2018 is a milestone year for ACCOBAMS, the Agreement for the Conservation of Cetaceans in the Black Sea, Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic contiguous area with the kick-off mid June of  the ACCOBAMS Survey Initiative (ASI).  This long awaited large-scale field operation at Mediterranean and black Sea level is an unprecedented region-wide census of cetacean that aims to establish an integrated and coordinated cetacean monitoring system.

Follow the unfolding of this unprecedented action online on NETCCOBAMS, the Network on the Conservation of Cetaceans of the Black Sea, the Mediterranean and the Adjacent Atlantic Area. The platform was updated in 2017 to facilitate the exchange and circulation of information, knowledge and experience among all stakeholders in cetacean conservation.

ASI aims to acquire knowledge but also to provide capacity building for scientists and national experts and to contribute to improving regional cooperation efforts, a key success factor in cetacean conservation. It is part of the international commitments undertaken by countries to protect biodiversity and the marine environment, and helps to strengthen their environmental policies.

A multitude of benefits…

The results of this large-scale field operation will support the development and adoption of local conservation activities, such as promoting marine protected areas. The data gathered will help to characterise the interactions between humans and cetaceans and to develop appropriate mitigation and management measures for these species.
The resources deployed throughout the project will enable joint initiatives to be extended and contribute to strengthening, in certain countries, the resources allocated to cetacean conservation and cohesion on these issues.

In the field…

A unique scientific protocol – adapted from internationally recognised methodologies – will be used at the Mediterranean regional level, and later in the Black Sea, in order to guarantee a harmonised approach to systematic monitoring of cetaceans. To carry out the survey, the area will be divided into separate blocks, defined according to both ecological and geopolitical criteria. Each sector will be covered by national or international scientific teams tasked with carrying out the survey under the mandate of ACCOBAMS. Observations will be made from specially equipped aircraft and research vessels.

A multi-species approach…

Aerial surveys and monitoring at sea offer a unique opportunity to gather data on other marine species. In certain areas, where opportunities arise, ASI observers will collect data on sea turtles, marine birds and any other large marine vertebrates.
Once the field data has been collected, collaborative work to analyse and interpret it will be carried out during dedicated regional workshops, involving all project experts. A specific training programme will be implemented in parallel and run throughout the project to respond to the recommendations and needs identified by partners.

The ACCOBAMS Survey Initiative receives support from the MAVA Foundation, the Prince Albert II Foundation, the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, Food and Environmental Affairs (Ministerio de agricultura y pesca, alimentacion y medio ambiante), the French Agency for Biodiversity (Agence française de la biodiversité), the Italian Ministry of the Environment and Protection of Land and Sea (Ministero dell’ambiante e della tutela del territorio del mare), and the Principality of Monaco.

The ASI project is being implemented with contributions of all ACCOBAMS Parties, in collaboration with UN Environment SPA/RAC, IUCN and ISPRA.