Cetacean Stakeholders in Marine Protected Areas

October 20, 2016 Laura Bridgeman

Sonar advocates for the formal recognition of cetacean stakeholders within participatory approaches to Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).

The needs, perspectives and desires of other-than-human animals are rarely, if ever, considered within modern cultural political and developmental frameworks. Yet, taking these into account could significantly improve, at least, the “sustainability” of ecosystems, and at best, instances of community thriving across species lines, with the potential to expedite an increase in protected areas as is mandated within the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Where there exist resident populations of cetaceans within an area under consideration for an MPA, we support the recognition of cetaceans’ entitlements to common pool resources (clean water, healthy prey populations, etc.) and their roles as stakeholders, since stakeholders can be defined as “any individual, group or organization who affects, or is affected by the situation being studied”. Cetaceans in particular benefit from an extensive body of scientific evidence suggesting that they possess the kind of consciousness that gives rise to needs and entitlements, providing further reasoning for formal consideration of their perspectives.

In many cases, cetacean stakeholder interests will align with those of the local human community. As top predators, they can be indicators for the integrity of the ecosystems of which they are a part and upon which both of our species depend.

Only 2% of the ocean is currently protected, with protected areas sometimes falling short of achieving sustainability goals. In many cases, this can be attributed to the prevailing rationality that privileges the interests of human beings above all other life. However, scientific discoveries are increasingly calling into question the validity of this rationale, rendering us morally obligated to alter our perspectives and policies pertaining to our relationships with, and usage of, other species.

We support the inclusion of resident populations of cetacean stakeholders within participatory approaches to MPAs and believe this will improve sustainability goals and promote mutual thriving.

If you know of a current MPA initiative that could benefit from this strategy, please contact laura (at) wearesonar.org. 


Photo courtesy Wildquest Bimini.