Environmental organization Sea Shepherd Germany is undertaking a campaign in the Baltic Sea to protect endangered harbor porpoises with a new patrol ship donated by organic soap maker Dr. Bronner’s. The Baltic Sea harbor porpoise is listed as “critically endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. In 2016, its population was estimated to be less than 500 individuals. 

The porpoise is protected under E.U. law, and therefore member states are obliged to take measures to ensure the protection of its natural habitats. However, because of exemptions to these regulations in Germany, the use of gillnets is allowed in Flora, Fauna, Habitat areas and nature sanctuaries. Harbor porpoises often end up as bycatch in these nets and drown, says Sea Shepherd.

One of the protective measures to get around this is the use of pingers (so-called acoustic harassment devices), which are used to repel cetaceans from fishing nets. These pingers are not always used, and from July until the end of September Sea Shepherd Germany will be patrolling the waters of the Baltic Sea, documenting illegal nets and reporting them to the local authorities.

Globally, about 600,000 marine mammals get entangled in fishing nets every year, about half of them whales, porpoises and dolphins. The Agreement on the Conservation of Small Cetaceans of the Baltic and North Seas (ASCOBANS) entered into force in 1994, and in 2009, the Jastarnia Plan, a Recovery Plan for Baltic Harbour Porpoises came into effect. Under that plan, the ASCOBANS signatory states have since begun to take measures to reduce by-catch in active fishing nets and to remove ghost fishing gear. 

The new patol ship, M/V Emanuel Bronner, carries the name of the soap company’s founder and was christened by his grandson, Michael Bronner, in the harbor museum of Bremen on June 1. The family-owned Dr. Bronner’s company has been a supporter of Sea Shepherd’s mission to protect the oceans, donating supplies and funds for direct-action campaigns around the world.

Source: Maritime Executive