N° 5, April 2012
N.B.: The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author(s)
and don’t necessarily represent those of the Secretariat of ACCOBAMS.
Italy declares an Ecological Protection Zone in its Ligurian, Tyrrhenian and Sardinian waters
With Presidential Decree 27 Oct. 2011, n. 209, Italy has now formally declared its Ecological Protection Zone (EPZ) in the Ligurian and Tyrrhenian Seas (area within the white line in the map below), to extend to the High Seas marine conservation regulations and measures currently in force on the basis of Italian and Community legislation, and of all the relevant International Conventions which Italy is party to. These concern, specifically, regulations targeting pollution from ships, offshore rigs, ballast waters, garbage disposal, and exploration and exploitation of the sea bottom, as well as the protection of marine biodiversity and ecosystems with a specific reference to marine mammals. These regulations now apply to all vessels, including those flying a non-Italian flag.
This new development bears significant consequences for the region’s marine conservation. For example, together with the adjacent French EPZ (which was declared in 2004 and is soon to be formally converted into a full-fledged Economic Exclusive Zone), now most of the marine surface of the Pelagos Sanctuary lies within the jurisdiction of either France or Italy, thereby facilitating the implementation of management measures in the Sanctuary, as well as removing a psychological barrier that until now has prevented many officials from the concerned states from considering Pelagos a “real” MPA. Italy’s declaration of an EPZ is the latest in the process whereby the Mediterranean coastal states are progressively extending their jurisdiction into the High Seas, as provided for by the U.N. Convention of the Law of the Sea. This is likely to facilitate the implementation of conservation measures in Mediterranean open sea habitats, which are so important for many of the region’s cetacean populations.
Update on the Lošinj Special Marine Reserve for bottlenose dolphins
Created in 2006 specifically to protect bottlenose dolphins living in the area, the Cres-Lošinj Special Marine Reserve is part of the Croatian National Ecological Network, and represents one of the core marine sites of international importance in the Mediterranean Sea. Establishment of this MPA fulfils the Croatian obligations concerning several Multilateral Environmental Agreements, and ACCOBAMS in particular. Unfortunately, the preventative protection granted by the Croatian law in 2006 expired three years later, in July 2009, and was not renewed. This debacle had created considerable concern and disappointment within Mediterranean conservation circles, and in particular among ACCOBAMS Partners, because the Lošinj Reserve was the first and only Mediterranean MPA specifically created to protect bottlenose dolphins, and had become an iconic component of cetacean conservation in the region.
More recently, the wider area around the reserve was designated as National Ecological Network Site, with bottlenose dolphins as target species. This network is the Croatian counterpart of the EU Natura 2000 network, and protects nationally important species and habitat types. The Reserve is also recognised as a potential future Natura 2000 site: Croatia is preparing its Natura 2000 proposal, which will be submitted to the EU once Croatia will formally accede to the Union in July 2013.
Unfortunately the Lošinj Reserve still lacks management, given that the responsible institution lacks the capacity of managing the large marine area concerned. Appropriate assessment mechanisms – corresponding to Articles 6.3 and 6.4 of the Habitats Directive - for projects and plans that may have an impact on status of bottlenose dolphins apply to this area, however clear and targeted management and conservation measures are needed to secure a future for this important bottlenose dolphin habitat in the Northern Adriatic Sea.
For more information:
Statement of concern by the Scientific Committee of ACCOBAMS about atypical mass strandings of beaked whales in the Ionian Sea
On 13 February the Scientific Committee of ACCOBAMS expressed its highest concern for a chain of stranding events occurred in the Ionian Sea, by sending the following statement to the ACCOBAMS Secretariat:
“The Scientific Committee of ACCOBAMS is greatly concerned about two atypical mass stranding events that have occurred in the Ionian Sea (in Greece and in Italy), involving a minimum of 11 specimens of Cuvier’s beaked whales, Ziphius cavirostris, a species protected under many international agreements (e.g., ACCOBAMS, CMS, Bern Convention, EU Habitats Directive, SPA-BD Protocol to the Barcelona Convention) as well as under national legal instruments.
“At present it is not possible to confirm whether or not all these stranding events were caused by human activities. However, a report from Greek scientist Dr Alexandros Frantzis provides strong evidence that sound from an as yet unknown source, similar to human-generated sounds known to cause atypical beaked whale mass strandings, was generated near the region of one of the strandings off western Corfu.
“Based on recommendations from this Scientific Committee, the above waters have been listed in the ACCOBAMS Meeting of Parties (MOP) Resolution 3.22 as of special importance for the common dolphin and other cetaceans. Direct observations and an extensive habitat modelling exercise undertaken by Dr Ana Cañadas for ACCOBAMS (SC7_Doc15) show that the deep marine waters off NW Greece and Southern Albania contain important, possibly critical habitat for Cuvier's beaked whales. Beaked whales are particularly sensitive to sound, and in March 2011 the Scientific Committee agreed that beaked whales should not be exposed to a Sound Pressure Level greater than 140 dB re 1 μPa @ 1m in Mediterranean waters deeper than 600 m.
“At the Third and Fourth ACCOBAMS MoPs in 2007 (Resolution 3.10) and 2010 (Resolution 4.17) respectively, Resolutions of direct relevance to preventing human-generated noise from jeopardizing the conservation status of protected cetacean species were adopted by consensus. The most directly relevant elements of these Resolutions (appended in full and summarised below) stress the dangers of underwater noise to cetaceans, especially sensitive species such as beaked whales and urge Parties (and where relevant appropriate IGOs) to:
- pay particular attention to the management of human activities in the habitats of sensitive species, taking into account cumulative and synergistic effects of activities;
- inform the ACCOBAMS Secretariat on current and reasonably foreseeable noise-producing activities occurring under their jurisdiction within the ACCOBAMS area;
- ensuring that underwater noise is fully taken into account in a precautionary manner when reviewing environmental impact assessments (EIAs) for activities that may produce noise, including the provision of precautionary and effective mitigation and monitoring measures;
- emphasise the need for a provision for expert review of EIAs and associated mitigation and monitoring measures, as well as a provision for the action to be taken if unusual events, such as atypical mass strandings.
“In addition, Resolution 4.17 provided guidelines to address the impact of anthropogenic noise on cetaceans in the ACCOBAMS area. These provided explicit indication of measures to be adopted to avoid events such as the recent atypical mass stranding of Cuvier's beaked whales.
“It seems clear from these recent events that the Resolution commitments and guidelines have not been fully complied with by all parties. Indeed, the production of high level noise in the waters off western Corfu could be considered as effectively a deliberate take of Cuvier's beaked whales.
“The Scientific Committee is extremely concerned at this situation, as should be the Parties. We respectfully but strongly request that as a matter of urgency, all Parties ensure that the mechanisms are in place to comply fully with Resolution commitments, recommendations and guidelines. The effectiveness of ACCOBAMS in meeting its conservation objectives is seriously compromised without such mechanisms. This includes the provision of information to the Secretariat (and by extension the scientific and conservation community). In particular, to assist in the investigation of these events, it is important to know whether the Secretariat and/or the Parties most concerned by the above stranding events can provide information on:
(a) noise-producing human activities in the area; and if yes
(b) whether an EIA for such activity exists, was approved and was reported to the ACCOBAMS Secretariat; and if so
(c) the scientific review process for the EIA and details of any mitigation measures (and how these met the ACCOBAMS guidelines) and compliance mechanisms.
“Given its extreme concern for the effectiveness of the protection status of Cuvier's beaked whales in the Mediterranean Sea, the Scientific Committee of ACCOBAMS reiterates its full commitment and availability to support the Agreement’s conservation efforts, including assisting with the review of cetacean components of EIAs.”
Recent unusual strandings of striped dolphins in the Adriatic Sea
During last January 10 strandings events of striped dolphins (see map) occurred in the Adriatic Sea: six on the Croatian side (reported by the University of Zagreb), and four on the Italian side (reported by the University of Padua). This is highly unusual, both in terms of number of events, and in terms of species, because striped dolphins only sporadically occur in the central and northern Adriatic Sea. Necropsies performed at the Cetacean strandings Emergency Response Team (CERT) of the University of Padua did not reveal a certain cause of death of the dolphins stranded in Italy, which were all recovered in a good conservation state, indicating a short interval of time between death and intervention. No evidence of infective causes, nor of algal biotoxin poisoning was found. The most important elements observed, shared by all the dead dolphins, are indicative of starvation and consequent choice of inappropriate food.
An important aspect which could be at the root of the observed problems, and which should be further investigated, concerns a scenario whereby the dolphins have been dislodged from the species’ usual habitat (in this case the Southern Adriatic and Ionian) by loud anthropogenic noise, which based on recent observations is thought to seriously affect the dolphins’ prey, such as cephalopods, in addition to affecting the dolphins themselves. Recent naval exercises have been conducted in the Ionian Sea, whereas the Southern Adriatic has been subject to intense seismic surveys for oil & gas prospection in the past weeks.
Dr. Raymond Duguy (1927 – 2012)
Dr. Raymond Duguy was the founder of the cetacean, pinniped and turtle stranding programme in France, and the “grand old man” of modern marine mammalogy in France. Although he was educated and first worked as a medical doctor, his passion for reptiles led to him to study freshwater turtles and adders throughout France. These activities led him to eventually become appointed as director of the Museum of Natural History in La Rochelle, a task that he fulfilled for more than 30 years, from 1961 until his retirement in 1992. A mass stranding event of long-finned pilot whales, occurred in 1963, provided the impetus for his greater involvement into marine mammal science and conservation, which led to his creation of the Oceanographic Museum of La Rochelle, which he directed from 1972 until 1992. The systematic collection and scientific examination of marine mammals (cetaceans and pinnipeds) stranded along the coasts of France, performed by the Centre National d'Etudes des Mammifères Marins which he founded and animated, remains one of his greatest legacies, and a model for similar stranding networks which were developed throughout continental Europe in the following decades. For many years, Dr. Duguy has also been one of the pillars of the Study Group on marine mammals of the Monaco-based International Commission for the Scientific Exploration of the Mediterranean (CIESM).
Maddalena Bearzi & Craig Stanford. 2010. Beautiful minds: the parallel lives of great apes and dolphins. Harvard University Press. 368 p. ISBN 978-0674046276
The observation that dolphins are sophisticated animals, with a behaviour that differentiates them from the fishes they look so similar to, had not escaped the earlier zoologists such as Aristotle, more than 2000 years ago. Indeed, modern zoologists recognise that dolphins are endowed with a brain of extraordinary size and complexity, comparable to that of primates, and ultimately, of ourselves. But does a large brain entail possessing and equally large, sophisticated, “beautiful” mind? Indeed it does, and Maddalena Bearzi and Craig Stanford walk the reader through this fascinating inquiry comparing dolphin and primate behaviours and cognition abilities. Unsurprisingly for those who have spent time observing and admiring dolphins, the picture that emerges from the book is one of an extraordinary intellectual resemblance, in terms of complexity of social interactions and communication abilities, between two mammals that could not look more different, and that have had no common ancestor in least 70 million years. Maddalena Bearzi, a dolphin biologist, and Craig B. Stanford, a primatologist, who have both spent decades studying dolphins and apes, respectively, in their natural habitats, combine and compare their observations and insights, and tell us a fascinating story of the parallel evolution of dolphins and apes. This is a delightful book that can be read in one breath, entertaining and at the same time evocative of the compelling need to protect these mammals, which are tied together not only by their “beautiful minds” but also, unfortunately, by their uncertain future due to destructive human activities and progressive encroachment of their habitats.
Availability of the ACCOBAMS book on whale and dolphin conservation
“Conserving whales, dolphins and porpoises in the Mediterranean and Black Seas: an ACCOBAMS status report, 2010”, a 212 page book by Giuseppe Notarbartolo di Sciara and Alexei Birkun, Jr., is available as a pdf from
Table of contents:
3. List of acronyms and abbreviations
4. Introduction: ACCOBAMS and the imperative to conserve cetaceans
5. Cetaceans of the Mediterranean and Black Sea: overview of species and their status
5.1 Regular species
5.2 Visitor species
5.3 Vagrant species
5.4 Alien species
6. What threatens cetaceans in the region
6.1 Interactions with fisheries
6.2 Disturbance, injuries and mortality from shipping
6.3 Habitat loss and degradation, including pollution
6.4 Anthropogenic noise
6.5 Direct killing and live captures
6.6 Climate and ecosystem change
6.7 Conclusion: how has the situation changed during the past eight years?
7. Conserving cetaceans in the region
7.1 Regulations and measures in place
7.1.1 The legal framework
7.1.2 “Conventional” conservation measures
7.1.3 Marine protected areas
7.2 What is most needed to conserve cetaceans in the ACCOBAMS area
7.2.1 Filling knowledge gaps
7.2.2 Management effectiveness
7.2.3 Awareness and values
8. Conclusions: time for drawing up a new strategy?
9. Literature cited
Switzerland soon to be dolphin-free
Switzerland's lower house voted on Tuesday to ban the keeping of dolphins in zoo aquariums or for entertainment purposes following the deaths of eight dolphins at a Swiss theme park Connyland, Lipperswil during the past four years. The vote followed criticism and pressure by OceanCare, a partner organisation by ACCOBAMS. Only one day later the upper house responded to the public pressure in voting to end all imports of live dolphins into Switzerland.
If in the summer session the lower house agrees to the import ban, captivity of dolphins in Switzerland will come to an end.
There are only three dolphins left at Connyland – one female that has been caught from the wild in Cuban waters and her two male offsprings of the age of 7 years and 10 months. When they die, no more dolphins will be brought in to replace them.
News from the Permanent Secretariat
1. Collaboration with other Organisations:
COP of the Barcelona Convention :
The 17th Meeting of the Contracting Parties to the Barcelona Convention and its Protocols was held in Paris, France, from the 8th to 10th February 2012. Among the Decisions adopted two items are of main importance for ACCOBAMS:
1. Decision IG.20/10 on the Adoption of the Strategic Framework for Marine Litter management Requesting the MEDPOL Programme, in close collaboration with the Contracting Parties and in cooperation with the competent MAP components and partners, to prepare a Regional Plan on Marine Litter Management in the framework of Article 15 of the LBS Protocol; in this frame, the Objective five is focused on the Assessment of the lost and abandoned fishing gear and identify and implement counter measures against biological damage. This item being part of the ACCOBAMS Conservation Plan the Secretariat proposed to collaborate with the MEDPOL Programme in order to identify relevant activities
2. Decision IG.20/12 on Action Plan to implement the Protocol of the Barcelona Convention concerning the Protection of the Mediterranean Sea Against Pollution Resulting from Exploration and Exploitation of the Continental Shelf and the Seabed and its Subsoil.
The Parties of Barcelona Convention established an ad hoc Working Group coordinated by REMPEC and composed of representatives of the Contracting Parties, observers from representatives of the concerned industries, relevant international organisations and MAP Partners.
The aim of the Working Group is to:
- lead the work for preparing an in depth assessment and stock taking analysis of the existing practical measures in place in the Mediterranean countries with regard to Offshore activities as a baseline to measure progress towards Protocol implementation in the future, and
- prepare the Action Plan
Considering the high priority of Noise issue in ACCOABMS, its Secretariat expressed its interest in being part of the Working Group.
General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM) :
A Memorandum of Understanding will be signed with the ACCOBAMS Permanent Secretariat on the occasion of the 36th Commission of the GFCM in Marrakech (Morocco).Both Organisations are developing collaboration notably on bycatch issues.
MedPAN is the network of managers of marine protected areas in the Mediterranean.
The objective of the network is to improve the effectiveness of marine protected areas management in the Mediterranean. In the frame of the collaboration developed with MedPAN, a Memorandum of Understanding will be signed soon. The training on cetacean conservation of MPAs managers is planned.
On the occasion of the 19th Advisory Committee Meeting of ASCOBANS (March 2012, Ireland), a joint ASCOBANS/ACCOBAMS Working Group on Noise was established. Its aim is to help countries in establishing mitigation measures regarding the negative impact of noise on cetacean.
ECS Conference (March 2012, Ireland):
ECS/ASCOBANS/ACCOBAMS Workshop on the EU Habitats Directive and its implementation in relation to cetaceans was organised in Galway (Ireland)-Mayo Institute of Technology, Saturday 24 March 2012. The EU Habitats Directive is the driver for considerable research and monitoring of cetacean populations within Europe. Under this Directive EU member states are required to maintain species considered at risk at a favorable conservation status. Under Article 17 of this Directive, Member States must report on the status of each species in its waters every six years. The purpose of this workshop was to review implementation of the Habitats Directive across Europe, and to discuss ways to address some of its challenges. Concerning the ACCOBAMS area representatives from Malta, Portugal and Slovenia made a presentation.
2. New nomination
Following the Spanish Cabinet reshuffle, a new Focal Point has been nominated: M. Jose-Luis BUCETA who was in the past involved in ACCOBAMS.
M. Jose-Luis BUCETA will be assisted by M. Javier PANTOJA who also largely contributed to the work of ACCOBAMS in the past.
The Permanent Secretariat warmly welcomes Jose and Javier and expresses all his thankfulness to the Mrs Marta Garcia PEREZ and M. Juan Jose ARECES MAQUEDA for their kind collaboration.
3. Forthcoming Meetings
- 13th to 15th November 2012, Monaco: 8th Meeting of the Scientific Committee. This will be the last Meeting before the 2013 Fifth Meeting of the ACCOBAMS Contracting Parties.
- 10th -12th December 2012, Monaco: 8th Meeting of the ACCOBAMS Bureau.
- ACCOBAMS Regional Workshops: as during the previous triennium the Permanent Secretariat is planning to organize Regional Workshops aimed at assessing and helping the Parties in the implementation of the Agreement during the ongoing triennium.
4. Amendment of the Agreement
The Permanent Secretariat is pleased to inform that Bulgaria and Monaco deposited their Instrument of Ratification/adhesion to the Geographical Amendment to the Agreement adopted by the Fourth Meeting of the Parties in 2010.
5. Capacity building
Training for veterinaries:
The Permanent Secretariat is planning to set up a training regarding necropsies of cetaceans for veterinarians or scientists usually involved in this task. In fact, cetacean strandings create an important opportunity for the gathering of much needed knowledge on natural and human-induced mortality of cetacean populations, and provide an available source for precious additional information, among other things, on the biology, pathology, toxicology and population genetics of the concerned species. This training will also serve at reinforcing capacity building and will allow a better use of the Guidelines regarding the best practices and procedures for dealing with mass mortality events due to chemical pollution, noise and pathogenic agents. ACCOBAMS Focal Points were approached to designate trainees.
Cetacean Module in ACCOBAMS Universities:
Thanks to a voluntary contribution of Italy, a module on cetacean conservation is planned to be delivered as a first round in the universities of Algeria, Lebanon, Morocco and Tunisia. The main objective of this module is to develop scientific knowledge in cetology that would allow students to master the different aspects of cetacean population dynamics. The module represents 30 hours of formation and the different classes will be given by four francophone experts of the ACCOBAMS area.
6. ACCOBAMS Staff
The Secretariat is pleased to announce Ms Celia Le Ravallec as Project officer. Since graduating in 2006 with her MSc in Integrated Ecosystems and Coastal Zone Management she has worked for 6 years in Tunisia as Project Officer in different international organizations, lately with RAC/SPA where she managed a project for supporting the establishment of MPAs in open sea. With ACCOBAMS, she will be in charge of supervising some of the Secretariat’s ongoing activities and of developing new project proposals, including fundraising.
The Secretariat is also pleased to welcome Vassilis Tsigourakos, who will be an intern for the next 6 month. The main objective of his internship is to implement an interactive database which will cover the whole ACCOBAMS area in order to facilitate the access to the Secretariat’s data and therefore to ameliorate the diffusion of the information for cetacean conservation.