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Connecting the nodes: migratory whale conservation and the challenge of accommodating uncertainty

Geijer, CKA; (2013) Connecting the nodes: migratory whale conservation and the challenge of accommodating uncertainty. Doctoral thesis (PhD), UCL (University College London). Green open access

Ph.D. Christina Geijer 2013.pdf

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As endangered, flagship species, baleen whales are at the centre of cetacean conservation efforts. Whilst successful conservation requires protection throughout a species’ range, current measures invariably focus on the whales’ more static feeding or breeding habitats. The aim of this thesis is to analyse the challenges and prospects of protecting threatened whales during their seasonal migrations. I sought to assess the appropriateness of Marine Protected Area network initiatives and sector-specific mitigations strategies for migratory whale conservation within the context of scientific uncertainty, the threat of ship-whale collisions, and regional geopolitics. To this end, I compared and contrasted data obtained from two case studies—fin whales Balaenoptera physalus in the Mediterranean Sea, and North Atlantic right whales Eubalaena glacialis off the U.S. East coast—using a transdisciplinary, qualitative research approach based on semi-structured interviews and a theoretical framework of uncertainty analysis. The results indicate that protection of migrating whales is better pursued through a narrow sectoral route with wide geographical scope, exemplified by the International Maritime Organisation, rather than governmental cross-sectoral Marine Protected Area networks, particularly in regions with high geopolitical complexity and low political will. Principle challenges to migratory whale conservation were discerned on two levels. On a species level, high ontological uncertainty—endemic dynamism and unpredictability—surrounding whale migratory behaviour render conventional, habitat-based conservation measures unsuitable, and require more creative, dynamic, and adaptive strategies. On a people level, considerable ambiguity—different ways of understanding and conceptualising the same issue or data—between individual researchers in the absence of adequate collaboration prevents the unified actions necessary for conserving a cross-boundary species. Indeed, whilst contextual parameters matter in conservation, building researcher networks to enhance collaboration amongst conservationists emerged as a pervasive theme and as a necessary tool for migratory whale conservation.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: PhD
Title: Connecting the nodes: migratory whale conservation and the challenge of accommodating uncertainty
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1392017
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