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Genevieve Johnson gives a presentation about the Voyage of the Odyssey to the Meeting of the Parties (MOP2) of the Agreement on the Conservation of Cetaceans of the Black Sea, Mediterranean Sea and Contiguous Atlantic Area (ACCOBAMS) .
Photo - Chris Johnson

November 19, 2004
The 2004 ACCOBAMS Meeting of the Parties - Palma De Mallorca, Spain


Log Transcript

This is Genevieve Johnson speaking to you from the Odyssey as we travel west from Mallorca toward Gibraltar on our final research leg in the Mediterranean Sea. The sea is exceptionally calm for this time of year and our days are filled with sightings of sperm whales, striped dolphins, common dolphins, Risso's dolphins and basking loggerhead sea turtles.

Last week in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, the Odyssey crew gave a presentation to the Meeting of the Parties (MOP2) of the Agreement on the Conservation of Cetaceans of the Black Sea, Mediterranean Sea and Contiguous Atlantic Area (ACCOBAMS). While researching in the Mediterranean Sea, the Ocean Alliance's Voyage of the Odyssey partnered with ACCOBAMS - a collaborative agreement designed to help share ideas and scientific data gathered on sperm whales in the region.

While many people are unaware of the presence of whales in the Mediterranean Sea, this region contains no fewer than twenty-one species of cetaceans - at least eight of these can be considered regular inhabitants.

Despite the relatively small area of the Mediterranean Sea and its adjacency to a large human population, there is still much we don't know about the ecology of cetaceans in this area.

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Ms. Marie-Christine Van Klaveren is the Executive Secretary of ACCOBAMS.
Photo - Chris Johnson

The Mediterranean is surrounded by twenty nations with over 400 million people living in the region. There is an inherent difficulty in getting so many different governments to co-operate in the management and protection of coastal and deep-sea resources.

Unlike some of the remote areas the Odyssey surveyed over the past four and a half years of the expedition, this area is heavily affected by anthropogenic activity. All animals living in the Mediterranean are subject to a number of serious threats. Over-fishing is ubiquitous in the region with numerous marine mammal species killed as bycatch. Intense human activity means whales within the Mediterranean are at increased risk for collisions with vessels, disturbance by boat traffic and noise pollution, and habitat destruction. A large human population means increased pollution in the sea, both in the form of plastics and chemical pollution - the focus of our research in the Mediterranean.

To address this problem in relation to cetacean management and protection, many of the nations in the Mediterranean basin are working together under ACCOBAMS. This agreement represents collaboration among policy-makers and scientists in the countries bordering the Mediterranean and Black Seas to protect the whales and dolphins found in this area. Ratified on June 1, 2001, this is the first Agreement binding countries in these two sub-regions while encouraging them to work together. The overall purpose of the meeting was to define and agree upon region-wide resolutions in a concerted effort to protect marine mammals and their habitat from these threats.

Several international Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) were invited to attend the meeting, lending their knowledge and experience to the proceedings - the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), the Whale & Dolphin Conservation society (WDCS), the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), ASMS OceanCare, Tethys Research Institute and The Ocean Alliance - who was invited to give a presentation about the research conducted on sperm whales by the 'Voyage of the Odyssey' from July-October, 2004 in the Mediterranean Sea.

Key items of discussion included a Conservation Plan for the short beaked common dolphin (Delphinus delphis) in the Mediterranean Sea. In 2003, the common dolphin population was recognised as "endangered" and placed on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List following the documented decline of this species in the Mediterranean Sea. In the last few decades it has almost disappeared from large portions of its former range.

Special concern was expressed by the ACCOBAMS parties over the bycatch of cetaceans and the continued use of pelagic drift nets in contrast to mainstream international and national legislation. In a Resolution, the Parties are urged to ensure that their fishing operations are conducted in full accordance with the relevant existing regulations aimed at the mitigation of cetacean bycatch.

Of particular note to the Ocean Alliance was the resolution related to the use of man-made noise, in particular naval sonars..

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Dr. Doug Gillespe is a bioacoustician and member of the 'Song ot the Whale' research team.
Photo - Chris Johnson

A resolution was discussed assessing the impact of man-made noise on cetaceans. Some types of anthropogenic noise can travel hundreds and even thousands of kilometers underwater and, more than other forms of pollution, and are not restricted by national boundaries.

Dr. Doug Gillespie of IFAW - an international, non-profit NGO dedicated to wildlife conservation and animal welfare, spoke as part of an international consortium of experts on ocean noise.

"The ACCOBAMS second meeting of the parties, which took place here in Mallorca last week, adopted a resolution which recognizes that man-made noise is a dangerous form of pollution which can injure and kill marine mammals and other forms of marine life.

Two weeks ago, the European Parliament adopted a similar resolution recognizing that high-intensity military sonars can kill marine mammals and there a number of well documented strandings relating marine mammal deaths to military sonar use notably in Greece, the Bahamas, and most recently in the Canary Islands.

Recently, the regional government of the Canary Islands imposed a moratorium banning the use of high intensity military sonars close to their shores."

Andrew Wetzler, a senior attorney with NRDC added:

    "Whales and dolphins are being killed and injured by this largely unregulated form of pollution. This ACCOBAMS resolution and the European Parliament decision two weeks ago demonstrate a growing international consensus that something must be done to control underwater noise."

Ocean Alliance was pleased to be a contributing party to such an important meeting dedicated to the conservation of marine mammals in the Mediterranean Sea and to spend time among colleagues and friends.

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The members of the Odyssey crew join the IFAW team onboard the 'Song of the Whale' in Palma. To learn more about the 'Song of the Whale' - read the diaries from the researchers onboard.
Photo - Chris Johnson

Another whale research vessel, IFAW's Song of the Whale was docked close to Odyssey in Palma. The two crews have followed each other's research and campaigns in different parts of the world over the past several years. Over the summer sotw conduced research on blue whales in Iceland and the crew is currently undertaking an acoustic survey of sperm whales in the western Mediterranean Sea.This was the first time the two ships crossed paths, allowing the researchers to meet, exchange stories, experiences, research ideas and education initiatives.

We look forward to meeting again soon and to supportting continued research and conservation efforts by ACCOBAMS in the Mediterranean Sea.

Links:

Log written by Genevieve Johnson.
The crew of the Odyssey would like to thank Bridget Jones of IFAW and Annika Winter of WDCS for additional information for this report.

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