Report Says Lack of Surveys Puts Marine Life at Risk

Article excerpt

MARINE mammal populations could be at risk because only 6% of the world's ocean surface has been surveyed adequately, according to new research.

Scientists at the University of St Andrews, Fife, and the University of Freiburg, Germany, said there are "dangerous gaps in knowledge" about species of whales, dolphins and porpoises, leaving them vulnerable to the effects of human activity including military sonar and bycatch during fishing.

The team of academics studied more than 1,100 estimates of the abundance of the mammals reported in more than 400 surveys conducted worldwide between 1975 and 2005.

However, they said that while a quarter of the world's ocean surface has been surveyed, only 6% has been covered well enough to indicate trends in population size.

Human ability to protect cetaceans from threats such as oil spills and seismic surveys, used in offshore oil exploration, relies on "good information", the team said.

Dr Nicola Quick, co-author of the research and honorary research fellow at the University of St Andrews, said: "One of the primary motivations for our research was to know where whales might be most vulnerable to the use of military sonar or seismic surveys to find oil under the seabed. …