Harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) in the North Atlantic: Abundance, removals, and sustainability of removals
The status of harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) populations in the North Atlantic has raised numerous concerns. Although a number of factors that may be adversely affecting harbour porpoise populations have been identified, focus has been on the impact of removals, primarily due to incidental catches in fishing gear. As a result, considerable efforts have been made to determine the levels and/or impact of bycatch in a number of areas. Unfortunately, many areas remain little studied. Currently, harbour porpoise are listed as threatened or vulnerable in many parts of their range. In order to determine if the current levels of removals are sustainable, information on stock identity and seasonal movements, population parameters, abundance, and the magnitude of removals is required. Although substantial progress has been made to improve our knowledge of these parameters in the last decade, significant gaps still exist. After reviewing the available data for each sub-population in the North Atlantic, it is clear that the information required to assess the status of harbour porpoise populations is still not available for most areas. Attempts have been made to assess the status of harbour porpoise based on trends in sightings or, in areas where information on abundance and bycatch are available, on models using arbitrary criteria and/or theoretical estimates of potential population growth. Detailed case-specific population models have been proposed but are not yet available.
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