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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 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, the Group has begun preparing for both the scientific committee meeting and the biennial commission meeting this year.

Bycatch is a particular concern for members of the Group and it is exploring the opportunities presented by Brexit for improving measures to reduce and eliminate bycatch. The Group has met with Defra officials to discuss the issue and provided support on the bycatch elements of a document created by Greener UK outlining the key elements for sustainable fisheries management post-Brexit.

The Group also continue to work on reducing winter strandings and has written to the Spanish, French and Irish Governments requesting more action to reduce bycatch in the North East Atlantic. A press release has also been published alongside these letters.

The Group is also progressing activities to help wider appreciation and mitigation of the effects of polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) contamination on marine mammals. In 2017 the Group was one of only six respondents to a Government consultation on the National Implementation Plan for the Stockholm Convention, a treaty which aims to eliminate or restrict the production and use of persistent organic pollutants (POPs). The Government has now published its response and Link’s influence is clearly visible. Vitally, the Government has committed to exploring one of the Group's key asks – to investigate the extent to which sealants applied in UK building construction industry contain PCBs. The Government has also committed to working across devolved nations to monitor the issue of POPs and take appropriate action. However, while these measures are welcome, concern exists that the proposed measures may not be implemented soon enough.

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

Last updated: 01 February 2018