Baltic harbour porpoise conservation

Baltic porpoises are rare and elusive and can be heard better than they can be seen. CREEM is a leading developer of underwater acoustic methods to monitor populations of whales and dolphins that vocalise. We have developed statistical methods for animal density estimation from passive acoustic data. In the Baltic, we designed the world’s largest passive acoustic survey (300 locations over 2 years) as part of an EU Life project. 

A new survey using methods developed entirely by St Andrews has located a previously unknown Baltic harbour porpoise breeding site south of Gotland in Sweden that has been targeted for the country’s largest ever marine protected area (Natura 2000) site, covering over 1 million hectares. The project was led by Dr Mats Amundin, with St Andrews doing the statistical method development and design. The Baltic Sea harbour porpoise population is classified as Critically Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Marine protected areas (MPAs) are important instruments in the protection of marine mammals and this MPA is large enough to provide effective protection when combined with an effective management plan. The proposed MPA has galvanised relevant bodies into developing such a plan. 

Baltic harbour porpoise in sea, with dorsal fin breaking the surface.
Credit: BaltCF