Marine mammals are very difficult to study in their natural environment. It is therefore important that any study of marine mammals uses the most appropriate techniques available in a manner that minimises disturbance to individual animals and avoids negative population level effects.
The ECS promotes and coordinates marine mammal research widely and believes that the conservation and well-being of these animals is important. For this reason, the Society has established a committee to help inform and advise its members and the marine mammal research community in general on issues relevant to research methods considered potentially intrusive or invasive.
The Science Advisory Committee (SAC) aims to:
- provide information to individuals and groups to help guide research
- promote the sharing of the vast technical expertise of the Society’s membership
- address questions put by ECS members and others1 on aspects of marine mammal
The Science Advisory Committee aims to promote good practice in research by encouraging scientists to consider the questions of both whether and how they carry out a particular study.
Minimise impact on study animals
All marine mammal research should try to minimise its impact on animals. This should be achieved by adhering to all relevant national legislation, best practise and to the established principle of the 3Rs: Reduction, Refinement and Replacement. This means that researchers should:
- minimise the number of animals disturbed by designing statistically robust studies
- minimise interference to an individual animal by ensuring the research method used is the best available for the question being asked
- seek alternatives to interfering with the animals by ensuring there are no appropriate pre-existing data or samples available; and
- ensure that robust answers cannot be gained by other means, for example from modelling.
It is important for the ECS to help advise researchers on the principles of good practice for studying marine mammals. The Science Advisory Committee will hold a series of Best Practice Workshops, to take place annually during the ECS Conference. These workshops will help towards the publication of good practice guidance to cover all areas of marine mammal research, and to provide advice on techniques (or information on where to learn more about the techniques) and the appropriateness of their use in different situations.
The guidance should contribute to a dedicated web page on Best Practice in Research.
Promote high standards within marine mammal research
The Science Advisory Committee will have the opportunity to assess best practice aspects of research submitted for presentation to an ECS conference or for publication in any conference proceedings, reviewing those abstract & video submissions flagged as of potential welfare concern. The ECS Council will arrange for the local conference scientific committee to forwardthose abstracts to the SAC for review. The Society does not accept research where unnecessary interference or suffering has been caused to the study animals.
The SAC aims to promote the highest scientific standards by drawing attention to inappropriate practices generally and to help formulate statements of concern from the Society on issues relating to marine mammal conservation and welfare.
Promote improvement and provide advice
Laws exist in many countries to regulate research on live animals. However, laws are very general and usually only set out the minimum acceptable standards for care and welfare. The ECS aims to promote progress in improving research techniques by helping to facilitate information exchange between members and through guidance from the Science Advisory Committee.
Specific questions on all aspects of marine mammal research can be sent to the SAC, which will attempt to address them or direct the person to a suitable resource whenever possible.
The SAC is also available to provide advice if needed to the ECS Council.
The decision to create a European Cetacean Society Science Advisory Committee was taken after a workshop held in La Rochelle in 2004, during its 19th Annual Conference. The name of the committee evolved from the Ethics Advisory Committee to become the Science Advisory Committee to encompass the broad role of the group. Its members are ECS senior scientists whose fields of expertise cover a great range of disciplines and include both past Chairs of the society and experts in best practice and animal welfare. New members are appointed by the Committee as and when needed.
Science Advisory Committee – current membership
Mario Acquarone, Alex Aguilar, Michel André (Chair), James Barnett, Arne Bjørge, Sarah Dolman (Secretary), Greg Donovan, Peter G.H. Evans, Jonathan Gordon, Manuel Garcia-Hartmann, Thierry Jauniaux, and Cecile Vincent.