Boy, it comes around so fast every year. That’s right, it’s here already. Saturday 16th May is ASCOBANS International Baltic Harbour Porpoise Day! We trust you will take the time to celebrate the day appropriately – sparing a thought for the marine environment and the critically endangered Baltic porpoise.

In 2002, the Agreement on the Conservation of Small Cetaceans in the Baltic, North East Atlantic, Irish and North Seas (UNEP/ASCOBANS) declared the third Sunday in May of each year as the “International Day of the Baltic Harbour Porpoise” (IDBHP) in order to raise awareness of the critical situation for populations of the Harbour Porpoise (Phocoena phocoena): the only species of cetacean native to the Baltic Sea.

Several studies have recently confirmed that only few of these animals can still be found in the main basin of the Baltic. This significant decline is largely due to human activities. The greatest threat posed is due to accidental by-catch through the entanglement in fishing nets. Other threats include underwater noise, over-fishing and habitat degradation (for example due to oil extraction).  Urgent action is needed to save the Baltic Harbour Porpoise from extinction.

Check out the SAMBAH project and some of the exciting results that found a potential breeding area for this population (see the maps from IUCN). The sounds that porpoises make were recorded by acoustic data loggers deployed at >300 locations throughout the Baltic Sea. The project is now complete and the number of harbour porpoises in the Baltic Sea was estimated as 447 (95% confidence interval 90–997).