28 September 2010

IWC/ACCOBAMS Workshop on Ship Strikes

A joint IWC/ACCOBAMS Workshop on reducing risk of collisions between vessels and cetaceans took place last week (21-24 September) in Beaulieu Sur Mer, France. The workshop was attended by members of the International Whaling Commission Ship Strike Working Group (IWC SSWG), together with experts from ACCOBAMS (Agreement on the Conservation of Cetaceans of the Black Sea, Mediterranean Sea and contiguous Atlantic Area), ASCOBANS (Agreement on the Conservation of Small Cetaceans of the Baltic and North Seas), NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme), IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare), WWF International (World Wildlife Fund for Nature), CMS (Convention on Migratory Species), IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), WDCS (Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society) and many other organisations and universities from Europe, United States of America, Canada and Japan.

The workshop was also attended by representatives of the Shipping Industry. The purpose of this participation was to inquire about collisions issues and bring the Shipping Companies point of view, in order to identify a match point between the parties.

The terms of reference for the workshop were to:
1. exchange, evaluate and analyse data on temporal and geographical distribution of cetaceans, shipping and reported collision incidents, with a view to: identifying priorities for mitigation in terms of species, populations and areas; and identifying ways to improve data collection and assignment of cause of death;
2. examine and evaluate existing mitigation approaches/regulations, identify and assess the likely efficacy of potential new ones and make recommendations for further work, including identifying mitigation measures for priority populations/areas as appropriate and methods to examine efficacy;
3. develop scientific and conservation recommendations and a two-year work plan for consideration by the IWC, ACCOBAMS, IMO and others.

Veterinary pathologists, expert in marine mammals, explained how important is an accurate and well-timed necropsy to ascertain if the causes of death are related to collisions events and especially if they occurred ante or post mortem.

The Tethys Research Institute has participated with its Vice president Simone Panigada, as the Italian member of the IWC SSWG, and Elisa Remonato. Simone and Elisa are in charge of the Tethys Ship Strikes Project. Panigada’s speech covered the case study of the Mediterranean Sea, particularly the Pelagos Sanctuary where the problem of collisions is particularly serious.

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Elisa Remonato

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