Twitter LinkedIn


The Whales Working Group works to ensure better protection of cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) through the reform of the International Whaling Commission into a conservation body, and by addressing other issues relating to cetacean conservation and welfare both in the UK and globally, such as marine contaminants, bycatch and disturbance.

Chair: Jennifer Lonsdale, Environmental Investigation Agency
Vice Chair: Mark Simmonds, Humane Society International-UK
Marine Policy and Campaigns Manager: Cecily Spelling, Link

Update from the Group

The Whales Working Group is progressing ongoing initiatives relating to whale, dolphin and porpoise conservation and welfare. The Group maintains good communications with Dr Gemma Harper, the UK Commissioner to the International Whaling Commission (IWC), on the work of the Commission and related issues. Most recently, two members of the Group joined the UK Government’s delegation to the meeting of the IWC’s Scientific Committee, which met in May.

In March, the Group called on the Minister, George Eustice, to step up representations to the Mexican Government to save the critically endangered vaquita porpoise and received a positive response. The Mexican Government has introduced a permanent ban covering all gillnet fisheries through the range of the vaquita in the upper Gulf of California. It is also committed to investing in increased enforcement, removal of illegal and derelict nets and better engagement with the local community. This may be the last hope for the vaquita.

The Group has called for guaranteed secure funding to continue the invaluable work of the Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme (CSIP). CSIP continues to provide world-class outputs to help identify and characterise threats to cetaceans. This includes information on pollution and bycatch – priority issues for the Group.

Bycatch is a particular concern for members of the Group. In a further Link letter to the Minister, the bycatch sub Group called for more transparent and usable data on regional fishing efforts to better understand the impact of bycatch on cetaceans and sea birds. Discussions with various agencies are ongoing on this issue.

The Group is also progressing activities to help wider appreciation and mitigation of the effects of polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) contamination on marine mammals. This includes responding to a Defra consultation on the UK’s approach to eliminating Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) more generally, as well as providing a briefing to Defra for use at a meeting of the Stockholm Convention in Geneva. Members of the PCBs subgroup met with Defra at the end of June to discuss the outcome of these discussions, as well as EU progress on tackling both open and closed sources of these harmful chemicals. A paper authored by a member of the group and a former member of the Link team was also published in the peer-reviewed journal, Marine Policy.

For further information, contact Cecily Spelling, Link’s Marine Policy and Campaigns Manager.

Last updated: 01 August 2017