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11 June 2018

This summer, unique whale research vessel Song of the Whale will be leading a new project studying whales and other cetaceans. The research project is supported by Seas at Risk’s member, International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and other partners, and aims to establish cetacean abundance and distribution in the Mediterranean Sea and contiguous Atlantic areas. The collection of up-to-date data on whale populations will allow for swift responses to the threats faced by species in the region.

The project was officially launched on World Oceans Day, 8 June, with Song of the Whale arriving in the Spanish port of Malaga, where it was hosted by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

This new research project, also known as the 2018 ACCOBAMS Survey Initiative is an international collaborative survey, which aims to better understand the conservation status of cetaceans at the macro-regional level in the Mediterranean/Black Sea, optimise monitoring in the long-term, and improve regional cooperation on protection of marine biodiversity.

Local scientists will participate in the survey, which includes aerial and vessel-based research and uses both visual survey methods and passive acoustic monitoring (PAM). While cetaceans are the primary focus, data will also be collected on marine turtles, swordfish, giant devil rays and marine debris.

Whales face increasingly diverse and complex threats, with some species already endangered and others in continuing population decline as a result of human activities. IFAW is leading the fight to save marine mammals from such threats, through a mix of campaigning, research and rescue operations. Recently, long-time IFAW partner, Dr Alexandros Frantzis, together with IFAW’s marine mammal scientist, Russell Leaper, highlighted the urgent need to reduce the risk of vessel strikes with sperm whales within the Hellenic Trench, Greece. IFAW is providing support to the ACCOBAMS Survey initiative which will allow the Song of the Whale team to survey this high priority area of action, given the need to reduce the risk of vessel strikes.

IFAW and the Song of the Whale team have a long history of involvement in marine mammal conservation, including very early monk seal conservation efforts in Greece in the 1980s and later monk seal research projects in Turkey and Morocco. In 1994, they studied large whales in the Ligurian Sea to support the designation of the Pelagos Sanctuary, and, in 2003, were involved in the first ACCOBAMS partnership project on acoustic research techniques within the Ionian Sea, as part of the planning for that basin-wide survey.

For more than four decades, IFAW has successfully campaigned on whale welfare and conservation issues. Its work includes supporting pioneering benign research projects, driving habitat protection measures, and using international conventions and legal strategies to end commercial whaling. In addition, it has worked to publicise the economic pitfalls of whale hunting and highlight the economic opportunities presented by whale watching. The IFAW also focuses on less well-known issues, such as the threats posed by ship strikes and ocean noise. All of IFAW’s work is based on the best available science, and that is why for this World Oceans Day IFAW decided to celebrate their involvement in the 2018 ACCOBAMS Survey Initiative. 

07 June 2018

Today BirdLife partner and Seas At Risk member, Natuurpunt, filed a complaint with the European Commission objecting to the ineffective, even deceptive, marine management measures Belgium proposes for its marine Natura 2000 sites. The legal complaint will hopefully be reinforced by a motion to be voted in the European Parliament on Monday rejecting the government’s inadequate proposals as well.

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09 March 2018

Fishing activities taking place in French waters pose a serious threat to the common dolphin (Delphinus Delphis), a protected species under French and international law. During the winter of 2017, about 4,000 common dolphins died at sea in the Bay of Biscay due to fishing activities. Since the beginning of 2018, 300 strandings of small dead cetaceans have been reported on the French Atlantic coast, 80% of which were common dolphins. It is possible that some of the boats responsible for maiming and killing dolphins were fishing in Natura 2000 Marine Protected Areas at the time. Seas At Risk member, France Nature Environnement, is alarmed by the French government’s failure to act and asks that it takes the necessary measures to stop this massacre.

The common dolphin is often the victim of the pelagic trawl fishing commonly practiced at this time of year off the French coast. According to the Pelagis Observatory at the National Commission for Scientific Research, in 2017, 90% of stranded dolphins bore the marks of fishing gear and nets, holes from boat hooks, and mutilations inflicted during release from nets. Only a small share of the dolphins who die at sea are stranded on the coast. With 80% known to sink and decompose in the sea, it is certain that the total number of dolphins killed is significantly underestimated. The entire French Atlantic coast continues to be affected by these disastrous effects of fishing.

It is likely that some of this deadly fishing activity takes place in Natura 2000 Marine Protected Areas. This is in violation of EU law, specifically the provision of the Habitats Directive which states that activities that adversely affect a protected habitat and its ‘typical species’, such as dolphins, should be prohibited.

France Nature Environnement is calling on the French government to:

Ban pair and pelagic trawling during bass reproduction season in Natura 2000 protected sites, where dolphins share the same habitat. The ban would drastically reduce indirect impact of fisheries on dolphins, allowing in parallel the reproduction of the bass. Take the necessary measures to enforce Article 6 of EU Regulation 812/2004 on incidental catches of cetaceans in fisheries, which requires Member States to send a complete annual report to the Commission on the mortality of cetaceans, including dolphins. Currently, France does not adhere to this requirement, and France Nature Environnement is considering lodging an official complaint of non-compliance with the European Commission. Establish an effective research programme on the use of deterrent systems for pelagic fishing. Such systems would reduce mortality by scaring cetaceans away from fishing gear.

French local associations, Ré Nature Environnement and Nature Environnement 17 (both of which are members of France Nature Environnement), have produced a briefing document which outlines the history of the catastrophic consequences of fishing activities for dolphins and seeks to increase recognition of the marks made by fishing gear on cetaceans.

09 June 2017

In 1992, the Habitats Directive was adopted in order to protect remarkable or vulnerable natural habitats in Europe. Twenty-five years later, the European Commission is stepping up its support to the Directive’s implementation and putting resources on the table to make sure that it effectively delivers on its goals and establishes a coherent network of Natura 2000 protected areas on land and at sea. The EU Action Plan for Nature, People and the Economy, adopted in April 2017, aims to boost the contribution of EU’s nature laws towards reaching the EU's biodiversity targets for 2020.

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26 September 2016

98% of offshore waters remain unprotected under Natura 2000, Europe’s key conservation network

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24 September 2015

Seas At Risk's Swiss member organisation OceanCare is working to raise awareness of the deleterious effects of ocean noise on marine mammals. In particular they have been lobbying the United States' and Greek governments to prevent seismic testing that could seriously harm cetacean life.

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30 November 2012

A new report highlighting the economic benefits of a network of Marine Protected Areas (MPA's) in Scottish waters estimates the worth to be £6.3 to £10 billion over 20 years.

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24 November 2010

In light of failed international efforts to meet an agreed 10% target for marine protected areas (MPAs), Seas At Risk member Liga para a Protecção da Natureza has launched a global online petition calling for governments to expand and strengthen MPAs.

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20 June 2010

Ministers from the OSPAR contracting parties will meet together for the first time in seven years to discuss the future of the marine environment of the North East Atlantic.

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25 June 2009

The OSPAR Commission’s annual meeting in Brussels on 22-25 June did not adopt the Charlie Gibbs Marine Protected Area, despite an earlier agreement by all Contracting Parties to do so.

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