The Permanent Secretariat has the pleasure to inform you that the 6th Conference of the Parties of the Pelagos Agreement will be held in Hyères (France) from the 15th to the 16th December 2015.

 

 

 

 

The international workshop on bottlenose dolphin conservation and monitoring in the North-Western Mediterranean Sea will be held at the Villa Mediterranee, in Marseille (France), on the 01 & 02 December 2015.

 

 

The Pelagos Agreement Permanent Secretariat has the pleasure to inform you that the 8th Scientific and Technical Committee of the Pelagos Agreement will be held in Genoa (Italy) on October 14th 2015.

 

 

 

 

 

project

“SATELLITE TELEMETRY APPLIED TO FIN WHALES IN THE MEDITERRANEAN SEA: satellite tagging and tracking of Fin Whales specimens during winter season in the Strait of Sicily

PARTNESHIP BETWEEN ITALIAN MINISTRY OF ENVIRONMENT, INTERNATIONAL WHALING COMMISSION AND A NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL BODIES RESEARCH POOL FOR SATELLITE TRACKING AND REAL TIME MONITORING OF BALAENOPTERA PHYSALUS SPECIMENS

 

Fin whales that live in the oceans are known to undergo seasonal migrations between the tropics and high-latitude waters, spanning thousands of  nautical miles. By contrast, movements of the population of fin whales residing in the Mediterranean remain still mostly unknown. 

During summer, Mediterranean fin whales congregate in large numbers to feed in the Pelagos Sanctuary in the northwestern Mediterranean, the region’s largest marine protected area designated by France, Italy and Monaco to protect marine mammals. However, their destination during the rest of the year is still a matter of debate. Whales are also known to appear in other parts of the Mediterranean, including in the waters near Gibraltar as well as in the eastern basin, but their relationship to the whales found in the Pelagos Sanctuary remains unclear.

To shed light on the migration pattern of Mediterranean fin whales, the General Direction for Land and Sea Protection of the Italian Ministry of the Environment, in the framework of the implementation of the ACCOBAMS Agreement (www.accobams.org) has funded a specific project to the International Whaling Commission. The project aimed at deploying satellite tags on fin whales known to briefly appear in the waters surrounding the small Italian island of Lampedusa, in the Strait of Sicily, towards the end of winter (February-March).

The project was commissioned in order to obtain specific data and information on movements and possible migration routes of fin whales and on their habitats in the waters surrounding the island of Lampedusa, and to verify and confirm the previous limited sighting data, allowing  to correlate this information with those from the north-western Mediterranean within ​​the Pelagos Sanctuary.

The project is aimed in particular to the acquisition of information in the Strait of Sicily, an area characterized by the presence of B. physalus and other cetacean species, in order to assess areas of the Mediterranean Sea that could require targeted protection and conservation measures, as well as for the identification of potential threats and the implementation of mitigation measures. In particular, the waters of the island of Lampedusa are considered as a ​​winter feeding area for fin whales, which feed on the surface thanks to the abundance of Euphausiids  belonging to the species Nyctiphanes couchii, different from that of the Ligurian Sea ( Meganyctiphanes norvegica). 

The project also aims to provide support to the implementation by Italy of Directive 2008/56/EC (Marine Strategy Framework Directive, MSFD) for monitoring activities addressed to the achievement of Good Environmental Status of the Italian seas. The project has the collaboration of researchers from the Tethys Research Institute, the Institute for Environmental Protection and Research (ISPRA) , the Siena University, the Marine Protected Area Isole Pelagie and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the US (NOAA). The research programme, authorized by the competent national offices, is conducted in compliance with legal and ethical principles of animal welfare. 

Back in March 2013, as part of this project, three satellite transmitters were deployed on fin whales in these waters, which had provided satellite data for a shorter period (about 2 weeks) , underlining how these specimens remained near the southern coast of Lampedusa island, at a distance between 30-50 nautical miles from the coast, engaging for 75-80% of their time in feeding activities, confirming that the study area plays an important role in terms of food for the fin whales present.

In March 2014 it was not possible to tag any specimen of fin whale, given the particular adverse weather conditions encountered in the area, who had strongly affected the time spent at sea, the possibility of sighting whales: it is known that the Strait of Sicily in the winter months is characterized by adverse sea conditions.

In March  2015, finally, two satellite transmitters were deployed on two fin whales; Dr. Greg Donovan (Head of Science of the International Whaling Commission -IWC- and Scientific Coordinator of the project) and Dr. Simone Panigada (co-project manager for the Tethys Research Institute) report that:

On the 14th of March we managed to equip two fin whales with tiny satellite transmitters. The whales remained around Lampedusa for a couple of weeks, swimming back and forth along the shelf break between the islet of Lampione, the Levante seamount and the Tunisian coast, gorging on the abundant zooplankton found during winter in the surface waters of the Strait. On the 1st of April the two whales separated: one of them started swimming north, hugging the south-western coast of Sicily and then moving into the Tyrrhenian Sea off the east coast of Sardinia, while the other kept foraging for a few more days over the Tunisian Plateau. Then also the second whale moved into the Tyrrhenian, rapidly swimming northwards, and is now just off Cape Corse, in Corsica, well into the Pelagos Sanctuary.”

This unpublished information shows that some of the whales sighted in winter in the Strait of Sicily can be the same ones that concentrate in late spring in the Pelagos Sanctuary, in the north-western Mediterranean: the connection between whale seen off Lampedusa and those that spend the summer in the waters of the Pelagos Sanctuary scientificallydemonstrates the existence of very large and defined seasonal movements of these marine mammals through the Mediterranean, outside of the Pelagos Sanctuary and in correlation with it.

The project fulfillment reaffirms, in the forefront between 23 ACCOBAMS Agreement Parties, the yet reached Italian leadership in implementing of that analytical methodologyit stressed the importance of IWC as Scientific manager of this research activity, being the recognized highest international Body concerning cetaceans research and conservation. 

Photo credits: Tethys Research Institute

Biennial renewal of the Pelagos Charter for Campo nell'Elba (LI)

New training and awareness initiative in municipal schools of Marciana Marina (LI) 

The biennial renewal of the Pelagos Charter was awarded to the city of Campo nell'Elba. This is the tenth joint Municipality (signatory of the Charter in Italy on 12/10/2012) requesting the renewal of the Charter after the first biennium. At the end of the first two years of activity, the Municipality of Campo nell'Elba obtained a total score of 6 points. 

The procedures of the first biennial renewal of the Pelagos Charter have been completed for the 14 municipalities that signed the Charter before December 31st 2012. Ten municipalities have requested and obtained the renewal (72%) while four cities (Rio Marina, Rio Elba, Portoferraio and Marciana) are eliminated from the partnership due to the lack of request of renewal.

The Municipality of Marciana Marina (LI) has recently decided to support a project for students of elementary schools called "L'ora dei Delfini". This project is managed in collaboration with the "Centro Ricerca Cetacei S.r.l" and is made in the context of the commitments made by the municipality by signing and renewing the Pelagos Charter. The town of Marciana Marina continues the initiatives already undertaken in the previous biennium.

 

The Principality of Monaco implements the "high quality whale watching" label on its territory.

On February 9th, the executive Secretaries of ACCOBAMS and Pelagos Agreement signed a convention with the AMPN (Association Monégasque pour la Protection de la Nature) to implement the label in Principality of Monaco. The label " high quality whale watching " is intended for the operators offering whale-watching trips and wishing to register their activity in a sustainable and quality approach, respectful of the code of conduct promulgated by both Agreements.

To download the press release in French, click pdf here .

The  pdf 2015 Pelagos Newsletter 2015  made by the French Part of the Pelagos Agreement has appeared (French language). Happy reading !

pdf  

 

The Pelagos Agreement Permanent Secretariat has the pleasure to inform you that the 7th Scientific and Technical Committee of the Pelagos Agreement will be held in Genoa (Italy) from the 27th to the 28th November 2014.

“High Quality Whale Watching” label for trips to observe marine mammals at sea

The Executive Secretaries of ACCOBAMS and the Pelagos Sanctuary signed the first Convention on implementing the “High Quality Whale Watching” label, aimed at French tour operators, in Monaco on 18 July 2014.

Following the signing of the Pelagos Charter, the town of Bordighera banned the traditional night of floating lanterns scheduled for the 19th July, 2014 to preserve the marine environment and cetaceans in particular. It was planned to use about a thousand plastic candles. To learn more, click pdf here  (Italian version).