[MARMAM] Fwd: [ECS-TALK] New atypical mass stranding of Ziphius in the Ionian Sea, Greece

Giuseppe Notarbartolo di Sciara disciara at gmail.com
Thu Dec 1 01:07:29 PST 2011


Dear MARMAM Subscribers,

please find below, for your information, a message that I have just sent to the Secretariat of ACCOBAMS.  

Should anyone wish to send to the Secretariat a letter supporting my concern, you are most welcome!

Best wishes,

Giuseppe



Inizio messaggio inoltrato:

> Da: Giuseppe Notarbartolo di Sciara <disciara at gmail.com>
> Oggetto: I: [ECS-TALK] New atypical mass stranding of Ziphius in the Ionian Sea, Greece
> Data: 01 dicembre 2011 10:02:57 GMT+01:00
> A: Marie-Christine Grillo - Compulsione <mcgrillo at accobams.net>
> Cc: Alexandros Frantzis <afrantzis at mail.otenet.gr>, Montanaro Oliviero <Montanaro.oliviero at minambiente.it>, Eleni Tryfon <e.tryfon at prv.ypeka.gr>, "Alexei Birkun Jr." <alexeibirkun at gmail.com>, eramaj at moe.gov.al
> 
> Milano, 1 December 2011
> 
> To: 	Mrs. Marie-Christine Grillo Compulsione, Executive Secretary, ACCOBAMS
> 
> Cc: 	Mr. Oliviero Montanaro, ACCOBAMS Focal Point for Italy
> 	Mrs. Eleni Tryfon, ACCOBAMS Focal Point for Greece
> 	Mrs. Elvana Ramaj, ACCOBAMS Focal Point for Albania
> 	Mr. Alexei Birkun, Jr., Chair, ACCOBAMS Scientific Committee
> 	Mr. Alexandros Frantzis, Scientific Director, Pelagos Cetacean Research Institute, Vouliagmeni, Greece
> 
> 
> Dear Mrs. Grillo Compulsione,
> 
> You may already have seen the report by colleague Dr. Frantzis a few hours ago, posted on the ECS-Talk discussion list (below), describing the atypical mass stranding of a minimum of three Cuvier's beaked whales, Ziphius cavirostris, which occurred yesterday, 30 November 2011, on the western shores of the Greek island of Corfu.  Based on this very preliminary information it is still impossible to tell whether the stranding event was caused by human activities.  However, on the basis of the report there appears to be strong evidence that human noise from an unknown source, similar to sound known to cause atypical beaked whale mass strandings, was generated in the location's marine waters as the strandings were occurring.
> 
> Based on recommendations from the ACCOBAMS Scientific Committee, the waters of the eastern Ionian Sea (where the above mentioned strandings of Cuvier's beaked whales have occurred) were listed in MOP Resolution 3.22 ("Marine Protected Areas for cetaceans") as "areas of special importance for the common dolphin and other cetaceans".  The deep marine waters off NW Greece and S Albania are widely known to contain important, possibly critical habitat of Cuvier's beaked whales, as also suggested from the modeling exercise performed by Dr. Ana Cañadas, requested by the Scientific Committee of ACCOBAMS and presented to the Committee's 7th Meeting in Monaco (March 2011)(see map of predicted relative density of animals, 1990-2010, in Dr. Cañadas' report). In that occasion the Meeting agreed that beaked whales should not be exposed to a Sound Pressure Level greater than 140 dB re 1 μPa @ 1 m throughout most of Mediterranean waters deeper than 600 m.
> 
> Based on the above I cannot avoid considering the production of high level noise in the waters off western Corfu a deliberate take of Cuvier's beaked whales, a protected species.
> 
> During the Third (Dubrovnik, 22-25 October 2007) and Fourth Meetings of the ACCOBAMS Contracting Parties (Monaco, 9-12 November 2010), Resolutions were adopted by all Parties (Resolution 3.10 and Resolution 4.17) that are relevant to prevent human-generated noise from jeopardizing the conservation status of protected cetacean species, such as Cuvier's beaked whales, in the ACCOBAMS area.  Resolution elements include, amongst others:
> 
> urging Parties to give particular attention to the management of habitats that host sensitive species, such as beaked whales (Res. 3.10, 1, b)
> urging Parties to include consideration of the effects of underwater noise in EIAs and in the consequent design of mitigation procedures for any activity that might introduce noise underwater (Res. 3.10, 1, d)(Res. 4.17, 4)
> urging Parties and intergovernmental organisations to inform the Secretariat on current and reasonably foreseeable noise-producing activities occurring under their jurisdiction within the ACCOBAMS area (Res. 3.10, 10)
> calling upon Parties to request information on the possible impact of anthropogenic noise on marine mammals in existing procedures relating to EIA and where necessary, to develop specific measures, by the competent national authorities, for activities which produce anthropogenic noise having an impact on marine mammals (Res. 3.10, 11)
> inviting Parties to implement mitigation and monitoring measures for noise producing activities within the ACCOBAMS area, including, avoiding key marine mammal habitats, areas of high marine mammal density and marine protected areas, and defining appropriate buffer zones around them; establish safe, precautionary and scientifically-based exclusion zones around the noise source; effectively monitoring for marine mammals in the vicinity of that source; and managing activities in the light of cumulative, seasonal, and historical impacts from multiple sources (Res. 3.10, 12)
> strongly requesting Parties to emphasize the need for a precautionary approach and to envisage the appropriate mitigation measures, including a provision for expert review by specialists and a provision for the action to be taken if unusual events, such as atypical mass strandings, occur (Res. 4.17, 5)
> directing the Secretariat to distribute to the Parties the findings of the Scientific Committee on the habitat of species particularly vulnerable to noise ... (Res. 4.17, 12)
> 
> Furthermore, Resolution 4.17 contains in its Annex Guidelines "to address the impact of anthropogenic noise on cetaceans in the ACCOBAMS area", with explicit indication of measures to be adopted to avoid that events such as yesterday's Corfu atypical mass stranding of Cuvier's beaked whales will occur.  These include 19 specific guidelines of actions to be followed during the course of seismic surveys and airgun uses.
> 
> Since I am unaware whether most of the above Resolution commitments, recommendations and prescriptions were implemented, while I am aware that Cuvier's beaked whales continue to be subject to episodes of atypical mass strandings in the ACCOBAMS area - with the Corfu event being only the last known - I am kindly asking you to inform me and the science and conservation community in the Mediterranean at large about what measures the Parties - with the support of the Secretariat - intend to implement, amongst those that the Parties have agreed upon in the above mentioned Resolutions, so that the illegal takes of a species protected by many international (e.g., ACCOBAMS, CMS, Bern Convention, EU Habitats Directive, SPA-BD Protocol to the Barcelona Convention) and national legal instruments be avoided in the future.  In particular, I think that it would be important to know whether the Secretariat or the Parties most concerned by the specific Corfu event (i.e., Albania, Greece and Italy) are informed about the occurrence of noise-producing human activities in the area, and if yes whether an EIA for such activity exists, whether you have seen such EIA, on what scientific bases the EIA was produced and approved by the competent authorities, whether there were Marine Mammal Observers on board, whether the EIA was brought to the attention of the Scientific Committee of ACCOBAMS, or whether the EIA was evaluated by cetacean bioacoustic experts.
> 
> Given our extreme concern for the continued existence of Cuvier's beaked whales in the Mediterranean Sea, I look forward to your feedback on my questions above, and take this opportunity for sending you my best regards.
> 
> Giuseppe Notarbartolo di Sciara
> President of the Tethys Research Institute - Partner of ACCOBAMS
> Former Chair, ACCOBAMS Scientific Committee
> 
> 
> Inizio messaggio inoltrato:
> 
>> Da: Alexandros Frantzis <afrantzis at OTENET.GR>
>> Oggetto: [ECS-TALK] New atypical mass stranding of Ziphius in the Ionian Sea, Greece
>> Data: 01 dicembre 2011 01:04:32 GMT+01:00
>> A: ECS-TALK at JISCMAIL.AC.UK
>> Rispondi a: Alexandros Frantzis <afrantzis at OTENET.GR>
>> 
>> Dear all,
>> 
>> Once more we have bad news regarding Cuvier's beaked whales in the Ionian Sea. The local population unit, which has repeatedly been affected by NATO naval activity (last time in February 2011 east of Sicily) may be steadily heading towards its extinction...
>> 
>> Today 30 November 2011 at least three Cuvier's beaked whales stranded alive and atypically in west Corfu, along 23 km of coast. All whales were led offshore by people who tried to rescue them. One whale died some 200 m offshore. Another whale, after having swam some 600 m offshore, returned and stranded once more (if this wasn't a different animal). It was led once more offshore after the sunset, so no further information is available so far. The third animal was not seen after it was "rescued".
>> 
>> I would like to draw your attention on two "peculiarities":
>> 
>> 1) Independent rescuers in two different stranding areas, reported that they were hearing "whistles" while approaching the single animals. The "whistles" were heard even out of the water at a distance of 100 m from the animal (!), and became much louder when the rescuers entered the water to approach the animal. The rescuers kept hearing the "whistles" until they left the place, two hours after the death of the unique whale present! They thought that there might be other whales calling the stranded animal from further offshore, although they could observe nothing for hours.
>> 
>> Two independent rescuers (separated by 23 km) described these "whistles" as "emission"-pause of 10-15 seconds-"emission"-pause and so on. I wonder if what the rescuers were hearing was the probable sonic cause of the stranding. If you have a similar experience or knowledge, please share it with us.
>> 
>> The rescuers didn't see any military or seismic survey vessels from the shore. A fisherman from the area said that today he saw an "unusual" research vessel offshore that he believes (it is known in the area that seismic surveys have started or are about to start) was performing research for oil.
>> 
>> 2) The whale that died 200 m offshore was found at about 3-4 m depth at an unusual position (to me at least). Its flukes were on the sea bed while the beak and part of the head of the animal was out of the water! For some reason the head could float at surface and the animal never sunk. Does anyone has an explanation?
>> 
>> Unfortunately no necropsy was performed to the animal that died.
>> 
>> The port-police authorities and local volunteers have been alerted and we just hope that tomorrow we won't find more animals along the coasts.
>> 
>> Repeated use of military sonar and now growing seismic survey activity go on in an area that is critical for the two deep diving Mediterranean species, the Cuvier's and the sperm whales. In 2007 ACCOBAMS officially proposed the creation of a MPA for deep diving cetaceans in the eastern Ionian Sea (Hellenic Trench), but nothing has happened so far.
>> 
>> Best wishes,
>> Alexandros
>> -- 
>> ___________________________________________ 
>> 
>> Dr. Alexandros Frantzis 
>> Scientific director 
>> Pelagos Cetacean Research Institute 
>> Terpsichoris 21 
>> 16671 Vouliagmeni, 
>> GREECE 
>> Tel.: +30-210-8960108 
>> e-mail: afrantzis at otenet.gr 
>> website: http://www.pelagosinstitute.gr 
>> ___________________________________________
>> _________________________________________________________________________
>> Homepage www.jiscmail.ac.uk/ECS-TALK
>> 
>> How to join/leave the ECS-TALK list, how to obtain a Listserv Password, how to post a message to the list, what to do when going on Holiday? http://www.jiscmail.ac.uk/help/using/quickuser.htm gives the answers to these and more questions!
>> 
>> 
>> 
> 
> ____________________________________________________
> Giuseppe Notarbartolo di Sciara, Ph.D.
> President, Tethys Research Institute
> Via Benedetto Marcello 43, 20124 Milano, Italy
> giuseppe at disciara.net • +39 335 6376035 • Skype: patmos1999
> www.tethys.org • www.disciara.net
> 









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