Document presented to the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission
Sousa teuszii, Atlantic humpback dolphin, IWC, conservation, research, management, genetics, Photo identification
The Barcelona meeting has reinvigorated motivation and collaborative effort for implementing actions for S. teuszii. The authors intend to establish an independent expert group, with a committee experienced in working on the west coast of Africa, to initiate and drive some of the Targets identified by Weir and Collins (2020). The overall mission of the group will be to “Work towards the long-term sustainability of S. teuszii populations on the west coast of Africa through research, communication and action.” Target 1 runs parallel with and aligns well with the CMS CA, but Targets 2 and 3 are not currently being addressed. The aims of the IWC Africa-Focused Sousa Task Team are likely to overlap with Targets 2 and 3. However, we recommend that achieving optimal conservation action for S. teuszii would be more likely if the existing IWC Task Team was split to separately cover the two African Sousa species, or at least divided into separate species-focussed working groups. Over the coming months, the Barcelona meeting WGs will work through each of the Targets, expand on them, potentially add to them, flesh out the details and rank them in order of priority. They will also be tasked with identifying potential sources of funding and if appropriate assist with the application process. However, given that actions for the species have repeatedly stalled in recent years and that there is expert consensus that urgent action for the species is necessary, the co-authors of this paper have reviewed the Targets to identify those that could most easily be implemented with immediate funding (Table 1). Our assessment is based both on perceived benefit for the conservation and management of S. teuszii, and on the practicalities with which Targets are immediately achievable in the short-term on the ground in Africa. We have selected a single high priority Target for each of the three broad areas identified by Weir and Collins (2020): 1. Increase awareness (at different stakeholder levels from community through to national government), capacity building and protection measures: Target 1.1 is deemed high priority, and falls under the remit of the CMS CA. The latter was recently elevated from medium to high priority, and received significant support from some range state representatives. Next steps towards convening the range state meeting stipulated in the CA include the development of a draft conservation plan and its circulation for comments among range states stakeholders. This would ensure that an advanced version would be available at the meeting, as and when it can take place. That process is being driven by the CMS, who are seeking funding to support it. 2. Fill knowledge gaps: Based on the assessment in Table 1, we have identified the initiation of an assessment survey in Senegal and The Gambia as the highest priority for immediate funding under Area 2, and the one that would have the highest likelihood of success within the two years. Several other Targets could potentially be integrated with such a survey, and the outputs would also directly influence the development of similar work in other range states. 3. Implement immediate actions to address threats: The most obvious high priority for funding to implement direct action is in Congo, where a specific bycatch issue has been identified for S. teuszii in marine nearshore habitat. We recommend this as the highest priority for funding under Area 3.