REVEALED NORTH-SOUTH FIN WHALES ROUTE ACROSS THE MEDITERRANEAN, FROM STRAIT OF SICILY TO PELAGOS SANCTUARY !
“SATELLITE TELEMETRY APPLIED TO FIN WHALES IN THE MEDITERRANEAN SEA:
satellite tagging and tracking of Fin Whales specimens during winter season in the Strait of Sicily”
PARTNESHIP BETWEEN ITALIAN MINISTRY OF ENVIRONMENT, INTERNATIONAL WHALING COMMISSION AND A NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL BODIES RESEARCH POOL FOR SATELLITE TRACKING AND REAL TIME MONITORING OF BALAENOPTERA PHYSALUS SPECIMENS
Fin whales that live in the oceans are known to undergo seasonal migrations between the tropics and high-latitude waters, spanning thousands of nautical miles. By contrast, movements of the population of fin whales residing in the Mediterranean remain still mostly unknown.
During summer, Mediterranean fin whales congregate in large numbers to feed in the Pelagos Sanctuary in the northwestern Mediterranean, the region’s largest marine protected area designated by France, Italy and Monaco to protect marine mammals. However, their destination during the rest of the year is still a matter of debate. Whales are also known to appear in other parts of the Mediterranean, including in the waters near Gibraltar as well as in the eastern basin, but their relationship to the whales found in the Pelagos Sanctuary remains unclear.
To shed light on the migration pattern of Mediterranean fin whales, the General Direction for Land and Sea Protection of the Italian Ministry of the Environment, in the framework of the implementation of the ACCOBAMS Agreement (www.accobams.org) has funded a specific project to the International Whaling Commission. The project aimed at deploying satellite tags on fin whales known to briefly appear in the waters surrounding the small Italian island of Lampedusa, in the Strait of Sicily, towards the end of winter (February-March).
The project was commissioned in order to obtain specific data and information on movements and possible migration routes of fin whales and on their habitats in the waters surrounding the island of Lampedusa, and to verify and confirm the previous limited sighting data, allowing to correlate this information with those from the north-western Mediterranean within the Pelagos Sanctuary.
The project is aimed in particular to the acquisition of information in the Strait of Sicily, an area characterized by the presence of B. physalus and other cetacean species, in order to assess areas of the Mediterranean Sea that could require targeted protection and conservation measures, as well as for the identification of potential threats and the implementation of mitigation measures. In particular, the waters of the island of Lampedusa are considered as a winter feeding area for fin whales, which feed on the surface thanks to the abundance of Euphausiids belonging to the species Nyctiphanes couchii, different from that of the Ligurian Sea ( Meganyctiphanes norvegica).
The project also aims to provide support to the implementation by Italy of Directive 2008/56/EC (Marine Strategy Framework Directive, MSFD) for monitoring activities addressed to the achievement of Good Environmental Status of the Italian seas. The project has the collaboration of researchers from the Tethys Research Institute, the Institute for Environmental Protection and Research (ISPRA) , the Siena University, the Marine Protected Area Isole Pelagie and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the US (NOAA). The research programme, authorized by the competent national offices, is conducted in compliance with legal and ethical principles of animal welfare.
Back in March 2013, as part of this project, three satellite transmitters were deployed on fin whales in these waters, which had provided satellite data for a shorter period (about 2 weeks) , underlining how these specimens remained near the southern coast of Lampedusa island, at a distance between 30-50 nautical miles from the coast, engaging for 75-80% of their time in feeding activities, confirming that the study area plays an important role in terms of food for the fin whales present.
In March 2014 it was not possible to tag any specimen of fin whale, given the particular adverse weather conditions encountered in the area, who had strongly affected the time spent at sea, the possibility of sighting whales: it is known that the Strait of Sicily in the winter months is characterized by adverse sea conditions.
In March 2015, finally, two satellite transmitters were deployed on two fin whales; Dr. Greg Donovan (Head of Science of the International Whaling Commission -IWC- and Scientific Coordinator of the project) and Dr. Simone Panigada (co-project manager for the Tethys Research Institute) report that:
“On the 14th of March we managed to equip two fin whales with tiny satellite transmitters. The whales remained around Lampedusa for a couple of weeks, swimming back and forth along the shelf break between the islet of Lampione, the Levante seamount and the Tunisian coast, gorging on the abundant zooplankton found during winter in the surface waters of the Strait. On the 1st of April the two whales separated: one of them started swimming north, hugging the south-western coast of Sicily and then moving into the Tyrrhenian Sea off the east coast of Sardinia, while the other kept foraging for a few more days over the Tunisian Plateau. Then also the second whale moved into the Tyrrhenian, rapidly swimming northwards, and is now just off Cape Corse, in Corsica, well into the Pelagos Sanctuary.”
This unpublished information shows that some of the whales sighted in winter in the Strait of Sicily can be the same ones that concentrate in late spring in the Pelagos Sanctuary, in the north-western Mediterranean: the connection between whale seen off Lampedusa and those that spend the summer in the waters of the Pelagos Sanctuary scientifically demonstrates the existence of very large and defined seasonal movements of these marine mammals through the Mediterranean, outside of the Pelagos Sanctuary and in correlation with it.
The project fulfillment reaffirms, in the forefront between 23 ACCOBAMS Agreement Parties, the yet reached Italian leadership in implementing of that analytical methodology: it stressed the importance of IWC as Scientific manager of this research activity, being the recognized highest international Body concerning cetaceans research and conservation.
CIRCE, an ACCOBAMS Partner, has forwarded to the Permanent Secretariat an article on contamination of cetaceans from the Strait of Gibraltar and the Gulf of Cadiz.
Photos by: David Alarcón González / CIRCE
Last Updated (Tuesday, 21 April 2015 12:28)
Last Tuesday, 07 April 2015, the joint ACCOBAMS-GFCM project on mitigating the interactions between endangered species and fishing activities was officially launched at the kick-off meeting of the project that was held in Tunis (Tunisia) in the premises of the International Center for Environmental Technologies (CITET).
This project will attempt to assess the extent of the interactions between endangered marine species (i.e. cetaceans, sea turtles, seabirds, sharks) and selected fisheries of the Western Mediterranean Sea; this assessment will be associated to the testing of fishing technics aimed at mitigating such interactions. Additionally, through this project, fishers and civil society will be object of awareness campaigns and fishers will also be involved in pilot activities where traditional fishing is associated with ecotourism such as observation of marine wild fauna.
The project will last two years and is financed by the MAVA foundation. The kick-off meeting was organized and attended by the secretariats of the two organizations as well as by the national coordinators that will lead the surveys in Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, Spain and France.
ACCOBAMS Training Course in Cetacean Conservation in Malta (16-20 March 2015)
The Agreement on the Conservation of Cetaceans in the Black Sea, Mediterranean Sea and contiguous Atlantic area (ACCOBAMS) will implement, thanks to a Voluntary contribution from Monaco, a training course in cetacean conservation in Malta, from 16 to 20 March 2015.
The ACCOBAMS training course in cetacean conservation covers the following topics:
Lectures will be delivered by ACCOBAMS experts and marine biologists. The training course in the conservation of cetaceans has already been provided in French to more than 300 University students in five ACCOBAMS Parties.
Students should have a prior knowledge of biology and/or environmental conservation in order to be able to follow this Unit. The Unit consists of 28 lecturing hours spread over 5 days from the 16-20 March. The course shall be assessed through a written assignment at the end of the course. The course programme can be found here and the full course description can be found here.
To apply, fill in the online form by clicking here. Deadline for applying is Monday 9 March.
The course fee is €50. Late applications will be received until 12 March with a €20 late application fee.
This Unit will be accredited by the Centre for the Liberal Arts and Sciences and will be considered as part of the Programme in the Liberal Arts and Sciences (PLAS). The 4 ECTS credits obtained for this Unit will be valid towards a PLAS award.
Ms Carmen Mifsud (Marine Biologist)
Dr Léa David (Marine Conservation Biologist; Member, ACCOBAMS Scientific Committee)
Dr Sandro Mazzariol (Researcher, University of Padua; Veterinary Expert in Cetaceans)
Dr Chedly Rais (Expert in Conservation, ACCOBAMS)
Prof. Tullio Scovazzi (Professor of International Law, Univ. of Milano-Bicocca; Legal expert, ACCOBAMS)
Dr Adriana Vella (Senior Lecturer, Dept of Biology, UoM; Chair, Scientific Committee, 29th ECS Conference; ACCOBAMS Partner)
The ACCOBAMS teaching module will be implemented in Malta also in collaboration with BICREF's and CBRG-UoM.
Please do not hesitate to contact the ACCOBAMS Secretariat (
) should you need more information.
The ACCOBAMS Permanent Secretariat
Last Updated (Wednesday, 11 March 2015 07:43)
Label "High Quality Whale Watching" in force in Monaco
The Executive Secretaries of ACCOBAMS and Pelagos Agreement signed in Monaco on February 9, 2015 with the Monegasque Association for the Protection of Nature, a Convention for the implementation of the "High Quality Whale Watching " Label for operators offering trips for the observation of whales and dolphins.
Observations at sea of marine mammals commonly called "Whale Watching" grows in the Mediterranean. Well managed and contained in an extensive dynamic, it is a great vehicle for environmental education, it contributes to local economy and can participate in cetacean research and conservation. But in the absence of context, it can escalate, increasing pressure on the environment and disturbance of animals to cause a very serious impact on the populations concerned.
After France in July 2014, the Principality of Monaco implements as well the "High Quality Whale Watching" Label through the Monegasque Association for the Protection of Nature (AMPN) an ACCOBAMS Partner.
When granted with the Label, operators undertake to train, to respect the code of conduct for Whale Watching, not to practice swimming with dolphins, to participate in scientific research and to deliver a message quality passenger encountered on cetaceans and the activities of the two Agreements.
The activity of Whale Watching is an important channel for communication and public awareness; it is not to ban it, but to frame it in a sustainable manner in order to reconcile the socio-economic aspect of this activity with the protection of marine mammals and their habitat.
So watch but respect!
Article published in the "Monaco Matin" on February 24th.
Last Updated (Wednesday, 25 February 2015 09:44)
STRENGTHENING THE COOPERATION FOR A BETTER CETACEAN CONSERVATION IN THE ACCOBAMS AREA: WORKING TOGETHER WITH COMMON TOOLS
ECS Workshop – Saturday 21st March 2015 - Malta
ORGANIZERS: ACCOBAMS Secretariat (Florence DESCROIX COMANDUCCI, Camille MONTIGLIO and Maylis SALIVAS), GIS3M (Hélène LABACH), WWF France (Denis ODY, Aurelie TASCIOTTI) and Acquario di Genova (Guido GNONE)
EXPECTED NUMBER OF PARTICIPANTS: 40
All interested participants are invited to contact Maylis SALIVAS by email (
PRICE: 25€/ participant (full day) or 15€ half day
OBJECTIVE: Strengthening the Cooperation in the ACCOBAMS Area
This workshop aims at facilitating the information data flow and the dynamic exchange of knowledge and experiences between all experts involved in cetacean conservation in the Mediterranean and Black Seas (scientists, NGOs, students …).
The final objective of the workshop is the implementation and the use of common and relevant information/communication tools for the conservation of cetaceans in the ACCOBAMS area.
8:45 Welcome of participants
9:15 Presentation and launch of the ACCOBAMS communication database for information exchange - Maylis SALIVAS
This initiative came from a real need expressed by ACCOBAMS Parties during the regional workshops on the ‘ACCOBAMS Strategy’ in 2012. In this context, and after consultation with the ACCOBAMS Scientific Committee and the ACCOBAMS Partners, it was decided to propose a dynamic internet tool allowing:
- the consultation of studies and activities (anyone can ask to add his/her own contribution),
- the concrete exchanges of information through a discussions’ forum, e.g., a blog.
All topics about the conservation of cetaceans can be addressed (research, threats, stranding, etc.). This tool aims at facilitating collaborations between all actors in cetacean conservation, especially between experts from North Countries and experts from Southern Mediterranean Countries, but also between experts within a same sub-region.
9:45 Launch of the network NetCCoBAMS - Maylis SALIVAS and Aurélie TASCIOTTI
With this workshop, we would like to launch the first network in cetology for the ACCOBAMS area (Mediterranean, Black Sea and Atlantic adjacent area): the “NetCCoBAMS” initiative.
Organizations and experts will be invited to provide advices and guidance on this initiative and to contribute to the discussions.
Two coordinators will be appointed to work in close collaboration on this issue with ACCOBAMS / GIS3M and WWF.
- Presentation of NetCCoBAMS
10:45 Coffee break
11:00 Feedback from ACCOBAMS Partners and other relevant organizations- Camille MONTIGLIO - all ACCOBAMS Partners and relevant organizations
ACCOBAMS Partners and other relevant organizations will be invited to express their views with emphasis on collaboration/communication within the ACCOBAMS area and contribute to the discussion.
12:30 Lunch – snacks will be provided
14:00 Training to the use of Intercet – Guido GNONE
Material needed: participant should come with their own computer. An internet access will be needed.
Intercet is a photo ID Web-GIS application thought to support aggregation, visualization and integrated analysis of data coming from various institutions engaged in cetacean research. About 100 potential data contributors at Mediterranean level were identified during the last ACCOBAMS Scientific Committee.
A training of different experts involved in the cetacean conservation, on the Intercet use, is the first step of a sustainable implementation of this important tool that promotes data sharing on a common basis.
(More information on this tool is available: http://www.intercet.it/)
Last Updated (Friday, 06 February 2015 09:25)
During its last Meeting (Paris, 9-10 december 2014), the Bureau was presented with the new applications for ACCOBAMS Partnership.
The Permanent Secretariat is pleased to announce that the Status of ACCOBAMS Partner was granted to:
The NGO “Association de Gestion Intégrée des Ressources (AGIR)”
The NGO “Association Monegasque pour la Protection de la Nature (AMPN)”
The CIMA Research Foundation
WELCOME in the ACCOBAMS Family!
Rare event happened in the Central Adriatic.
5 sperm whales were spotted and recorded by Croatian maritime police in Šibenik archipelago, located in the Northern Dalmatia. As found out later, the same specimen were observed few days before near Vis island, which is located more to the south.
All relevant institutions and organisations were alarmed as well as media and general public. All hope that these marvelous animals, who rarely visit this area, find safe way home.
Last Updated (Thursday, 11 September 2014 15:54)
Pursuant to the Resolution 5.10 regarding whale watching for commercial purposes in the ACCOBAMS area, the Permanent Secretariat of ACCOBAMS is pleased to announce the official registration at the WIPO, dated 4 September 2014, of the «High Quality Whale Watching " certificate as a collective mark with its logo and the regulations governing its use.
« Marque collective regroupant les opérateurs d’observation de cétacés
respectueux du code de bonne conduite »
In addition, a first Convention "Partner High Quality Whale Watching ", aimed at implementing the label at national or regional levels was signed in July by the Secretariats of ACCOBAMS and Pelagos Sanctuary, with the French NGO “Souffleurs d’Ecume”. This Convention launches the first implementation of the ACCOBAMS « High Quality Whale Watching » certificate. It will be managed by “Souffleurs d’Ecume” along the French Mediterranean coasts.
The ACCOBAMS Secretariat welcomes the French initiative and reminds that Parties to ACCOBAMS are encouraged to adopt national rules in order to implement at national level the certificate in the relevant bodies, private or public.
Thanks to this certificate, a sustainable Whale Watching, reconciling socio-economics issues with conservation of cetaceans, can develop throughout the ACCOBAMS area and more particularly in the Pelagos Sanctuary.
The ACCOBAMS Secretariat is pleased to inform you that the two kayakers from "Mare Nostrum" project supported by the ACCOBAMS Secretariat, have reached the Albanian coast last week.
They were warmly welcomed by the President of the Lezha Region and by the Manager of the Shengjin Harbor, thanks to the support of H.E.M. Giuseppe Durazzo, Consul of Albania in Monaco.
Douglas Couet and Louis Wilmotte accompagnied by the President of Lezha Region, M. Pashk Gjoni
Douglas COUET and Louis WILMOTTE are 2 student engaged in a great human and scientific adventure called “Mare Nostrum project”. Their objective is cross the Mediterranean Sea from Gibraltar to Istanbul by sea kayak.
In addition to the technical achievement of their project, Douglas and Louis contribute to scientific projects (collecting algae, recording underwater noise, opportunistic observation of cetaceans) and to public awareness. At each stop, they try to share their adventure with the local population, and more particularly in schools.
Last Updated (Tuesday, 29 July 2014 10:20)