The Sister Sanctuary Program, managed by Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, was established in 2006 to facilitate the effective management of a shared population of humpback whales across jurisdictional boundaries throughout its migratory range, from feeding and nursery grounds in the Gulf of Maine to breeding and calving areas in the Wider Caribbean region.
Sanctuaries and protected areas
A marine protected area is defined by the World Conservation Union (IUCN 1994) as ‘any area of intertidal or subtidal terrain, together with its overlying water and associated flora, fauna, historical and cultural features, which has been reserved by law or other effective means to protect part or all of the enclosed environment.’ There are various types of protected areas, with varying levels of protection depending on each country's enabling laws or the regulations of the international organisations involved.
Two Sanctuaries are currently designated by the International Whaling Commission, both of which prohibit commercial whaling. The first of these, the Indian Ocean Sanctuary, was established in 1979 and covers the whole of the Indian Ocean south to 55°S. The second was adopted in 1994 and covers the waters of the Southern Ocean around Antarctica. The precise co-ordinates are recorded in the Schedule at paragraphs 7.(a) and 7.(b). In 2018 the Commission accepted a management plan for the Southern Ocean Sanctuary developed by the Scientific and Conservation Committees. Information on the research objectives can be found here
The U.S. also protects cetaceans and their habitat through the designation of national marine sanctuaries, authorized under the National Marine Sanctuaries Act. National marine sanctuaries, as well as marine national monuments, manage and protect designated areas of the nation’s oceans and Great Lakes and provide habitat for multiple cetacean and other protected species.
France, together with Italy and Monaco, have created in 2002 the Pelagos whale sanctuary which encompasses both territorial and international waters of the north-western Mediterranean. This area is summer home range and critical feeding habitat to the isolated population of the Mediterranean fin whale, Baleanoptera physalus, and a diversity of small cetaceans. The management of this valued marine natural heritage in such a heavily anthropised region should benefit to other regions with a similar environmental challenge.
An active site-oriented conservation strategy has been developed since April 2006, of the law relative to the establishment of Marine Natural Parks and the creation of the Agency for Marine Protected Areas whose aims are: to support public policies in the field of marine protected areas, regarding both their creation and their management, to manage the human and financial resources dedicated to Marine Natural Parks, to give technical and administrative support to managers of marine protected areas.
Gabon Bleu is a presidential marine conservation initiative to manage Gabon's coastal and oceanic waters and create a marine protected area network. Gabon Bleu also aims to improve industrial and artisanal fisheries, offshore oil and gas, and maritime security. Gabon Bleu works with local and international NGOs like WCS and WWF. Examples of the intiative's achievements include:
1. New Fisheries and Aquaculture Agency (ANPA)
2. An Ocean Council (CNM)
3. New legislation to create fishing zones and better apply fisheries law.
In Gabon, there are currently four marine protected areas (Akanda, Pongara, Loango and Mayumba). President Ali Bongo Ondimba of Gabon announced in 2017 at the United Nations Ocean Conference in New York his country’s creation of a massive marine protected areas network consisting of 9 new marine parks and 11 aquatic reserves. This initiative expands Gabon’s protected waters by 53,000 sq. km, just over 26% of its Territorial Sea and Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
The Marine Management Organisation (MMO) uses an intelligence led risk based enforcement model to direct enforcement activities and resources. Any intelligence received by the MMO in relation to offences against cetaceans or anthropogenic impacts in MPAs designated for them is considered and appropriate enforcement action taken. As part of the Marine Licensing process for offshore construction, the MMO require and monitor the implementation of Marine Mammal Mitigation Protocols (MMMPs) to mitigate against harm and disturbance to cetaceans, including for piling work on wind farms.
The core legal framework in New Zealand for the protection of cetaceans includes the following:
• The Marine Mammals Protection Act 1978 (this provides for the full protection of cetaceans in New Zealand as well as the compulsory reporting of any capture of marine mammals).
• The Marine Mammals Protection Regulations 1992 (this prescribes the behaviour of persons, vessels, aircraft and vehicles in the vicinity of marine mammals).