International Day of the Baltic Harbour Porpoise 2021

Bonn, 14 May 2021 – The Harbour Porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) is the only native cetacean species to the Baltic Sea.  It is also one of the smallest marine mammals globally.  Today, less than 500 individuals remain in the Baltic Sea area, threatened by bycatch, pollution, underwater noise, habitat degradation and diminishing food sources. 

This has led the International Union for Conservation of Nature and the Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission (HELCOM) to classify the Baltic Proper Harbour Porpoise as Critically Endangered.  Likewise, the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission has expressed serious concern about the status of this population.

Under ASCOBANS, countries have committed to the conservation of the Harbour Porpoise. There are three ASCOBANS Action Plans for harbour porpoises, and two of them, the Jastarnia Plan and the Western Baltic Conservation Plan focus on the conservation and recovery of harbour porpoises in the Baltic.  Countries report annually on the progress of implementation of these plans - the latest progress reports can be found enclosed.

Harbour porpoise © M. Camm


Last year, ASCOBANS Parties adopted a resolution on the Baltic Proper Harbour Porpoise, emphasizing the need to implement the obligation to strictly protect the Harbour Porpoise as a species included in the EU Habitats Directive, and considering the ASCOBANS Jastarnia Plan as a valuable contribution.  The resolution further encourages Parties to implement and develop alternative gear to replace static nets, and any other device, method, or technique that could potentially be used to reduce bycatch towards zero without negative population-level impact on Baltic Proper Harbour Porpoises.

The Secretariat has encouraged institutions around the Baltic Sea to participate in the  International Day of the Baltic Harbour Porpoise, which this year falls on 16 May 2021.  Those organising IDBHP events are invited to register them to the ASCOBANS Facebook page, and to send pictures. 

In 2002, ASCOBANS designated the third Sunday in May of each year as the International Day of the Baltic Harbour Porpoise (IDBHP) to raise awareness on the critical conservation status of the only cetacean species population native to the Baltic Sea. This day serves as a reminder to us that extinction is real, and urgent action is needed to save the Baltic Harbour Porpoise.

The public has a critical role to play in the fight against extinction.  For example, buying sustainably fished and certified fish can make a big difference. Thinking carefully about our consumption patterns in general is important – and making sure that what we no longer use does not end up polluting the ocean.

Find out more about what you can do on the ASCOBANS website.




Last updated on 16 May 2021

News item
Baltic Sea
Habitat loss and degradation
Human Disturbance
Noise pollution
Prey depletion
Phocoena phocoena
Species group: 
Marine mammals