Friday, 6 December 2013

Mediterranean Governments miss opportunity to protect threatened beaked whales

The Cuvier’s beaked whale, Ziphius cavirostris, is a cetacean particularly vulnerable to the loud noise propagated underwater across the oceans, e.g., by military sonar and by seismic surveys to prospect for oil and gas at sea. When hit by these sounds, for reasons still poorly understood these whales are often lethally hurt; and even when they are too far from the sound source to be injured, the whales are impacted because they may leave an area which contains optimal habitat for them. Cuvier’s beaked whales in the Mediterranean, a threatened population which is separate from the rest of the world’s oceans, have been heavily affected by human-induced underwater noise, due to the frequent naval manoeuvres in a region of high strategic importance, and to the current widespread craze of finding oil or gas in the sea bottom.

To address beaked whale conservation problems caused by these circumstances, the Scientific Committee of theAgreement on the Conservation of Cetaceans of the Black Sea, Mediterranean Sea and Contiguous Atlantic Area (ACCOBAMS) – which I chaired from 2002 to 2010 and which I have been a member of until last week – was requested by the Agreement’s parties to provide indications about the whereabouts of critical habitats of Cuvier’s beaked whales in the Mediterranean in order to support appropriate mitigation measures.