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Home NATIONALObservation of Baltic Sea harbour porpoise starts again
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Wed, 22 Jun, 2016 12:02:14 AM
FTimes Report, Jun 22
 
Observation of critically endangered harbour porpoises in the Baltic Sea waters has begun again, says an official release.
 
Early summer is a good time to observe harbour porpoises—the only species of cetaceans in the Baltic Sea.
 
The population in the main basin of the Baltic Sea is estimated at about 500 specimens. The estimate is based on monitoring conducted in the international SAMBAH project, where an underwater acoustic monitoring network was placed in the Baltic Sea.
 
Data from observations by citizens is a valuable addition to the research and protection of harbour porpoises.
 
The campaign is conducted by the Turku University of Applied Sciences, WWF Finland, Natural Resources Institute Finland, Finnish Environment Institute and Ministry of the Environment.
 
The aim of the campaign is to have more information on the occurrence of porpoises and disseminate information on the only cetacean species in the Baltic Sea.
 
The Agreement on the Conservation of Small Cetaceans ASCOBANS and the Habitat Directive by EU obliges Finland to organise the monitoring of harbour porpoises and to gather information and report on them.
 
It is estimated that in the early 20th century there were still thousands of harbour porpoises in the Baltic Sea.
 
The population suffered from the extremely cold winters in the 1940s when the whole of the Baltic Sea was covered with ice, and it never recovered from this.
 
The main threat to harbour porpoise is now being caught as bycatch in fishing. Other reasons for the population decline include environmental toxins, underwater noise and other disturbance caused by human activity. Harbour porpoises are likely to no longer breed in the Finnish waters, according to the release.
 
In 2011–2014 there were 14 verified observations of harbour porpoises made by the acoustic monitoring in the territorial waters of Finland.  Most of these were in the open sea area to the south of the Åland Islands and the Archipelago Sea.
 
All of the acoustic observations were made between December and May, while the visual ones were made during the summer.
 
Since 2001 the Ministry of the Environment has announced an annual campaign where private citizens are asked to report observations of harbour porpoises in the marine areas of Finland.
 
By 2015 a total of 63 observations concerning 113 specimens had been reported.
 
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