Sea mammals are under threat across the world. Pollution, capture in fishing nets, over-fishing of their food supplies, hunting and other factors are contributing to this problem. Furthermore, conservation policy protecting sea mammals often suffers from a lack of reliable information on population sizes and distribution. The threats faced by cetaceans in EU waters are recognised in the Habitats Directive Cetaceans are listed in Annex IV as species needing strict protection, and two (the harbour porpoise and bottlenose dolphin) require the designation of Special Areas of Conservation. The need for quantitative information on the distribution and abundance of small cetaceans in the North Sea has been recognised repeatedly in international fora working for the protection of these animals. This project involved most of the countries with a North Sea coast in a survey to map the distribution and to estimate the abundance of the harbour porpoise and other species. It demonstrated an improved methodology for this kind of survey and has provided valuable information for the management of natural resources in the North Sea. The objectives were: to identify major summer concentrations of harbour porpoises and other small cetaceans in the North Sea and adjacent waters; to estimate the abundance of harbour porpoises and other small cetaceans in the area; and to provide information essential to the conservation and management of these species, and to serve as a baseline for their future monitoring.
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