11th Meeting of the North Sea Group

The 11th Meeting of the Steering Group for the ASCOBANS Conservation Plan for Harbour Porpoises in the North Sea (the North Sea Group) took place online from 14 to 15 February 2023.  Chaired by Prof. Peter Evans (Bangor University & Sea Watch Foundation UK), the aim of the meeting was to exchange countries' updates on the implementation of actions listed in the Conservation Plan.

The meeting discussed key priorities such as the implementation of existing bycatch regulations and assessment of pollutant burdens and associated risks. The monitoring of distribution and abundance, and anthropogenic sounds on harbour porpoises were also reviewed. Concern was raised over increasing demand for offshore windfarm construction and its noise implications, and the destruction of the Nord-Stream pipeline, which had distributed 250,000 metric tons of heavily contaminated sediment for more than a week. 

On discussion about investigation on the health, nutritional status and diet of harbour porpoises, the Netherlands highlighted a review done by Dr Lonneke IJsseldijk of anthropogenic activities as cause of death of stranded harbour porpoises, analysing 612 stranded harbour porpoises. Highest cause of death was infectious disease, followed by bycatch (see Figure 1). Dr IJsseldijk had also published a study on the relationship between body condition, prey and reproductive success in harbour porpoise, concluding that lower body condition and limited prey access reduced the reproductive success of harbour porpoise.

Figure 1: From the presentation by the Netherlands.

The meeting was invited to provide feedback on the first draft of the reviewed North Sea Plan, prepared by Dr Sinéad Murphy and Dr Eunice Pinn following a call for expressions of interest to carry out the review. The Common Dolphin Species Action Plan had been used as a basis for the revised Conservation Plan as it was the most recently developed, but all the harbour porpoise plans and recent recommendations from the NSG had also been reviewed. New to the document was a call for further work on critical habitats. The draft would be circulated to the North Sea Group for further feedback after the meeting, and a clean version be presented to the 28th Meeting of the ASCOBANS Advisory Committee in September 2023. The aim was to submit the final version to the 10th Meeting of the Parties in 2024.

The meeting concluded with the review and agreement on the Priority Recommendations from the North Sea Group. The Recommendations, as well as the meeting report, will be made available on the meeting page in due course.

© ASCOBANS Secretariat


Last updated on 11 December 2023

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United Kingdom
North Sea
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