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ESR prepress abstract   -  DOI:

Marine mammal conservation: over the horizon

Sarah E. Nelms*, Joanna Alfaro-Shigueto, John P. Y. Arnould, Isabel C. Avila, Susan Bengtson Nash, Elizabeth Campbell, Matt I. D. Carter, Timothy Collins, Rohan J. C. Currey, Camila Domit, Valentina Franco-Trecu, Mariana M. P. B. Fuentes, Eric Gilman, Robert G. Harcourt, Ellen M. Hines, A. Rus Hoelzel, Sascha K. Hooker, David W. Johnston, Nachiket Kelkar, Jeremy J. Kiszka, Kristin L. Laidre, Jeffrey C. Mangel, Helene Marsh, Sara M. Maxwell, Aubrie B. Onoufriou, Daniel M. Palacios, Graham J. Pierce, Louisa S. Ponnampalam, Lindsay J. Porter, Debbie J. F. Russell, Karen A. Stockin, Dipani Sutaria, Nina Wambiji, Caroline R. Weir, Ben Wilson, Brendan J. Godley

*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Marine mammals can play important ecological roles in aquatic ecosystems, and their presence can be key to community structure and function. Consequently, marine mammals are often considered indicators of ecosystem health and flagship species. Yet, historical population declines caused by exploitation, and additional current threats, such as climate change, fisheries bycatch, pollution and maritime development, continue to impact many marine mammal species, and at least one-quarter are classified as threatened on the IUCN Red List. Conversely, some species have experienced population increases/recoveries in recent decades, reflecting management interventions, and are heralded as conservation successes. To continue these successes and reverse the downward trajectories of at-risk species, it is necessary to evaluate the threats faced by marine mammals and the conservation mechanisms available to address them. Additionally, there is a need to identify evidence-based priorities of both research and conservation needs across a range of settings and taxa. To that effect we: (1) outline the key threats to marine mammals and their impacts, identify the associated knowledge gaps and recommend actions needed, (2) discuss the merits and downfalls of established and emerging conservation mechanisms, (3) outline the application of research and monitoring techniques, and (4) highlight particular taxa/populations that are in urgent need of focus.