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Gdynia 2006 Invitation

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INVITED TALKS
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MARINE MAMMALS IN THE EUROPEAN COASTAL ZONE: PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE

PETER G.H. EVANS

Sea Watch Foundation, 11 Jersey Road, Oxford 0X4 4RT, & Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, South Parks Road, Oxford 0X1 3PS, UK

Human activities often have their greatest environmental impact in the coastal zone. Those marine mammal species inhabiting such areas are exposed to a wide range of contaminants, coastal habitat modification, fisheries conflicts, the danger of vessel strikes and general noise disturbance. During the 1970s and 1980s, widespread concern in Europe was expressed for apparent declines in two cetacean species, the harbour porpoise and bottlenose dolphin, which were traditionally associated with the coastal zone. As a direct result of these concerns, a working group on harbour porpoises was established informally, and from this in 1987 the European Cetacean Society was born. At that stage, cetacean research in Europe was limited to a few scattered groups with limited resources, and for several areas our knowledge of the local cetacean fauna was restricted to species lists from strandings or casual sightings. Over the last twenty years, our knowledge of cetaceans has grown immensely. Generations of students have conducted research projects to form Masters and Doctoral theses, and a variety of new approaches to studying marine mammals have developed, as exemplified by presentations at ECS Conferences. At the same time, the marine environment in general and cetaceans in particular have received attention at government level through national legislation, the formation of protected areas, and establishment of international agreements such as ASCOBANS and ACCOBAMS. However, challenges for cetacean conservation continue to grow as humans impose increasing pressure upon the coastal zone, and a number of measures that have been introduced to tackle specific problems such as by-catch and disturbance have not been entirely successful.

In this talk, I review how human activities have impinged upon cetaceans since the 1980s, how knowledge and research has developed over that time, the role played by the ECS over this period, the current situation, and some future prospects.

Day: Monday 3 April; Time: 11:00-11:40; Invited Talk


ALL CREATURES GREAT AND SMALLER: A STUDY IN CETACEAN LIFE HISTORY ENERGETICS

CHRISTINA LOCKYER

North Atlantic Marine Mammal Commission (NAMMCO)

This presentation reviews some key studies of cetacean life history energetics over the past 20 - 30 years. The studies include one of the largest cetacean species, the baleen fin whale, Balaenoptera physalus, the medium-sized odontocete long-finned pilot whale, Globicephala melas, and a representative of the smallest marine odontocete genus, harbour porpoise, Phocoena phocoena. The studies draw attention to the decrease in longevity with size and the differences in biological parameters that reflect this and affect life history strategy and energy utilisation. The studies have drawn on material and data from the past whaling industry in Iceland for fin whales, the Faroes "grindedrap" for pilot whales, and by-catches as well as some live captive studies for harbour porpoise. The studies demonstrate how information can be gathered to compile energy budgets for individuals, relying on carcase measurement and analysis, dietary investigations, biochemical analyses of tissues, and general life history studies including reproduction; as well as from monitoring living animals. The individual examples presented show how food energy storage in the form of fat can be variously important in insulation in the smallest species to controlling reproductive efficiency in large migratory species. The presentatation concludes by noting that an understanding of energy use in the individual can be important input in multi-species ecosystem modelling.

Day: Tuesday 4 April; Time: 10:30-11:10; Invited Talk


MANAGING PRE-EXTINCTION: THE CASE OF THE MEDITERRANEAN MONK SEAL

ALEX AGUILAR

Department of Animal Biology, Faculty of Biology, University of Barcelona, 08071 Barcelona, Spain

With less than 450 surviving individuals, the Mediterranean monk seal (Monachus monachus) is in the verge of extinction. The largest surviving population, and the only not fragmented and that still maintains a social structure and a colonial behaviour, inhabits the peninsula of Cape Blanco, in the western Sahara. In this region, the species was decimated by sealing during the 16-17th centuries. Since then, human pressure has been low or nonexistent but, differently to other phocids that have shown a remarkable capacity of recovery, the Mediterranean monk seal has not re-colonized its original area of occupancy nor has recovered its initial abundance. The reason for this apparent lack of reaction is unclear, but the current population is characterized by very low pregnancy rates and a high pup mortality. Severe genetic erosion produced by a past bottleneck, behavioural alterations originated by the same cause or by human presence, incidence of phytoplanktonic algal blooms, or the lack of food produced by overfishing have been suggested as potential causes. However, none of these factors has been proved to bear an actual effect on the population. Identification of the role of these or other factors is decisive for the design of conservation measures to ensure long-term preservation of the species. Actions so far undertaken have ignored these facts and have been ineffective at the best or negative in some cases. Personal and political interests, avidity for accessing funds and the myopia of the short-term approaches have negatively driven conservation initiatives and generated hot controversy.

Day: Wednesday 5th April; Time: 10:30-11:10; Invited Talk


CONSERVING CETACEANS IN A SEA OF UNCERTAINTIES

GIUSEPPE NOTARBARTOLO DI SCIARA

Tethys Research Institute, viale G.B. Gadio 2, 20121 Milano, Italy

The past 20 years have been characterised in Europe by an evolving human concern for marine conservation, and cetaceans have occupied a special place in this process. It is well-known that pressures from human activities on the marine environment and on cetaceans are many, e.g., bycatch, direct kills, pollution, habitat degradation, prey depletion, noise, disturbance, and vessel collisions. The NGOs and the media have taken advantage of results from targeted scientific activities to nourish the perception of the public with fresh knowledge on the presence of cetaceans in European seas, and on the threats to their survival. In turn, decision makers have responded to public concern with international and national legislation designed to address it. As far as the Mediterranean and Black Seas are concerned, ACCOBAMS represents the most notable of such initiatives. In most cases, however, protecting cetacean populations involves conflicts with productive activities such as fisheries, maritime transportation, industrial production and tourism, and governments have so far largely failed to effectively address and resolve such conflicts. Lack of a clear understanding of the impacts that pressures deriving from human activities exert on the populations and on the quality of the animals' life has too often been invoked as an excuse for inaction. Whether it will be possible eventually to achieve a sustained coexistence between cetaceans and human activities, particularly in small, semi-enclosed basins such as the Mediterranean and Black Seas, remains to be seen. Policies to address cetacean conservation problems on a large scale should benefit from insight gained at the local level. A combination between a top-down, global or regional approach to conservation and bottom-up success stories conquered on local battlefields, where real-life problems are addressed with the participation of all the parties involved, should be envisaged as the most sensible and promising strategy.

Day: Thursday 6 April; Time: 10:40-11:20; Invited Talk


INTO AND OUT OF: THE WAYS OF THE WHALES WITHIN THE BALTIC SEA AND THE TRUE ORIGIN OF THE ECS

CARL CHRISTIAN KINZE

The talk will address 20 years of relationship between one of the "founding fathers" and the society he was participative in fathering. It will elucidate stages towards the foundation of the ECS take us back almost to the exact time of conception of our society during a harbour porpoise meeting in Bremerhaven in 1986. Right from the start in 1987 the ECS embraced all other marine mammal species as well with members actively engaged in an unfolding fan of disciplines. As our prime asset we therefore should name a dynamic membership that provides a platform for scientifically sound discussions, driven by the shear desire to learn more of our favourite marine mammal species.

Since my own research also commenced with the harbour porpoise (once the only focal species of the larger Baltic Sea) and later grew into a fascination of and a wider interest in the entire Baltic Sea, I dare present the virtues of our society with pictures and examples from the Baltic Sea. As a past co-chairpersons privilege I intend to highlight and relate to both factual and funny society matters in a mixture of anecdotes and mindful take home messages.

Day: Wednesday 5th April ; Time: 20:30-21:30; Invited Talk
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