ACCOBAMS Survey Initiative

It is estimated that almost 10% of the worldwide marine biodiversity is encountered in the Mediterranean Sea which only represents 1% of oceans & seas. Whales and dolphins play a key role in maintaining the equilibrium of marine ecosystems and are an essential component of the natural heritage of Mediterranean and Black Sea countries.
However, these species face a variety of significant threats: risk of collisions with maritime traffic, bycatch in fishing gears, habitat degradation, acoustic disturbance. chemical pollution…
Twenty-one species have been sighted at least once in the Mediterranean and Black Seas, eleven of those are considered as regularly present. Most of the resident cetacean species are classified as “Endangered”, one of the highest categories of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ assessing the species conservation status.

 

The “ACCOBAMS Survey Initiative”, an unprecedented regional effort on cetaceans monitoring in the Mediterranean and Black Seas

The “ACCOBAMS Survey Initiative” (ASI) is a several-million euros project, developed and implemented by the Permanent Secretariat of the Agreement on the Conservation of Cetaceans in the Black Sea, Mediterranean Sea and contiguous Atlantic area (ACCOBAMS), which also ensures the overall coordination of the project, with the support of a Project Steering Committee composed of the Regional Activity Center for Specially Protected Areas (UNEP/MAP/SPA-RAC), the IUCN Center for Mediterranean Cooperation, the French Agency for Biodiversity, the Italian Institute for Environmental Protection and Research and the PELAGIS Observatory of the University of La Rochelle in France.

 

“This project represents an innovative and unprecedented effort to improve conservation of cetaceans and their habitats. The integrated and coordinated program will contribute to both the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal for the Oceans (SDG 14) and the CDB’s Aichi Biodiversity Targets and Strategic Plan”.
Declaration of H.E.M. Xavier Sticker, Chair of ACCOBAMS and Ambassador of France for Environmental Matters.

 

The “ACCOBAMS Survey Initiative” (ASI) will allow improving the understanding of the conservation status of cetaceans at the Mediterranean/Black Sea macroregional level. Conducted over three and a half years, the ASI aims at establishing an integrated and coordinated monitoring system for cetaceans, by establishing a baseline framework to assess cetacean’s abundance and distribution in the whole ACCOBAMS area. Implemented in coordination with all the riparian countries and with their participation, the ASI project supports them to meet their national and international commitments, in particular as regards to the regional policies related to the conservation of marine biodiversity and the monitoring of the marine environment and will facilitate the adoption of appropriate national conservation measures. The ASI includes also a significant capacity building component with the objective to create a regional Task Force of scientists, able to monitor cetacean populations in the whole Agreement area with harmonized methods.

 

“The actions of ACCOBAMS are essential for the conservation of cetaceans because this Agreement was able for the past two decades to be the link between the borders, between the universes, between the political, scientific, professional and activists communities for a central and common stake. For these reasons, the Principality of Monaco is one of the main contributors to ACCOBAMS and its hosting of the Secretariat was reinforced in 2016 through the revision of the Headquarters Agreement which binds it to the Monegasque Government. It is in this sense that, as His Highness Prince Albert II personally announced in November 2016, that His Foundation had also committed to this project up to 100.000 Euros”.
Declaration of H.E.M. Jean-Luc Van Klaveren, Ambassador of Monaco in Spain

 

The ASI is supported by the MAVA Foundation, the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, the International Fund for Animal Welfare, the Ministry of Ecological Transition of Spain, the French Agency for Biodiversity, the Ministry for the Protection of the Environment, the Territory and the Sea of Italy and the Government of the Principality of Monaco, but also by all riparian countries through the mobilization of their national scientists.

 

Starting with the Mediterranean campaign in summer 2018

The most symbolic action of the “ACCOBAMS Survey Initiative” consists in the first synoptic survey of the whole Mediterranean Sea in June and July 2018. It is carried out by combining aerial- and vessel-based visual survey methods and passive acoustic monitoring (PAM), following the ASI regional protocol and methodology based on line-transect distance sampling. Considering the migratory character of cetaceans and the need to ensure an instant picture of their distribution and abundance, important means are deployed at sea at the same time, following a harmonized scientific methodology. Five Research Vessels, eight aircrafts and nearly a hundred observers from all the Mediterranean countries having received a specific training, will be surveying the whole Mediterranean during the months of June and July, to collect data on cetaceans’ population distribution and abundance. Other threatened species, e.g., sea turtles and sea birds will also be surveyed through a multi species approach and marine litter will also be assessed.

The first concrete action of the campaign was the ASI Aerial Observers training workshop on May 23rd to 28th, at the Cuers aerodrome in France, dedicated to the 40 aerial observers who carry out the cetaceans census at the scale of the Mediterranean. It was the occasion of formally launching the aerial part of the ASI campaign, in the presence of the Permanent Secretariat of the Agreement, the French Agency for Biodiversity and many international partners.  

Taking advantage of the entry into the Mediterranean of the research vessel “Song of the Whale” which operates in the Western Mediterranean, but also to acknowledge Spain commitment to the ASI, in being the first country to have contributed financially to the project (10 years ago), a formal celebration day of the ASI Mediterranean campaign was organized on June 8th in Malaga, at the occasion of the World Ocean Day. The events included the visit of the vessel by children to raise awareness on the conservation of cetaceans and the inauguration of a very beautiful exhibition of the Spanish artist Esteban Ruiz on cetaceans. The official ceremony was attended by many personalities, in particular, H.E.M. Xavier Sticker, ACCOBAMS Chair and Ambassador of France for environmental issues; H.E.M. Jean-Luc Van Klaveren, Ambassador of Monaco in Spain; Mrs Itziar Martín Partida, Deputy Director General at the Spanish Ministry of Ecological Transition and M. François Gauthiez, Director of Public Policy Support of the French Agency for Biodiversity. Representatives of the Territorial Authorities of Andalusia, of the harbor and municipality of Malaga and the Permanent Secretariat of ACCOBAMS were also present, as were the teams of Moroccan and Algerian observers, respectively finishing and beginning their mission on board of the research vessel.

 

“The ACCOBAMS Survey Initiative is a real example of what cooperation among all stakeholders, i.e. Organizations, Ministries, national institutes, funding agencies, scientific and technical partners…, can successfully achieve for the conservation of biodiversity, even in a sensitive region. It’s also a great human adventure and a hudge challenge!”
Declaration of Mrs. Florence Descroix-Comanducci, Executive Secretary of ACCOBAMS.

 

All the riparian States of the Mediterranean are working together towards the successful realization of this project, a federative initiative for the conservation of biodiversity but also for strengthening national capacities in the region.

In parallel, the Permanent Secretariat is working towards implementing the ASI synoptic survey in the Black Sea.

 

Take a look at the video gallery & the photo gallery

ASI leaftlet available for download

 

! Preliminary results of the Mediterranean synoptic survey sightings, along the aerial and vessel transects, for cetaceans, megafauna and marine litters !
PDF download Accobams