The Eastern coastline around Norfolk, has numbers of harbour porpoises, photo by Niki Clear 1/3
Basking shark, photo by JP Trenque 2/3
Common dolphins, photo by Caroline Weir 3/3

Megafauna hotspots - the missing link in marine protection

Tuesday 04 November, 2014

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

Today a new report identifies 17 important ‘megafauna hotspots’ around our shores for the first time and highlights the need to protect them. It includes the Eastern coastline around Norfolk, because of its number of harbour porpoises.

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  the UK’s 29 different species of whales, dolphins and basking sharks most depend – protected by law.

Chief Executive of Norfolk Wildlife Trust, Brendan Joyce said:
“After many years of campaigning by The Wildlife Trusts and others, the UK government has finally begun protecting areas at sea so that marine wildlife and habitats can recover from decades of damage, decline and over-exploitation.

“It is long overdue but these new Marine Protected Areas (MPA s) only protect habitats and wildlife on the seabed. It is a different story for our marine ‘megafauna’ – the 29 species of whales, dolphins and porpoises, and the basking sharks – regularly found around our coast including here in Norfolk. All are at risk from damaging activities and some species are in decline.

“We are proposing 17 areas around England and Wales, which should become protected areas especially for whales, basking sharks and dolphins. These are the places where these charismatic animals gather to feed, breed and socialise, and are worth protecting.”

Observations at Eastern coastal sites such as Cromer, Spurn Head, and Bempton/ Flamborough Head show numbers of harbour porpoises peaking at the start of the breeding season (April – May), with newborns regularly observed. The Eastern Coastline has harbour porpoises all year round, with highest numbers during calving in spring and early summer. The Wildlife Trusts recommend that the area of Eastern coastline, including Silver Pit, is investigated further as an area of search.

Joan Edwards, The Wildlife Trusts’ Head of Living Seas, said:  
“Our marine megafauna 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.”

NWT and the other Wildlife Trusts in the UK are urging the public to sign an e-action which calls on the Government to protect the 17 megafauna hotspots around our shores to secure a brighter future for dolphins, whales and basking sharks. Some of these 17 places already have designations – whether as Marine Conservation Zones, Special Areas of Conservation and more – but unfortunately whales, dolphins and basking sharks are not listed as ‘features’ to be protected within them.  This is why we are calling for either new conservation areas, or for these species to be recognised and protected within existing designated areas.

What you can do to help

Support our campaign for protecting UK waters where whales, sharks and dolphins live.

1. Sign our e-petition
It’s time to start protecting areas at sea for whales, dolphins and basking sharks. Add your name and next year we’ll present your signatures to Government.

2. Share our campaign
Help raise awareness. Use #act4giants, #oceangiants and our link

3. Read the full report
Download the full megafauna hotspots technical report
Share this

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