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An updated range wide assessment of Neophocaena: threats and priorities for research and conservation
Tishma Patel, John Wang, Denise Greig, & Ellen Hines
The genus Neophocaena encompasses two species of finless porpoises inhabiting coastal waters (<50m) from the Persian Gulf through Southeast Asia, China, Korea, and Japan. The Indo-Pacific Finless Porpoise (N. phocaenoides) and the Narrow-Ridged Finless Porpoise (N. asiaeorientalis). Within N. asiaeorientalis there are two subspecies, the Yangtze Finless Porpoise (N. a. asiaeorientalis), found in freshwaters in China and the East Asian Finless Porpoise (N. a. sunameri), found in coastal marine waters of China, Korea, Japan, and Taiwan. All population trends are considered to be decreasing and the Yangtze Finless Porpoise population critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. Habitat degradation, pollution, and anthropogenic activities are a few known threats affecting populations, with bycatch as one of the worst threats. At the 2019 World Marine Mammal Conference in Barcelona, Spain, a workshop was held presenting research on finless porpoise populations. Participants agreed that a major issue impeding conservation for Neophocaena spp. in most areas is the lack of basic information about their distribution, abundance, and population structure. This lack of knowledge and these critical threats showcase a need for range-wide research that contributes to conservation planning. Scientists discussed research, management, and conservation efforts regarding known finless porpoise populations and agreed research on population distribution, habitat and ecology, fisheries related mortality, and alternative solutions to mitigate bycatch needs to be prioritized. Participants also recommended standardizing research protocols and approaching conservation and management creatively with public and educational outreach programs.