WDCS has just released a new and highly critical report which reviews the laws that are intended to protect whales, dolphins and porpoises in UK waters. The report is titled: “Looking forward to ‘strict protection’: A critical review of the current legal regime for cetaceans in UK waters.”
The 54 page document, put together with external experts, questions complex and confusing laws that offer differing levels of protection to the same animals in different parts of the country, and why species such as the harbour porpoise have had much of their protection removed in England and Wales.
Under European law two species are required to have coherent networks of protected sites established for them: the bottlenose dolphin and the harbour porpoise. However, no sites are currently proposed in the UK for the porpoise and only three established for the bottlenose dolphin.
The report also underlines the fact that protection currently given to whale, dolphin and porpoise species outside of these sites (which is needed to implement the wider protection measures required by the EU Habitats Directive) seems weak and, from an enforcement point of view, confusing.
Mick Green, managing director of the environmental consultancy and charity, Ecology Matters, and co-author of the report, comments: “Our investigations have revealed a remarkably convoluted legal regime which, in practice, may offer little protection, and it is concerning that levels of protection seem to be slipping.”
Sonja Eisfeld, WDCS conservation officer, adds: ‘The UK governments have a number of review processes in place at the moment looking at wildlife and environmental law and we shall be using this new report to highlight the current problems surrounding the implementation of laws. At WDCS we expect the legal protection in the UK to be exemplary, especially as marine activities continue to grow, but the current situation is far from that.”
The report, which is jointly authored by Green, Eisfeld, Richard Caddell, a lecturer in law at the University of Swansea, and both Sarah Dolman and Mark Simmonds from WDCS, includes a series of recommendations aimed at improving the current situation.