is the culmination of a long-standing interest in the plight of cetaceans within the CMS, which has adopted a series of Resolutions to address these species since its inception – including numerous policies towards bycatches, ocean noise, marine debris, data-deficiencies and other impediments to their optimum conservation status. Although these Resolutions do not have formal binding effect, they have nonetheless guided policy developments within the subsidiary Agreements and provide an additional political impetus towards cetacean conservation by the CMS parties.