20/21 May 2007: For the past five years now,
the third Sunday of May has been celebrated as the International
Day of the Baltic Harbour Porpoise. But this day of honour
for the barely 5 feet long whale is no joyous occasion:
the Baltic Harbour Porpoise is close to extinction. Therefore,
the Secretariat of the UN Agreement on the Conservation
of Small Cetaceans of the Baltic and North Seas (UNEP/ASCOBANS)
is using 20th May, the Harbour Porpoise Day 2007, to present
the “ASCOBANS Award“ to a true champion of
marine mammal protection and the society she founded almost
thirty years ago.
The jury considered the untiring commitment of Petra
Deimer, her husband Hans-Jürgen Schütte, a retired
TV journalist, and the Society for the Protection of Marine
Mammals (GSM) over the years to be an outstanding achievement.
By bestowing this award, ASCOBANS would like to express
its thanks and recognise the educational and public awareness
raising initiatives undertaken by GSM. Peter Reijnders,
who has been vice-chairman of the ASOBANS Advisory Committee
for many years, welcoming the decision, said: “I
have known Petra Deimer for several decades now. She has
successfully managed to combine her journalistic and scientific
education and has done an excellent job of persuading
fishermen, scientists and the general public of the merits
of the cause of marine mammal protection.” He did
however attach a condition to giving her the prize: “She
must continue this work with the same commitment and energy
that she has shown over the last three decades!”
GSM, a non-profit organisation, skilfully deploys modern
media techniques to make the case for protecting marine
mammals. With regard to the Baltic Harbour Porpoise, particularly
worthy of mention are the initiative “Sailors on
the Lookout for Harbour Porpoises”, various publications
or the video “Small Whale in Big Trouble”,
which the Deimer-Schüttes jointly produced.
With fewer than 600 survivors, the Baltic’s only
native species of whale is under severe threat of extinction.
The “big trouble” of the small and seldom-seen
whale with the friendly, round face has a number of causes.
Pollutants, overfishing and underwater noise certainly
all play their part. The greatest danger however is bycatch
in fishing nets. Because they are mammals, Harbour Porpoises
must come to the surface of the water regularly to breathe.
But they cannot see or detect with echolocation modern
nets which are made of thin, untearable, artificial thread.
Therefore, they easily get tangled up in them and drown.
Only with the support of the people living around the
Baltic who use the resources of this sea or spend their
holidays there, can this small porpoise be saved. Under
the auspices of UNEP/ASCOBANS not only are coordinated
conservation measures agreed between the adjoining countries,
but also the International Day of the Baltic Harbour Porpoise
has been declared. This year it will be marked again with
special exhibitions and programmes in numerous locations.
For more information please contact:
Gesellschaft zum Schutz der Meeressäugetiere e.V.
+49 4106 620 601
+49 228 815 2418