A group of Atlantic humpback dolphin (Sousa teuszii) sighted in the near shore waters of southern Gabon. © Tim Collins

Integrated Conservation Planning for Cetaceans (ICPC) is a team of biologists, veterinarians, and population experts that was formed in response to the desperate situation for a number of critically endangered dolphin and porpoise species. Many of these species and populations have shallow-water distributions that entirely overlap areas used intensively by people. Most are declining due to “bycatch mortality” in fishing nets. For some, we already know extinction is imminent without concerted action to save them.


The report of the Ex Situ Options for Cetacean Conservation workshop recommended:


•that marine mammal conservationists around the world work together and act with urgency to consider critically needed conservation measures both in wild environments within the species’ geographic range (in situ) and in protected or modified environments within or outside that range (ex situ).

This holistic framework for species conservation planning is known as the One Plan approach and was developed by the IUCN Species Survival Commission’s Conservation Planning Specialist Group. The approach also features direct involvement of many stakeholders – conservation scientists, NGO representatives, government wildlife managers, local community leaders and industry representatives – combined with science-based decision making to improve species conservation planning. The resulting product is an integrated conservation plan.


The ICPC initiatives will follow IUCN guidelines and will consider both in situ measures and ex situ options to create and implement an integrated conservation plan for each threatened dolphin and porpoise species and population, prioritized by their conservation status, the imminence of catastrophic decline, and the potential for effective mitigation.

Why do we need integrated conservation planning for cetaceans ?

The extinction of the baiji and the catastrophic decline to the edge of extinction of the vaquita are both examples of doing too little too late and also having too few tools ready for emergencies. Integrated conservation plans explicitly consider all tools that may be needed to save species and to actively fill in information gaps efficiently. Information gaps for cetaceans are especially large and may take decades to fill, so the need for integrated planning is especially urgent.


What is integrated conservation planning ?

Integrated planning takes advantage of a wide variety of expertise of marine mammal conservationists, working together to consider critically needed conservation measures. The range of potential conservation measures considered can include both those in wild environments within the species’ geographic range (in situ) and in protected or modified environments within or outside that range (ex situ). The resulting action plan is considered an integrated conservation plan, even if after careful consideration no ex situ conservation measures are determined to be justified or necessary.


What is ex situ conservation ?

People frequently associate the term “ex situ conservation” only with captive breeding in zoos and aquariums. In reality, beside captive breeding ex situ approaches comprise a variety of actions including safeguarding animals in protected environments such as semi-natural reserves to prevent species extinction, rescue and release of stranded or otherwise incapacitated individuals, and rescuing animals from imminent threats like a disease outbreak or a climate catastrophe.

Download the full Report of the 2018 “Ex Situ Options for Cetacean Conservation” workshop (pdf)

Download the Workshop Report Executive Summary (Chinese, English, French, German, Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish) (pdf)

Yangtze finless porpoise (Neophocaena asiaeorientalis asiaeorientalis) encircled during a translocation program, Poyang lake, China. Using a gradual reduction in net perimeter following initial capture has eliminated mortality in translocation and health assessment processes. © Baoyan Gao

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