Cetacean Stakeholders in Marine Protected Areas

Cetaceans as Stakeholers: Presentation at United Nations Rights of Nature Forum, Geneva 2016 from Sonar on Vimeo.

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.

The undersigned 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.


Toni Frohoff, Ph.D.
Elephant & Cetacean Scientist
Campaigns Director
In Defense of Animals

Lori Marino, Ph.D.
Executive Director
The Kimmela Center for Animal Advocacy

Steven Wise
Nonhuman Rights Project

Marc Bekoff, Ph.D.
University of Colorado

Hal Whitehead, Ph.D.
Dalhousie University

Jeffrey Ventre M.D., D.C.

Jonathan Balcombe, Ph.D.
Author: What a Fish Knows

Deb Castellana
Chief Operating Officer
Mission Blue / Sylvia Earle Alliance

Silvia Frey, Ph.D.
Director Science & Education

Louie Psihoyos
Executive Director
Oceanic Preservation Society (OPS)
Director of The Cove and Racing Extinction

William W. Rossiter
Executive Director for Advocacy, Science & Grants
Cetacean Society International

Tema Milstein, Ph.D.
University of New Mexico Presidential Teaching Fellow
Associate Professor

Shilpi Chhotray
Samudra Skin & Sea
Yvan Beck, Ph.D.
Dr. In Veterinary Medicine

Scott West
Executive Director
Orca Relief Citizens’ Alliance


Photo credit Scott Portelli.