Action Plan for the Common Dolphin Launched

30 August 2019 – the Species Action Plan (SAP) for the Common Dolphin (Delphinus delphis), proposed in ASCOBANS Resolution 8.4 on the Conservation of Common Dolphins (2016), has been adopted in line with Resolution 8.4 and as per instructions from the 24th Meeting of the ASCOBANS Advisory Committee.

The  ASCOBANS Species Action Plan for the North-East Atlantic Common Dolphin sets out objectives for addressing the threats faced by the species in this region and describes a series of research, mitigation and monitoring actions aimed at improving its conservation status. The SAP seeks to involve a variety of stakeholders including national bodies, intergovernmental organizations, NGOs and regional bodies to achieve regional sea level actions.

The aim of the SAP is to ensure cooperation between all stakeholders including national governments in the North-East Atlantic, the European Commission, intergovernmental organizations such as regional fisheries bodies, OSPAR (Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic), ICES (International Council for the Exploration of the Sea) and IWC (International Whaling Commission) and relevant bodies such as NGOs, universities, institutes, and appropriate industry representatives. Implementation of such a plan will encourage Member States to harmonize their national efforts, including allocation of funding.

Since bycatch is the most pressing threat to Common Dolphins, it is anticipated that the Steering Group will work closely with the ACCOBAMS-ASCOBANS Joint Bycatch Working Group as well as other scientific bodies and working groups within both Agreements.

“It is urgent that Range States act to tackle the threats faced by the Common Dolphin – particularly bycatch. More than one thousand Common Dolphins washed ashore on the French Biscay coast between January and March of this year, many with evidence of bycatch.”

Peter Evans, Co-Chair of the Joint Bycatch Working Group

The elaboration of a SAP was considered essential in the light of advice from ICES suggesting that the level of bycatch of Common Dolphins was unsustainable.  ASCOBANS Parties were also prompted to take action in relation to the exposure to pollutants such as Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs), marine activities that generate underwater noise, and the cumulative effects of human activities in the marine environment. The SAP reinforces the need for regional sea level actions on this range of pressures, and as a priority to assess bycatch rates in the range of fisheries and to implement measures to reduce bycatch.

"With the cetacean bycatch regulation 812/2004 being repealed, monitoring and mitigation for cetacean bycatch is being subsumed into the more generalized Common Fisheries Policy. Unless changes are made, there is a danger that protection for cetaceans could be weakened further.  I don't know whether it can be reversed in the future, but what we can do is work under the Marine Strategy Framework Directive and advocate having the common dolphin listed under OSPAR’s common bycatch indicator. That will lead to more robust protection through enhanced monitoring and mitigation for the species going forward."

Sinéad Murphy, Co-Chair of the Steering Group, Common Dolphin SAP

The SAP was presented at AC24. It was developed by a Steering Group comprising regional experts from both contracting Parties to ASCOBANS and non-Party Range States. The Steering Group drew on considerable expertise from across the Agreement Area, including government agencies, NGOs and international organizations. It will be important to build on this collaboration to ensure that the SAP is implemented swiftly.

The Steering Group is convening for the first time on 16 September 2019, prior to the ASCOBANS Advisory Committee meeting, in Stralsund, Germany.  It will consider priority actions required to implement the SAP, including the monitoring and mitigation of Common Dolphin bycatch.



The ASCOBANS Advisory Committee, at its 22nd Meeting (2015) established a Steering Group to develop a conservation plan for the Common Dolphin. At the 8th Meeting of the Parties to ASCOBANS in 2016, Resolution 8.4 ‘Conservation of Common Dolphins’ was adopted. It requested the Steering Group to continue its work to develop a comprehensive Conservation Plan for the common dolphin in the eastern North Atlantic, with the aim of restoring the population to a Favourable Conservation Status.  The SAP was developed during 2017-2018, and widely consulted on prior to the 24th Meeting of the Advisory Committee. The Plan was tabled at AC24 in September 2018, and the meeting instructed the Secretariat to circulate it to Parties for adoption intersessionally. After some feedback received in early 2019, and subsequent editing by the Steering Committee, the SAP was finalized and adopted intersessionally. It can now be found on the ASCOBANS web page.


Last updated on 16 October 2019

News item
Delphinus delphis
Species group: 
Marine mammals