Report of the Working Group on Marine Mammal Ecology (WGMME), 5–8 March 2012, Copenhagen, Denmark. ICES CM 2012/ACOM:27

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The Working Group on Marine Mammal Ecology (WGMME) met at ICES in Copen-hagen, Denmark from 5 March to 8 March 2012. Eunice Pinn chaired the meeting of 21 participants, representing eight countries.
Three ToRs were addressed, the first covered new information on abundance and provided advice on suitable management units while the second looked at potential marine mammal indicators building on the work undertaken last year and also that of OSPAR ICG-COBAM expert group on marine mammals. The third ToR reviewed the development and potential effects of wave energy converters on marine mam-mals and provided recommendations on future research needs. One ToR, on the de-velopment of the seal database, was deferred to 2013.
The WG built on the work of the ASCOBANS/HELCOM small cetacean population structure workshop to determine Management Units (MUs) for the more common species as such information is relevant to the development of biodiversity indicators. Based on the available information, there were single MUs in European North Atlan-tic for common dolphin (Delphinus delphis), white beaked dolphin (Lagenorhynchus albirostris), white sided dolphin (Lagenorhynchus acutus) and minke whale (Balaenop-tera acutorostrata). For bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) there are ten separate units closely associated with the mainly resident inshore populations in the European North Atlantic and a separate MU for the wider ranging mainly offshore animals. For harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena), MUs are proposed for the Iberian Pennisula, Bay of Biscay, Celtic Sea (including SW Ireland, Irish Sea and Western Channel) and NW Ireland/West Scotland and the North Sea. The MUs for harbour porpoises will need to be revisited as indicators for MSFD become better defined. It is likely that MUs will need to be aligned with ICES rectangles to enable the calculation of accurate bycatch estimates. For the purposes of MSFD, it maybe that consideration of the spe-cies will need occur at the regional seas level (e.g. North Sea).
OSPAR’s ICG-COBAM, as part of the development of the Advice Manual on MSFD indicators, developed a series of summary sheets for the ‘common’ indicators. Prior to publication, the sheets for marine mammals were made available to WGMME for further consideration. Biodiversity indicators covering seal distributional pattern and abundance were assessed against available information and suggestions made for the most appropriate target and metrics. These were closer to OSPAR’s EcoQOs than the more generic approach in the ICG-COBAM sheets. A similar consideration was also given to suggested indicators for cetacean distributional pattern and abundance. It was recognised that for cetaceans in particular, a transboundary approach is essential to both the monitoring and the assessments. Without such an approach, the value of the information collected and the accuracy of the status and/or indicator assessments made will be much lower. Further development of these distribution and abundance biodiversity indicators will be undertaken next year.
As part of the further development of indicators, bycatch was the only indicator sug-gested that had a clear link with a particular human activity. The indicator metric proposed by ICG-COBAM was very clearly linked to OSPAR’s EcoQO on harbour porpoise bycatch in the North Sea. Bycatch is been considered on a regular basis in previous years by both WGMME and the Working Group on the Bycatch of Protected Species (WGBYC). With pressure for the rapid development of biodiversity indicators for good environmental status through the MSFD, it is essential that they are based on sound science and take a pragmatic approach to the incorporation of fisheries data. As such, it was proposed that a management framework approach is adopted (rather than the EcoQO approach) and further developed in 2013 for relevant species.
The marine renewable industry is a rapidly developing sector. In past meetings, WGMME looked at the effects of windfarms (2010) and tidal devices (2011) on marine mammals. In 2012 it was the turn of wave energy converters. Wave energy converters (WECs) are at a relatively early stage of development when compared to other re-newable energy technologies. This is reflected in the lack of knowledge of effects that these devices might have on the marine environment in general and, therefore, a lack of information available for environmental consenting. In order to satisfy national and international requirements (e.g. the Habitats Directive), monitoring schemes need to gather baseline information before construction begins, as well as continued impact monitoring during the construction, operation and decommissioning phases of the deployment. Broadly, monitoring must take place at spatial and temporal scales that are appropriate to assess impacts upon marine mammals at the population level, although this rarely happens. It is, therefore, essential that full advantage is taken of test deployments and early arrays to gather information on the actual inter-actions between devices and wildlife. A review of such work will be undertaken in 2013.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationReport of the Working Group on Marine Mammal Ecology (WGMME), 5–8 March 2012, Copenhagen, Denmark.
Subtitle of host publicationICES CM 2012/ACOM:27
Place of PublicationCopenhagen, Denmark
PublisherInternational Council for Exploration of the Sea
Number of pages146
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jun 2012


  • Population structure
  • Management unit
  • indicators
  • Marine mammals
  • Seals
  • Wave Energy Converter
  • population structure


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