Small Cetaceans in Western Africa

A number of species of small cetaceans can be found in West African waters, including the endemic Atlantic humpback dolphin. Small cetaceans, which include dolphins, porpoises and small toothed whales, are subjected to various threats, such as habitat degradation, bycatch, directed catches, over-fishing and pollution. In order to study and provide information on the conservation status of small cetaceans in West Africa – a region where the conservation situation of small cetaceans is not well known – a series of projects have been undertaken with financial support from CMS.

These studies – WAFCET 1-3 – stressed the importance of the conservation of small cetaceans in West Africa.

West African Manatee

The West African manatee belongs to the order Sirenia and is one of three manatee species, along with the Amazonian and the American manatee. Being the most threatened of the three species, as noted by the CMS Scientific Council in 1999, it is listed in Appendix II of the Convention. Among the main threats for this species are the destruction of its natural habitats, mangroves and coastal wetlands, by pollution and overexploitation; and the hunting for meat, leather and oil. A further threat is incidental catch in fishing nets. Despite legal protection by national laws in Range States, killing and illegal utilization continue, showing a lack of effective compliance and enforcement.

In view of the various threats to the West African manatee, Wetlands International has developed a conservation strategy with a view to implementing an action plan, in collaboration with the Convention for Cooperation in the Protection and Development of the Marine and Coastal Environment of the West and Central African Region (Abidjan Convention, 1984), the United Nations Environment Programme and CMS. A regional meeting to discuss issues pertaining to the current development of an action plan for the conservation of the West African manatee was held in Dakar in December 2006.