Important new UK government report on marine mammals published

June 29, 2023

A new report from a government review that OceanCare provided evidence to has just been released and comes to some very helpful conclusions.

Protecting Marine Mammals in the UK and Abroad, the report of the House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee has just been released. It calls for new comprehensive and precautionary actions to protect these animals and among its recommendations are that:

  • The legal framework in the UK needs to be improved by new primary legislation focused on marine mammal protection;
  • That the seal species in UK waters (grey and harbour seals) need to be more fully protected under UK law (specifically by adding them to the list of species in Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act as soon as possible);
  • Urgent steps should be taken to close the loophole that allows the transit of whale products through UK ports;
  • The monitoring of bycatch (the incidental capture of marine mammals in fishing equipment) needs to be improved; and
  • More generally, actions intended to help protect marine mammals need to have clearer targets and associated timelines.

Mark Simmonds, OceanCare’s Director of Science, was one of six independent witnesses called to give evidence to the committee and he did this in writing and in person in 2022. OceanCare’s report Under Pressure – The need to protect whales and dolphins in European waters was considered along with other evidence and is cited in the final report.

Mark comments: “This is an important document. The Committee considered a large amount of information, including many written submissions and documents, and has come to conclusions that are both wise and far-reaching. The need to better protect marine mammals in an age when pressures are mounting is clear but how to best tackle this is not straightforward. The UK’s current legal protection is piecemeal and the EFRA report supports the need to address this. It also recognises the need to raise concerns with those nations that continue to whale on all available opportunities.”

OceanCare hopes that the current UK government and the next one will give due consideration to this report and enact new protection for marine mammals as soon as possible and we will be following up with them to see that this happens.