25th Annual Conference of the European Cetacean Society

The 25th Annual Conference of the European Cetacean Society will take place in Cádiz, Spain, from 21st to 23rd March 2011 and will be hosted by CIRCE in cooperation with the “Estación Biológica de Doñana, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC)”. Two days of workshops will be organized before the main conference, 19-20 March 2011.

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I’ll be there and really hope to see you at the conference.

MONITORING CETACEANS POPULATIONS THROUGH AERIAL SURVEYS IN THE CENTRAL MEDITERRANEAN SEA (oral presentation)
Simone Panigada (1), Giancarlo Lauriano(2), Nino Pierantonio (1), Greg Donovan (3)
(1) Tethys Research Institute; (2) ISPRA; (3) International Whaling Commission

Monitoring abundance and distribution is essential in any conservation strategy, but is often ignored in many regions, including much of the Mediterranean. It is a priority of the Italian Ministry of the Environment, who funded a series of aerial surveys around Italy, to provide significant baseline information on cetaceans distribution and abundance. The  covered areas included the Pelagos Sanctuary, the Central Tyrrhenian, the Corsica and Sardinia Seas, and the Ionian Sea and the Gulf of Taranto. Some 171 parallel transects 2 15km apart were flown in spring and summer 2010, in a total area of 333,598 km . A total of 515 cetacean sightings  were made: striped dolphins (n=414), fin whales (59), common bottlenose dolphins (16), Risso’s dolphins (13), sperm whales (5), pilot whales (5), Cuvier’s beaked whales (3). This paper provides distance sampling estimates of density and abundance for striped dolphins and fin whales. The resultant best estimates of abundance of striped dolphins were 88,650 (CV=14%; 95% CI=67,022-117,301) in the Tyrrhenian, Corsica and Sardinia Seas, and 30,500 (CV=21%; 95% CI=20,215-45,866) in the Ionian Sea and the Gulf of Taranto. The estimated abundance of fin whales was 426 (CV=18%; 95% CI=298-609) in the former area; no fin whales were sighted in the latter. A crude comparison with data from past shipboard surveys suggests an appreciable decrease in fin whale density in the Pelagos Sanctuary area over the last decade, reiterating the need for a major synoptic basinwide survey, as well as regular monitoring surveys. The low CVs and CIs reconfirm the effectiveness of aerial surveys in estimating abundance of certain cetacean species in suitable areas/circumstances and may provide a model for other areas of the Mediterranean. These surveys provide baseline data to develop efficient long-term systematic monitoring programmes, as required by a number of national and international frameworks.

ASSESSING LONG-RANGE MOVEMENTS OF MEDITERRANEAN SPERM WHALES THROUGH PHOTO-IDENTIFICATION (poster presentation)
Eva Carpinelli (1, 2, 3), Pauline Gauffier (1), Renaud de Stephanis (4), Philippe Verborgh (1), Ruth Esteban (1), Ana Cañadas (5); Nino Pierantonio (2), Sabina
Airoldi (2), Tim Lewis (6)
(1) CIRCE; (2) Tethys Research Institute; (3) Centro Interdisciplinare di Bioacustica e Ricerche Ambientali, University of Pavia; (4) EBD-CSIC; (5) Alnitak; (6) International Fund for Animal Welfare

The Mediterranean sperm whales qualify as “Endangered” according to the IUCN Red List criteria. Although the species is widely distributed, information about movement patterns within the Mediterranean Sea and through the Strait of Gibraltar is scant. To provide insight on long-range movements, photo-identification catalogues from different regions of the Mediterranean Sea and North Atlantic Ocean were compared. Specifically, CIRCE’s photo-identification catalogue (Strait of Gibraltar, 1999-2010), containing 46 individuals, was compared with the North Atlantic and Mediterranean Sperm Whale Catalogue (NAMSC, produced by IFAW, 1994-2004), the Tethys Research Institute catalogue (western Ligurian Sea, 2004-2008) and the Alnitak Marine Research Center catalogue (Alboran Sea, 2006-2008). None of CIRCE’s 47 sperm whales were resighted in Atlantic waters nor in the eastern Mediterranean  basin, while 4 (8.5%) were sighted in the Alboran Sea, 6 (13%) in the western Ligurian Sea and an other 2 (4%) in both areas. These results evidence long-range movements of the species throughout the whole western Mediterranean Sea, with a straight-line distance of about 1600 km. Moreover, absence of any photographic recaptures between the Mediterranean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, support the existence of a genetically isolated sub-population within the Mediterranean. Given the lack of baseline information on species abundance, distribution and population trends for the Basin, describing movement patterns and possible migratory routes is essential to develop and implement proper conservation measures. For a highly nomadic species, which spreads across international boundaries, creating integrated basin-wide  monitoring programmes and networks of MPAs would be key.

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