Megafauna Hotspots: the Missing Link in Marine Protection

New report highlights need to protect important places for dolphins, whales and basking sharks

Today (4 November) a new report identifies four important Welsh ‘megafauna hotspots’ around our shores for the first time and highlights the need to protect them.

Save Our Ocean Giants – the protected areas we need for dolphins, whales and basking sharks explains why The Wildlife Trusts want to see these newly identified hotspots (special areas on which whales, dolphins and basking sharks most depend) protected by law.  This would secure the missing link in marine protection for English and Welsh waters.

The Welsh Government is working towards achieving an ‘ecologically coherent network of Marine Protected Areas’, however, there is a glaring omission in this process: the absence of protection for the nutrient-rich and highly productive places on which marine megafauna most depend.

Sarah Kessell CEO for WTSWW said

“We all need to play an active role in minimising threats to these species as well as conserving; protecting, understanding and valuing marine habitats and species, ensuring future generations are able to enjoy our Living Seas.”

The ‘megafauna hotspots’ The Wildlife Trusts want to see protected in Wales are:

  • North and west coasts of Anglesey – the creation of a new protected area which is notable for harbour porpoise.
  • Pen Llŷn a’r Sarnau – the addition of harbour porpoise and Risso’s dolphin to an already designated area.
  • Cardigan Bay – notable for harbour porpoise.
  • Pembrokeshire Marine – notable for harbour porpoise.
Dolphin attacking porpoise by Natasha Massey

Dolphin attacking porpoise by Natasha Massey

The Wildlife Trusts are urging the public to sign an e-action which calls on the Welsh Government to protect the 4 megafauna hotspots around our shores to secure a brighter future for dolphins, whales and basking sharks. Please see www.wildlifetrusts/oceangiants for more information.

Sarah Perry the Living Seas Science Officer for WTSWW said "The seas around south and west Wales are special in many ways and we are glad to see that this report further supports the fact that marine megafauna species such as harbour porpoises occur here.

Identifying important areas for these species is vital, particularly where robust information is required to inform decisions relating to marine developments in this area.

This report highlights these areas and we would urge the Welsh Government to lead the way by putting this legal framework in place to protect harbour porpoises and other marine megafauna."

Joan Edwards, The Wildlife Trusts’ Head of Living Seas, said:

Basking Shark by JP Trenque

Basking Shark by JP Trenque

“Many people are surprised to discover that in the waters surrounding our shores you could encounter 29 different species of whale, dolphin and porpoise and the second largest shark in the world – the basking shark.  However, there’s an urgent need to create protected areas at sea for our ocean giants and ensure a network of sites to safeguard these species for generations to come.

“The UK has made huge advances in marine conservation in recent years but there is still a significant job to do.  Our marine megafauna - whales, dolphins, porpoises and basking sharks – are still under threat.  Many are suffering from the impacts of fishing, whether direct or indirect, increased boat traffic, marine developments and the more persistent effects of pollution - many substances bioaccummulate and affect generations of animals and overall population health.

“Not all of these impacts can be mitigated by spatial protection measures alone but, by designating areas of the sea which are known hotspots, we can provide safe havens for these species and some impacts can be limited or removed altogether.”