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Wednesday, 25 September, 2002, 15:50 GMT 16:50 UK
Great whales a little safer
Sperm whale flukes   NOAA
Sperm whales now enjoy the highest protection

Six types of great whale have been given better protection under an international agreement on migratory species.

Camel in desert   BBC
Mongolian camels live on salty dune water
Other species to benefit include two rare Asian river dolphins, and a camel which can live on salty water.

The great white shark, immortalised by the movie Jaws, is also to get help.

And there will be steps to try to save birds from encounters with wind turbines and power lines.

The decision to step up protection attempts came at the end of a meeting of member states of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) in Bonn, Germany.

Electrocution danger

Fin, sei and sperm whales are now listed on Appendices I and II of the CMS. Antarctic minkes, Bryde's whale and the pygmy right whale have been placed on Appendix II.

Appendix I protects endangered species, and Appendix II provides extra conservation measures for species needing international protection.

Appendix I listing was also agreed for four other species:

  • the orca, or killer whale
  • the Ganges and Indus river dolphins, which are effectively blind, and navigate and feed using a sophisticated echolocation system
  • the great white shark: all countries with shark populations will now have to protect them from poaching and entanglement in fishing nets
  • a camel found in Mongolia and China: there are fewer than 1,000 animals, and their ability to live on salt water bubbling up from sand dunes suggests they may be a distinct species.
The CMS meeting also supported plans to protect birds and other migratory species from power lines, because of concern that large numbers are being electrocuted across the world.

World warned

CMS is urging countries to adopt bird-friendly techniques in building medium-voltage power lines, and to study the impacts of both offshore and onshore wind farms.

Mark Simmonds of the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS) welcomed the improved protection for cetaceans.

Sharks in sea   BBC
Great white sharks are seriously endangered
He said: "It is wonderful news that this major international conservation body has chosen to take such a clear stand to help conserve the world's whales and recognises the full range of threats that these animals face - including climate change, chemical and noise pollution, and bycatch.

"This sends a clear signal to the world community that whale conservation needs to be urgently addressed and that CMS, in addition to the International Whaling Commission and the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species, has an important role to play in this process."

Japan kills about 440 Antarctic minkes a year for scientific research, which is permitted by the International Whaling Commission.

Niki Entrup of WDCS told BBC News Online: "I think from now on it will be harder for the Japanese to argue that there are no environmental threats to minkes in the Antarctic.

"So it should be more difficult for them to seek to set a quota for a commercial catch, beyond their research whaling."

Whale images courtesy of US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

See also:

04 Aug 02 | Breakfast
29 Jun 02 | Asia-Pacific
06 Feb 01 | Science/Nature
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