Celebrating World Oceans Day 2018

Whales face more diverse and complex threats today than ever before. Through campaigning, research and hands-on rescues the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) is leading the fight to save whales and other marine mammals from these threats.

For more than four decades, IFAW has been successfully campaigning on whale welfare and conservation issues, including supporting pioneering benign research projects, driving habitat protection measures, using international conventions and legal strategies to end commercial whaling as well as uncovering the economic pitfalls of whale hunting and economic opportunities of whale watching. Additionally our work focuses on areas more nebulous and less apparent in nature – that of ship strikes and ocean noise. All our work is based on the best available science, and we think it apt to emphasise its importance during this era of fake news. 

For World Oceans Day (June 8) IFAW is celebrating one of our ongoing collaborative whale research projects – the 2018 major international survey of the Mediterranean Sea – the ACCOBAMS Survey Initiative. The aim of this international effort is to improve the understanding of the conservation status of cetaceans at the Mediterranean/Black Sea macro-regional level, optimise monitoring efforts in the long-term and improve regional cooperation on international commitments to protect marine biodiversity.

In addition to coordinating other regional survey vessels, the unique whale research vessel Song of the Whale will be leading the research this summer throughout the Mediterranean Sea and Contiguous Atlantic area to establish and assess cetacean abundance and distribution. Having up-to-date data will allow for swift responses to the threats these populations face, with some of them endangered and in continuing decline due to human activities.

Song of the Whale research vessel

To achieve this, the survey will include aerial and vessel-based research, comprising visual survey methods and passive acoustic monitoring (PAM) with the participation of local scientists. Cetaceans are the primary focus, but data on marine turtles, swordfish, giant devil rays and marine debris will also be collated.

IFAW is providing support to the ACCOBAMS Survey initiative which will allow the Song of the Whale team to undertake surveys within the Hellenic Trench, Greece, a high priority area of action for IFAW given the urgent need to reduce the risk of vessel strikes with sperm whales. The necessity of our work in this area has recently received wide recognition, with long-time IFAW partner Dr Alexandros Frantzis and IFAW marine mammal scientist Russell Leaper highlighting the risk faced by sperm whales there – one of the world’s most endangered whale populations. 

The project is officially commencing today on World Oceans Day, with Song of the Whale arriving in Malaga’s port in Spain. It is being hosted by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), of which IFAW is now a member There are several events planned on and around Song of the Whale and the Malaga Oceanographic Museum. We have all been awaiting this moment with bated breath, after the culmination of many years of planning and preparatory efforts to which IFAW, along with our partners (the ACCOBAMS Secretariat, and a host of Mediterranean research groups), have contributed.

IFAW and Song of the Whale collaboration

IFAW and the Song of the Whale team have a long history of involvement in marine mammal conservation in the region including very early monk seal conservation efforts in Greece in the 1980s, and later, monk seal research projects with Song of the Whale in Turkey and Morocco. Together we have also studied large whales in the Ligurian Sea to support the designation of the Pelagos Sanctuary in 1994, and been involved in the first ACCOBAMS partnership project in 2003 to demonstrate acoustic research techniques within the Ionian Sea as part of the planning for this basin-wide survey. Crucially these conservation research initiatives have hosted numerous participants (students and scientists alike) from several countries within the region, including Tunisia, Egypt, Morocco, Albania, Turkey, Greece, Cyprus, Malta, Spain and Italy.

Highlighting the ACCOBAMS Survey Initiative this World Oceans Day as well as the historical partnerships on which it is based is demonstrative of the power of thorough and ground-breaking scientific research and multi-national collaboration, which are crucial in ensuring our impacts on all marine species are correctly accounted for – and acted upon.

–LW

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Article source: IFAW

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