Species protection

Although habitat management and protection are the mainstays of marine conservation, some rare and vulnerable species are given statutory protection in their own right. This again follows the established pattern for terrestrial conservation. In the UK the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act provides full protection for all cetaceans in UK waters. Guidelines have also been produced by the DOE for minimizing acoustic disturbance to small cetaceans. These are intended for use by operators of installations such as oil rigs and ships carrying out seismic surveys (DOE, 1995). Seals are given partial protection (closed seasons) under the Protection of Seals Act 1970.

The EC Habitats Directive (see Section 10.3.1) also provides protection for some marine species including all cetaceans, all marine turtles, otter, walrus and a small number of rare fish and invertebrates. A much fuller list of UK terrestrial, freshwater and marine plants and animals considered to be of conservation concern, along with conservation targets for these species, is given in 'Biodiversity Challenge', a document prepared by a large group of voluntary conservation organizations (Wynne et al., 1995). In a worldwide context, the IUCN produces a list of all threatened animals including marine ones (IUCN, 1994). In many cases, the problem with deciding on protection and management options for species is a lack of information on the status and biology of the species. In the case of vulnerable fishery species such as the basking shark (Cetorhinus maximus), many scientists are advocating the adoption of the 'precautionary principle' where exploitation is limited whilst data on the species are being collected.

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