Skip to content
All articles
  • All articles
  • About whales & dolphins
  • Create healthy seas
  • End captivity
  • Fundraising
  • Green Whale
  • Prevent bycatch
  • Prevent deaths in nets
  • Stop whaling
The Codfather being good with Anvil kick feeding right next to them_0761 branded

Spout Spotters: Boater Safety Around Whales Online Course Launches

After countless hours behind the computer, bountiful snacks, and a few stress relieving walks with...
WDC team at UN Ocean conference

Give the ocean a chance – our message from the UN Ocean Conference

I'm looking out over the River Tejo in Lisbon, Portugal, reflecting on the astounding resilience...
65556ab2635fdab7b4e12265b9623d64

Stream to Sea: Orca Action Month 2022

This June was an exceptionally busy and exciting Orca Month, starting with a somewhat surprising...
We need whale poo 📷 WDC NA

Whales are our climate allies – meet the scientists busy proving it

At Whale and Dolphin Conservation, we're working hard to bring whales and the ocean into...

It’s Time To Breach The Snake River Dams

The Snake River dams were controversial even before they were built.  While they were still...
Save the whale. Save the world.

Climate giants – how whales can help save the world

We know that whales, dolphins, and porpoises are amazing beings with complex social and family...
Nat Geo for Disney+ Luis Lamar

Five Facts About Orcas

Orcas, also known as killer whales, are one of the most recognizable and popular species...
Alexi Archer cropped

Meet the 2022 Interns: Alexi Archer

I am thrilled to welcome Alexi to WDC as the newest member of our Marine...

A sense of porpoise…

About 15 years ago, WDC first called upon the UK government to put in place Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) for harbour porpoises to fulfil their European responsibility to do so.

Denmark, Germany and Northern Ireland, amongst other European countries, have all put SACs in place to protect porpoises in their national waters. The deadline for completing the SAC network was way back in 2004.

In England, Scotland and Wales we still have no SACs, despite having some of the highest densities of porpoises in Europe. So what is the decade-long hold up with designation of SACs here?

Historically, the UK government has argued that such spatial protection is not warranted for porpoises (and other mobile species), but that using individual sector-based measures (like using noisy pingers on fishing nets to reduce bycatch) is the way to deal with the threats that porpoises face. But such an approach is short sighted. It does not deal with all the threats that porpoises face, it is not pre-emptive of new, emerging threats and, importantly, it is not compliant with the European Directive that offers them strict protection.

Porpoises are our most abundance coastal species and there is still much we have to learn about them. WDC and our network of dedicated volunteers collect field data to contribute to and improve this important knowledge base, with the aim of better conservation.

Last month WDC provided evidence to Defra identifying SACs for harbour porpoises around the UK and comparing the lack of SACs in UK waters with other European states. We used an example in the Hebrides on the west coast of Scotland to show how a combination of site protection mechanisms (at UK, European and global scales) could lead to effective protection of porpoises, and a wide diversity of other important marine species. At the same time, our colleagues at ClientEarth provided the legal arguments as to why Defra is failing harbour porpoises in not designating SACs.

This week WDC and ClientEarth met with Defra and JNCC to discuss our work and their future plans. We’re pleased to report that having faced considerable pressure from the European Commission, WDC and other parties, the UK government is now investigating how porpoise SACs can be put in place in English, Welsh and Scottish waters. What these might look like is still not known but WDC will continue to call for better protection for porpoises, including through the designation of a network of SACs and we will contribute our own valuable field data to contribute to this process.

We look forward to working with the UK and devolved administrations to put such a network of SACs in place. In addition to conserving our porpoises, such a measure demonstrates that protected areas for mobile species can (and should) be achieved, including to help meet our international obligations.

There will be an opportunity for you to have your say during a public consultation that is expected to take place later in 2014 or early 2015 – and in the meantime, we will keep you up to date with any progress made.