M. Simmonds, Wendy J. Eliott
Feb 1, 2009
Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom
At least a quarter of the world's cetaceans were recently confirmed as endangered and the situation may be worse as the status of many others remains unclear. Climate change is affecting the oceans and a number of studies have recently highlighted its potential impact on cetacean species - for example, there are important linkages between sea ice and krill, the primary prey for baleen whales in Antarctica. This paper provides a synthesis of new information available on this theme and considers its implications for the future conservation and management of cetacean populations and species. The more mobile (or otherwise adaptable) cetaceans may be able to respond to climate related changes, although the extent of this adaptability is largely unknown. However, there is broad agreement that certain species and populations are likely to be especially vulnerable to climate related changes, including those with a limited habitat range, or those for which sea ice provides an important habitat for the cetacean population and/or that of their prey. International conservation bodies, such as the Convention for Migratory Species and the International Whaling Commission, are striving to address these issues. The challenges presented by climate change require an innovative, large scale, long term and multinational response from scientists, conservation managers and decision makers. This response that should encompass a precautionary approach, including addressing the detrimental effects of other factors negatively impacting populations and species.