The Agreement states that Parties shall "develop and implement measures to minimize adverse effects of fisheries on the conservation status of cetaceans" (Annex 2, 1, a), "collect and analyse data on direct and indirect interactions between humans and cetaceans in relation to, inter alia, fishing..." (Annex 2, 2), and "When necessary, ... take appropriate remedial measures and ... develop guidelines and/or codes of conduct to regulate and manage such activities" (Annex 2, 2).

Fishery activities have been known, both in the past and recently, to have the potential for causing considerable mortality levels in cetacean populations in the Agreement area (e.g.: ACCOBAMS. 2002. Cetaceans of the Mediterranean and Black Seas: state of knowledge and conservation strategies. G. Notarbartolo di Sciara, editor. A report to the Interim Secretariat. 219 p.). During their first meeting in Monaco in Feb. 2002, the Contracting Parties adopted Resolution 1.9 (International Implementation Priorities for 2002-2006) in which they identified, among others, the priority of addressing the problem of cetacean bycatch, urged Parties and specialised international Organisations to cooperate in this respect, and called on the Scientific Committee to further develop appropriate actions. The Scientific Committee addressed the issue of bycatch during both its first (Tunis, 2002) and second (Istanbul, 2003) meetings, and issued two recommendations on bycatch: Rec. 1.2 and Rec. 2.2 ("Pelagic gillnets in the ACCOBAMS Area"), expressing in the latter great concern for the continued use of driftnets in the region and urging the Parties to devote to the issue the highest attention.

To address this concern, the Committee recognised the need of determining to what extent fishery activities impact on cetacean populations in the Agreement area through bycatch, in order to suggest the implementation of appropriate management measures.

The following steps are envisaged:

1) Inventory fishery activities currently existing in the Agreement area known to potentially cause cetacean mortality through accidental takes. Ascertain if such activities are indeed a cause of cetacean mortality, and collect information on bycatch by species/population vs. fleet, season and geographic area within the Agreement area.

2) Assess whether the observed bycatch levels are sustainable for each of the concerned cetacean populations, through: (a) determination of the sizes of the involved populations, and (b) calculation of the risk levels for relevant fisheries through the application of appropriate extrapolation methods, power analyses to evaluate adequacy of sampling, etc.

3) Implement a management framework, inclusive of mitigation measures (e.g., time/area closures, gear modification, acoustic alarms, fishing effort reduction), monitoring, and the setting up of bycatch limits based on appropriate parameters such as PBR (= potential biological removal: Wade P., Angliss R.P. 1997. Guidelines for assessing marine mammal stocks: report of the GAMMS Workshop, April 3-5, 1996, Seattle, Washington. NOAA Techn. Mem. NMFS-OPR-12 Feb 1997).

Step (1) is clearly propaedeutic to (2) and (3), and this is what was specifically requested by the first Meeting of the Parties. The Committee's immediate concern therefore consists of such collection of preliminary information on fisheries, and on the occurrence and details of bycatch.

Such task may be accomplished through:

* the creation of an ACCOBAMS bycatch task force, to work in close cooperation with the Parties, with Mediterranean and Black Sea Riparian States, and with all the relevant international and regional organisations (such as FAO-GFCM, ICCAT, UNEP MAP, the Black Sea Commission and the EC);

* the implementation of a programme of independent observations of fishing activities on relevant fisheries;

* the collection of pertinent data from national stranding networks and other reporting schemes.

In order to kick-start the activities, it was considered necessary to envisage an organisational meeting with all the concerned parties, in which a tentative work programme is outlined and budgeted, and a strategy for the location of funds is discussed.

Such meeting was organised by the ACCOBAMS Secretariat in Rome, at the FAO headquarters, from 19 to 20 April 2004. The report of the meeting can be downloaded below.

The Rome meeting finalised a draft programme of activities having the overarching goal of mitigating the impact of bycatch on cetacean populations in the ACCOBAMS Area, achieved through the organisation of regional and national workshops, the elaboration of standard methods for collecting the data, the implementation of an independent observers programme to collect the data, pilot actions to independently verify the effectiveness of acoustic devices (both pingers and AHDs), elaboration of technical support manuals, and awareness activities.

Given that the acoustic devices in use are of two different kinds, the pingers or Acoustic Warning Devices and the AHDs (Acoustic Harassment Devices), although it was considered important for the project to investigate the mitigation measures addressed to the whole problem of interactions between cetaceans and fishing activities, it was recommended to keep the two aspects conceptually separated.

With respect to the options for the choice of the countries to be involved in the project, all the riparian countries will be contacted in order to define their needs and interest in the project. As a second phase, taking into account such criteria, a punctual selection of the participating countries will be done for each action, with particular attention to the ACCOBAMS Members. FAO Regional Programs (CopeMed, AdriaMed, MedSudMed) ensured their collaboration in facilitating contacts and in arising interest in the relevant countries of the Area. Any further detail concerning the appointment of the Project coordinator and Secretary and their collocation within the ACCOBAMS Secretariat premises will be later defined.

Based on the discussions at the meeting, a final version of the project is now being prepared, and widely circulated. The European Commission, notably the relevant General Directions, will be contacted in order to be further informed about the project and for the terms of the Commission's involvement to be defined. In this spirit, the project will be presented at the next GFCM Subcommittee meeting in Malaga, 10-12 May 2004. All the riparian countries will be contacted and informed of the project; the participating countries will be identified taking into account their interest and their needs in the frame of the project. A copy of the project will be presented at the workshop aimed at defining guidelines on the use of acoustic devices, to be held in Rome on 28 June 2004.



Download area


Report of the Rome meeting (April 19th, 2004)

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Recommendation 1.2 of the Scientific Committee of ACCOBAMS

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Recommendation 2.2 of the Scientific Committee of ACCOBAMS

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