Report of the Working Group on Marine Mammal Ecology (WGMME), 4–7 February 2013, Paris, France: ICES CM 2013/ACOM:26

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The Working Group on Marine Mammal Ecology (WGMME) met in Paris, France from 4–7 February 2013. Eunice Pinn chaired the meeting of 18 participants, repre-senting ten countries.
Six ToRs were addressed. The first reviewed progress with the CRR report on moni-toring strategies for marine mammals with a view to submitting a new resolution to publish it. The second looked at new information on abundance and provided advice on suitable management units in relation to potential marine mammal indicators building on the work undertaken last year and also that of OSPAR ICG-COBAM expert group on marine mammals and reptiles. Although the third ToR could not be fully addressed due to delays in a report that was to be reviewed, some progress was made with regard to outlining the policy decisions required for determining safe bycatch limits. The fourth ToR could not be fully addressed either. This was to review the applicability of the Joint Cetacean Protocol for European reporting requirements such as MSFD and the Habitats Directive. Unfortunately the report was not available to review, but some progress was made with the further development and operation-alization of ICG-COBAM’s common indicators. The fifth ToR covered the further development of the seal database and the sixth looked at monitoring requirements in relation to marine mammals during the development and deployment of marine renewables.
In 2009, ICES requested that the Working Group on Marine Mammal Ecology (WGMME) “Develop a framework for surveillance and monitoring of marine mam-mals applicable to the ICES area that is realistically achievable by contracting par-ties”. This remained a term of ToR for the WG in 2010 and development of this work into a Cooperative Research Report was approved by ICES in 2011. Subsequently, due to continued slow progress during 2012, the decision was taken, in consultation with ICES, to withdraw the proposed CRR until such time as progress justified sub-mission of a new proposal. During the meeting it was decided to refocus the report on the monitoring requirements for the common indicators identified by ICG-COBAM which could potentially contribute to OSPAR Joint Assessment and Moni-toring Programme (JAMP) for biodiversity monitoring.
Requests from the European Commission and OSPAR on the development of indica-tors and targets for determining Good Environmental Status (GES) under MSFD and building on work undertaken in 2012, management units were further reviewed and delineated for cetaceans. Boundaries were specified so that the management units can be populated with abundance and bycatch estimates. As previously agreed, these boundaries coincide with ICES Area/Division boundaries where possible. It was not possible to provide a similar consideration of seal management units.
Linked with this, further consideration was given to ICG-COBAM’s common indica-tors for marine mammals. The proposals were accepted in principal but some chang-es will be required to make them operational. The WG focused on trying to make the indicators operational and, in the process, it was inevitable that a few issues would be identified. The WG took care not to change the most important messages relating to the indicators (name, metrics and targets), although there were some minor editorial changes. However, changes were proposed to other elements with the most im-portant objective being to make them operational in practice. The further develop-ment of the seal database was also linked with these indicators.
Current monitoring efforts to determine the distribution and habitat use of marine mammals, in relation to environmental impact assessments, e.g. for marine renewa-ble energy developments, typically take place at much smaller spatial scales than are ecologically relevant to marine mammals, and are often undertaken independently without broader coordination. This results in numerous disparate datasets that are difficult to integrate when assessing overall impacts of marine renewable energy developments. Case studies were provided for Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium, and UK. A need for strategic decision-making in the early stages was identified. In the initial monitoring design stages, regulators and developers must develop clear, achievable monitoring objectives, and design realistic ways to achieve them, so that robust scientific data with sufficient statistical power can be gathered given available resources. There is also a critical need to improve integration of data collection efforts throughout the lifetime of a project, thereby ensuring that data gathered during pre-consenting site characterization stages can act as the “before” dataset for later studies of magnitude of impact. This requires that BACI / BAGI or other suitable approaches be adequately considered and evaluated with respect to statistical power at, or near, the outset of site characterization data gathering. Too often, monitoring programs in ad-jacent marine renewable energy developments occur independently without broader coordination. Regulators and seabed owners need to acknowledge the need for data pooling, require it as an integral part for marine renewable consenting and develop internationally standardized comparable data formats for easy access and analysis. The Joint Cetacean Protocol (JCP) may serve as such an example.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationReport of the Working Group on Marine Mammal Ecology (WGMME), 4–7 February 2013, Paris, France
Subtitle of host publicationICES CM 2013/ACOM:26
Place of PublicationCopenhagen, Denmark
PublisherInternational Council for Exploration of the Sea
Number of pages117
Publication statusPublished - 25 Apr 2013


  • marine mammals
  • cetaceans
  • seals
  • population structure
  • management unit
  • Bycatch
  • Monitoring


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