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Precautionary principle or evidence-based conservation? Assessing the information content of threat data for the Yangtze finless porpoise

Mogensen, LMW; Mei, Z; Hao, Y; Harrison, XA; Wang, D; Turvey, ST; (2022) Precautionary principle or evidence-based conservation? Assessing the information content of threat data for the Yangtze finless porpoise. Frontiers in Marine Science 10.3389/fmars.2021.791484. Green open access

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Abstract

Conservation management requires evidence, but robust data on key parameters such as threats are often unavailable. Conservation-relevant insights might be available within datasets collected for other reasons, making it important to determine the information content of available data for threatened species and identify remaining data-gaps before investing time and resources in novel data collection. The Yangtze finless porpoise (Neophocaena asiaeorientalis asiaeorientalis) has declined severely across the middle-lower Yangtze, but multiple threats exist in this system and the relative impact of different anthropogenic activities is unclear, preventing identification of appropriate mitigation strategies. Several datasets containing information on porpoises or potential threats are available from past boat-based and fishing community surveys, which might provide novel insights into causes of porpoise mortality and decline. We employed multiple analytical approaches to investigate spatial relationships between live and dead porpoises and different threats, reproductive trends over time, and sustainable offtake levels, to assess whether evidence-based conservation is feasible under current data availability. Our combined analyses provide new evidence that mortality is spatially associated with increased cargo traffic; observed mortality levels (probably a substantial underestimate of true levels) are unsustainable; and population recruitment is decreasing, although multiple factors could be responsible (pollutants, declining fish stocks, anthropogenic noise, reduced genetic diversity). Available data show little correlation between patterns of mortality and fishing activity even when analyzed across multiple spatial scales; however, interview data can be affected by multiple biases that potentially complicate attempts to reconstruct levels of bycatch, and new data are required to understand dynamics and sustainability of porpoise-fisheries interactions. This critical assessment of existing data thus suggests that in situ porpoise conservation management must target multiple co-occurring threats. Even limited available datasets can provide new insights for understanding declines, and we demonstrate the importance of an integrative approach for investigating complex conservation problems and maximizing evidence in conservation planning for poorly known taxa.

Type: Article
Title: Precautionary principle or evidence-based conservation? Assessing the information content of threat data for the Yangtze finless porpoise
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.3389/fmars.2021.791484
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.3389/fmars.2021.791484
Language: English
Additional information: © 2022 Mogensen, Mei, Hao, Harrison, Wang and Turvey. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.
Keywords: Cetacean, conservation effectiveness, evidence-based conservation, interview survey, precautionary principle, sustainable offtake, uncertainty
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences > Div of Biosciences
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10139986
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