News Release 

More than 2,500 experts gather in Barcelona for the first World Marine Mammal Conference

WMMC 2019: Together for science and conservation

University of Barcelona

More than a third part of marine mammal species are threatened in the ocean ecosystems worldwide. Populations of vaquita (Phocoena sinus), the Indo-Pacific finless porpoise (Neophocaena phocaenoides), or freshwater dolphins are at risk of extinction. In closer latitudes, the Mediterranean monk seal (Monachus monachus) and the North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena glacialis) are listed in the national list of disappeared species in the marine environment of the country since 2018.

Climate crisis, acoustic and marine pollution, marine traffic, loss of natural habitat and overfishing are factors that risk the future of many populations of marine mammals. If conservation measures do not improve, some populations could reach a point of no return.

The future of marine mammals, at issue in Barcelona

The main objective of the summit is to promote dialogue and scientific debate at a high international level -on the present and future of marine mammals. The World Marine Mammal Conference (WMMC 2019), will take place from December 9 to 12 in Barcelona and will be organized by the University of Barcelona and SUBMON Association.

The opening ceremony will take place on Monday, December 9, at 8.30 a.m., in the auditorium of the Barcelona International Convention Center (CCIB), with the attendance of Marta Subirà, secretary of Environment and Sustainability at Government of Catalonia; Laia Bonet, deputy mayor on 2030 Agenda at the Barcelona City Council; Àlex Aguilar, vice-rector for Outreach and Internationalization at the UB; Ann Pabst, president of the Society for Marine Mammalogy (SMM); Mario Aquarone, president of the European Cetacean Society (ECS); Frances Gulland and Joan Gonzalvo, presidents of the scientific committee of the congress, and the presidents of the organizing committee, lecturer Manel Gazo (Faculty of Biology UB-IRBio) and Carla A. Chicote, from SUBMON Association.

With the logo "Together for science and conservation", WMMC 2019 will be an international platform to present the most innovative research projects and debate global threats and challenges to improve conservation of marine mammals.

This world summit -the first one in the field of marine mammals- will become an international reference to decide strategic lines on research, management and conservation worldwide. "Today, humanity affects the natural environment in some way, and in particular, the marine environment. One of the big challenges in the scientific community is to know how to manage the planet, which is changing at all levels", says Manel Gazo, co-organizer of the conference and member of the Research Group on Large Marine Vertebrates of the Faculty of Biology and the Biodiversity Research Institute (IRBio) of the UB.

WMMC 2019: a look into research with gender perspective

The conference will gather 2,500 attendees from 95 countries -researchers, conservationists, students, managers and other professionals- in a program involving 700 oral presentations, 1,200 posters and plenary sessions on climate change and marine mammals, conservation of endangered species and current and future challenges in research and population conservation. Also, there will be 41 technical workshops -with 1,500 participants- aimed at the training of new generations of experts and the collaboration between professional agents and sectors on December 7 and 8.

The WMMC 2019 will be an innovative and multicultural conference "with special interest in giving a voice to the collective of experts from countries that have difficulties to access economic resources and research equipment, as well as in discovering the big challenges and obstacles women researchers have to face", notes the co-organizer of the conference, Manel Gazo, member of the Research Group on Large Marine Vertebrates (UB-IRBio), and director of SUBMON Association.

Research, applied management and social awareness

The WMMC 2019 also wants to provide society with the idea of the scientific community to face a future full of challenges regarding the protection and conservation of populations of marine mammals.

"It is essential to do quality research and apply it to conservation policies, and involve all society in the conservation of species. If we do not consider these three compounds, it will be very hard to protect and preserve populations of marine mammals in the future", says Carla A. Chicote, co-organizer of the conference and head of the research line on bioacoustics in SUBMON.

Another objective of the summit is to provide the media with a platform "to send their message to the world, in an atmosphere of great scientific outreach to gather experts on marine sciences and which will not happen again for some time. The future of marine mammals, both in conservation and in research, will visit Barcelona in December", note Manel Gazo and Carla A. Chicote.

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The headquarters of the conference will be the Barcelona International Convention Center (CCIB), and will be promoted by the Society for Marine Mammalogy and the European Cetacean Society (ECS), with the support from the Catalan Government, the Biodiversity Foundation from the Ministry for Ecological Transition and the Barcelona City Council.

SUBMON is an entity aiming to work on the conservation, study and dissemination on the marine environment. Its main objective is to preserve marine biodiversity to reach a sustainable use of the marine environment, apart from promoting a change in the relation between society and the sea through knowledge transfer and direct actions on the environment.

The Society for Marine Mammalogy (SSM) aims to promote the world science progress on marine mammals and contribute to its relevance and impact on education, conservation and management. SMM holds biennial conferences and joins the European Cetacean Society (ECS) as hosts of the World Marine Mammal Science Conference.

The European Cetacean Society (ECS) was created in January 1987 and aims to promote science studies and studies on the conservation of marine mammals, apart from gathering and sharing scientific data with the members of ECS and the general audience. This entity, coordinated by a council formed by eleven members from different countries, organizes an annual conference in Europe.

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