Bonn, 7 October 2008-A new CMS Memorandum of Understanding to conserve the West African Manatee and Small Whales in Western Africa and Macaronesia was concluded in Lomé, Togo. The conservation instrument with two Action Plans for the conservation of theses species was adopted at the second inter-governmental meeting on Western African and Macaronesian aquatic mammals (WATCH-Western African Talks on Cetaceans and their Habitats). More than 30 small cetacean species will be covered in the agreement area that stretches from Macaronesia, through Morocco to South Africa.
The need to conserve and raise awareness of western Africa's marine mammals is as pressing as ever. Various threats, including direct and accidental catch, coastal development, pollution and habitat degradation, have caused western African marine mammal populations to decline rapidly. These issues require action on a regional, national and global level. The WATCH meetings and related activities under the auspices of CMS are an important part of the progress made in this field and can play a vital role in future conservation efforts.
The new instrument, which will serve as a permanent legacy of the Year of the Dolphin, is crucial for the conservation of marine mammals in the western African and Macaronesian region. It helps to facilitate transboundary cooperation by providing an international platform to negotiate and coordinate research and conservation measures. In this regard, CMS is reinforcing initiatives of other actors in the region. CMS seeks to provide a suitable legal and institutional framework to facilitate the implementation and further development of conservation efforts and optimise use of resources.
CMS Executive Secretary Robert Hepworth said: "The new agreement in western Africa is the fourth in our network of regional agreements, which now conserve migratory cetaceans in key areas of the Mediterranean Sea, Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, and beyond. Concluding this agreement, and obtaining so many signatories on the spot, is a real boost for marine conservation in the run-up to the CMS Conference of Parties in December. Now we need to encourage Portugal, Spain and the remaining western African Range States to sign the MoU. I hope CMS Parties as a whole will agree in December to work in partnership with the Range States to get the agreement working effectively across this enormous and critical area."
15 country representatives signed the agreement (Angola, Benin, Cape Verde, Chad, Congo Brazzaville, Cote d'Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Togo), which came into effect immediately on 3 October 2008 and will stay open for signature indefinitely.
Veronika Lenarz, UNEP/CMS Secretariat, Public Information, Hermann-Ehlers-Str. 10, 53113 Bonn, Germany, T. +49 228 815-2409, F. +49 228 815-2449, www.cms.int