10 July 2008

Addressing the problem of ship collisions with cetaceans

Following a recommendation by the ACCOBAMS Scientific Committee, a Steering Committee and a Working Group have recently been established: one to address the status and threats to fin whales and the other on ship strikes on all species in the ACCOBAMS area.

The Working Group will liaise with riparian and other nations to obtain information concerning both cetaceans and vessel traffic, that will enable to identify areas where cetaceans (especially fin and sperm whales) are susceptible to ship strikes.

This process will require progress on a number of items, including: 1) reporting of vessel movements and density at appropriate geographical scales from maritime companies, involving both bottom-up (i.e., awareness, involvement) and top-down (i.e., regulatory) approaches; 2) mapping the temporal and geographic distribution and abundance of cetaceans in relationship to similar information on vessel traffic to identify potential higher risk areas; 3) estimation of numbers of ship strikes including data from strandings networks and photo-identification studies; and 4) modeling exercises to assess potential threats at the population level.

This work will ultimately lead to the creation of a Mediterranean network, including ACCOBAMS Range States, ACCOBAMS Partners, different research institutes, and concerned shipping companies to build a central data base on ship strike data, to facilitate information exchange and data sharing.

The Steering Group is chaired by Tethys vice-president Simone Panigada, in collaboration with Prof. Phil Hammond from the Sea Mammal Research Unit at the University of St. Andrews and Dr. Greg Donovan, Head of Science of the International Whaling Commission. Members of the working group range from Mediterranean experts to international scientists sharing an interest on ship strike issues.

Simone Panigada

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