[MARMAM] Report on the status and distribution of cetaceans in the Mediterranean and Black Seas

Giuseppe Notarbartolo di Sciara disciara at tin.it
Thu Oct 19 08:19:00 PDT 2006

Cetaceans in the Mediterranean and Black Seas
New report on the status of porpoises, dolphins and whales now available

Porpoises, dolphins and whales of many kinds 
abounded in the Black and Mediterranean seas when 
humans arrived and for millennia thereafter. Over 
the last few centuries and especially the 19th 
and 20th, however, the numbers and range of these 
aquatic mammals have dwindled as a result of 
human actions -- in some cases deliberate and in 
some cases accidental.  Concern for the 
conservation status of cetaceans in the Black and 
Mediterranean Seas was reflected in the 1991 
Action Plan of the Barcelona Convention and in 
the global action plans for cetacean conservation 
published by the IUCN (World Conservation Union) 
Species Survival Commission’s Cetacean Specialist 
Group (CSG) in 1988, 1989, 1994 and 2003. Two 
populations from the region have already been 
listed in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 
– the Black Sea subspecies of the Harbour 
Porpoise (Phocoena phocoena relicta) as 
Vulnerable (1996) and the Mediterranean 
subpopulation of Short-beaked Common Dolphins 
(Delphinus delphis) as Endangered 
(2003).  Scientists working in the region have 
long recognised the need for additional detailed 
assessments, expecting that other species and 
populations would also qualify for threatened status.

Fortunately, an expanding cadre of dedicated 
researchers have been working hard to bring 
attention to the plight of Black Sea and 
Mediterranean cetaceans, with the hope of 
stemming the decline and supporting recovery. One 
important dimension of that effort is to marshal 
authoritative information on the status of the 
various species and to highlight specific areas 
or types of activity that require urgent 
attention.  With this objective, a workshop was 
held at the Ministry of State in Monaco on 5-7 
March 2006. Its stated purpose was to assess all 
populations of Mediterranean and Black Sea 
cetaceans against the 2001 IUCN Red List 
Categories and Criteria (Version 3.1). The IUCN 
Red List Authority for cetacean species and 
populations resides within the Cetacean 
Specialist Group, and therefore the CSG played a 
central role in the workshop’s organization and 
conduct. Randall Reeves, CSG chairman, and 
Giuseppe Notarbartolo di Sciara, CSG deputy 
chairman, co-organised the workshop in 
consultation with the sponsoring bodies. An 
important development in the history of cetacean 
conservation in the region was the establishment 
in 2001 of the Agreement on the Conservation of 
Cetaceans of the Black Sea, Mediterranean Sea and 
Contiguous Atlantic Area (ACCOBAMS) within the 
framework of the United Nations Environment 
Programme (UNEP)/Convention on Migratory Species 
(CMS). At the ACCOBAMS Meeting of Parties in 2004 
the decision was taken to seek a closer working 
relationship with IUCN. As a first step towards 
implementing that decision, ACCOBAMS welcomed the 
opportunity to collaborate with the IUCN Centre 
for Mediterranean Cooperation in Malaga by 
co-organising and co-sponsoring the 
Mediterranean/Black Sea Cetacean Red List Workshop.

This compilation, provided jointly by IUCN-MED 
and ACCOBAMS, should give governments, 
industries, recreationists, militaries and 
environmental activists in the region a common 
starting point for deciding how and where to 
allocate limited resources as they try to repair 
the damage and prevent further harm to ecosystems 
which are still, quite literally, under assault.

Following publication of the workshop report, 
assessments will be submitted for review and 
endorsement by the Cetacean Specialist Group and 
then forwarded to the IUCN Red List Programme and the Global Mammal Assessment.

The report is available at:
(includes versions in English, Spanish and French), and
(English only)

Randall R. Reeves
Giuseppe Notarbartolo di Sciara
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