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Health assessment and death investigations of harbour porpoises

Project data

Project leader: Prof. Prof. h. c. Dr. Ursula Siebert
Contact person: Jan Lakemeyer
Sponsorship: Ministry of Energy, Agriculture, the Environment, Nature and Digitalisation (MELUND)

Project description

The harbour porpoises´ habitat in the North and Baltic Seas of Schleswig-Holstein is exposed to an increasing number of anthropogenic activities. These include offshore construction works, shipping traffic, military activities, detonation of ammunition waste, chemical and pharmaceutical pollution and fisheries as well as micro and macro debris. A strong decrease of the harbour porpoise population has been observed in the German North Sea within the framework of the monitoring program funded by the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation. The systematic population surveys indicate a decrease of harbour porpoises in the Baltic Sea as well. Furthermore, the analysis of age distribution and reproductive capacity of harbour porpoises from waters of Schleswig-Holstein shows that animals die very young and especially females only have a short life time period to reproduce.

The age distribution of the dead animals indicates that a lot of females die before or shortly after sexually maturing. Therefore, it is essential to obtain a detailed overview of biological basic data as well as pathological features. These data are fundamental, because they are passed on to ASCOBANS, ICES, HELCOM, OSPAR and IWC. The health status of recently dead harbour porpoises from the North and Baltic Seas of Schleswig-Holstein shall be investigated extensively in the context of this project. Histological, immunocytochemical, virological and microbiological examinations will be conducted. In the case of a sudden increase of dead harbour porpoises, immediate investigations shall clarify the potential causes and context. Bycaught harbour porpoises are supposed to be provided by the fishermen directly in order to assess the health status as well as age and sex distribution of the bycatch.



Contact person

Institute for Terrestrial and Aquatic Wildlife Research

Werftstr. 6
25761 Büsum


Jan Lakemeyer


Stiftung Tierärztliche Hochschule Hannover
Institute for Terrestrial and Aquatic Wildlife Research
Werftstr. 6
25761 Büsum
Tel.:+49 511 856-8175
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