ICPC is fostering interdisciplinary conservation planning and international exchange of expertise through in-person and virtual workshops

Integrated Conservation Planning workshops are intended to encourage formation of new partnerships, to increase levels of trust and understanding among conservation practitioners and stakeholders across multiple management contexts, and to expand and enhance the quality of the tools available for science-based conservation action.

Human Dimensions of Small Cetacean Conservation. Dec 16-20, 2022

 This workshop examined the role of human behavior, attitudes, and perceptions in conservation efforts for dolphins and porpoises. Participants reviewed current challenges and opportunities for engaging local communities and stakeholders in conservation efforts, and highlighted the need for a more holistic approach that takes into account social, economic and cultural factors. The workshop concluded that incorporating human dimensions considerations into small cetacean conservation efforts means careful attention to the role of human behavior in causing and mitigating impacts on the animals and their environment, and that successful strategies for improved conservation of dolphins and porpoises will ultimately involve facilitating changes in human behavior.

Amazon River dolphins (Inia geoffrensis) in the Orinoco displaying aerial activity in a breeding area. © Fernando Trujillo

Integrated Conservation Planning for Cetaceans, at Society for Marine Mammalogy Conference, July 30-31 2022

This 2-part/2-day workshop introduced SMM members to integrated conservation planning, and to resources within IUCN available to facilitate conservation planning projects. Activities included 1) an introduction to integrated conservation principles, 2) a review of projects demonstrating their application to small cetacean conservation issues, 3) visioning future ICPC projects, using case studies to formulate a template for evaluating knowledge gaps of primary importance in relation to particular threat scenarios, and 4) developing a process to identify the cetacean cases most in need of integrated conservation planning.

Yangtze finless porpoise Symposium and Workshop 21-27 November 2019

An international symposium on Yangtze finless porpoise (Neophocaena asiaeorientalis asiaeorientalis) conservation and an associated workshop were held on 21-27 November 2019 at the Institute of Hydrobiology (IHB) in Wuhan, China. The aim of the symposium was to review status of the Yangtze finless porpoise and provide participants an overview of the efforts to conserve the animals living in their natural environment (in situ) of the Yangtze River, and protect those living in semi-natural reserves outside their natural environment (ex situ), with the intent of maintaining a reservoir of genetic diversity and assisting in the restoration of porpoises throughout their historical range.

A Yangtze finless porpoise (Neophocaena asiaeorientalis asiaeorientalis) encircled during a translocation program, Poyang lake, China. The practice of gradually reducing the size of the net-enclosed area following initial capture for translocation and health assessment has greatly reduced the risk of accidental porpoise mortality. © Baoyan Gao

The aims of the workshop were to review the Chinese Government’s integrated conservation plan for the critically endangered Yangtze finless porpoise, identify ways to enhance the chances of its success, and highlight this program as an example that may be applicable to other threatened small cetaceans. The Chinese Government’s “Action Plan for Saving the Yangtze Finless Porpoise (2016-2025)” stands as a unique example of applying a conservation management strategy that integrates both in situ conservation efforts in the natural habitat and ex situ conservation efforts in semi-natural sanctuaries and research aquarium facilities.


The Workshop and Symposium Report is expected to be published in late 2023. A separate Population Viability Analysis of the in situ and ex situ populations, with detailed analyses and recommendations for Yangtze finless porpoise conservation, is currently being planned, and the results are expected to be published in 2024.


The symposium and workshop were hosted by the IHB, Chinese Academy of Sciences. Participating organizations included the Institute, IUCN-Species Survival Commission’s Cetacean Specialist Group, China’s Yangtze River Basin Fishery Supervision and Administration Office of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, China’s State Forestry and Grassland Administration, China’s National Aquatic Wildlife Conservation Association, Wuhan Baiji Conservation Foundation, World Wildlife Fund, One Planet Foundation and the National Marine Mammal Foundation in San Diego, USA.

Preparing to release a tagged franciscana (Pontoporia blainvillei) in Bahia San Blas, Argentina, March 2008. © Chicago Zoological Society’s Sarasota Dolphin Research Program

2019 Franciscana Workshop,  Argentina

A workshop on franciscana conservation was held at Mundo Marino in San Clemente del Tuyu, Argentina from 3 to 6 November 2019.

The franciscana dolphin is only found in the coastal waters of Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay. The species is regarded as one of the most endangered cetaceans in South America [1]. Five large, geographically-defined franciscana management areas (FMAs) are currently recognized, with abundance estimates of only a few hundred animals in some isolated  populations (e.g. in sub-area FMAIa), to around 15,000 total in all of Brazil. Bycatch in gillnet fisheries is the main threat to the species, removing as much as 6% of particular populations annually. Other threats include habitat degradation and pollution. Current mortality levels and projected declines resulted in the listing of the franciscana as Vulnerable in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Recent fisheries regulations implemented in areas with extensive bycatch in Brazil are expected to improve the species’ conservation status.

The franciscana conservation workshop pursued several objectives:

• update the conservation status of the species along its entire range and identify key threats

• familiarize participants with integrated conservation planning (in situ and ex situ measures all considered in the same action plan)

• explore the potential role(s) of ex situ measures to support the conservation of this species in its natural habitat

• identify important data gaps in our understanding of species status and species biology in the wild and in relation to ex situ management

• development of rehabilitation protocols for live stranded franciscanas, especially neonates

At the franciscana workshop we also discussed recent evidence that suggests a progressive disappearance of Lahille’s bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus gephyreus) in the La Plata River estuary; the sum of the available abundance estimates now suggests a maximum total population size of 600 individuals. ICPC has instituted a new priority project that will help begin to fill critical health information gaps for this rapidly declining subspecies.

Two new papers published after the 2019 workshop summarize the issues, threats and various aspects of  franciscana science and conservation – no separate workshop report will be published:

Tagging, ranging patterns, and behavior of franciscana dolphins (Pontoporia blainvillei) off Argentina and Brazil: Considerations for conservation [2]. Randall S. WellsMarta J. CremerLeonardo G. BerninsoneDiego AlbaredaKrystan A. WilkinsonM. Andrew StamperRenan L. PaitachPablo Bordino.

Synthesis of the Ecology, Human-Related Threats and Conservation Perspectives for the Endangered Franciscana Dolphin [3]. Eduardo R. Secchi, Marta J. Cremer, Daniel Danilewicz, José Lailson-Brito.

2018 ESOCC Workshop, Nuremberg, Germany

At the 2018 Workshop on Ex Situ Options for Cetacean Conservation, biologists, veterinarians and species experts examined trade-offs and discussed lessons learned from recent attempts to save critically endangered small cetaceans using ex situ approaches.

Discussions at the workshop that led to the conclusions and recommendations in the workshop report covered a range of issues, including the need to better inform in situ research, wildlife management, and advocacy communities about the full range of ex situ options available, as many people confuse all such efforts with ‘captive breeding’.

In practice, the range of ex situ approaches includes actions such as safeguarding animals in protected environments, for example in semi-natural reserves and netted or fenced enclosures, as well as the recovery, rehabilitation, and release of stranded, bycaught or otherwise incapacitated individuals. The practice of ex situ management also applies to other actions, such as rescuing animals from imminent threats such as a disease outbreak or a climate catastrophe, drought that dries up river channels leaving stranded animals or fragmented groups, or storms that causes animals to be stranded in unsuitable habitats.




Participants engaged at the workshop on The Human Dimensions of Small Cetacean Conservation, held December 2022 in Nuremberg, Germany.