Cetacean density and abundance in the Central and Western Mediterranean Sea


Another freshly accepted paper in the Deep Sea Research Part II Special Issue on European Marine Megafauna. It is currently available online at the link provided below. Enjoy reading. 

Panigada S., Lauriano G., Donovan G. P., Pierantonio N., Cañadas A., Vasquez J. A., Burton L. 2017. Estimating cetacean density and abundance in the Central and Western Mediterranean Sea through aerial surveys: implications for management. Deep Sea Research Part II: Topical Studies in Oceanography. DOI: 10.1016/j.dsr2.2017.04.018

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0967064517301418

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Fishery-independent abundance and density of swordfish in the Central Mediterranean


Freshly accepted paper in the Deep Sea Research Part II Special Issue on European Marine Megafauna. It is currently available online at the link provided below. Enjoy reading. 

Lauriano G., Pierantonio N., Kelly L., Cañadas A., Donovan G. P., Panigada S. 2017. Fishery-independent surface abundance and density estimates of swordfish (Xiphias gladius) from aerial surveys in the Central Mediterranean Sea. Deep Sea Research Part II: Topical Studies in Oceanography. DOI: 10.1016/j.dsr2.2017.04.019

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S096706451730142X

Review of migratory patterns and strategies of Mediterranean marine mammals


The following review has just recently made available by the Mediterranean Science Commission (CIESM) as a chapter in the latest monograph series “Marine connectivity – migrations and larval dispersal“. The volume presents  current research on connectivity, from larval and egg dispersal models to tracking large migratory species.

Panigada, S., Pierantonio, N., 2016. Migratory patterns and strategies of Mediterranean marine mammals and relation to intersystem connectivity, in: Briand, F. (Ed.), Marine Connectivity – Migration and Larval Dispersal, CIESM Workshop Monographs 48. CIESM Publisher, pp. 95–104. (PDF)

It’s too loud in the Mediterranean: scientists present the first underwater noise map


Reblogged from the Tethys Research Institute website.

 

Human activities using loud noise sources cover very big portions of the Mediterranean Sea, as announced in a special press release by OceanCare. Their impacts on marine wildlife should be cause of concern; in several clearly identifiable areas noise-producing activities accumulate, and many of these so-called noise hotspots overlap with important cetacean habitats. This is a conclusion reached by scientists from France, Italy, Switzerland and the US who – for the first time – present a basin-wide map that shows the density of the main anthropogenic noise sources in the Mediterranean Sea. The results of the report ”Overview of the Noise Hotspots in the ACCOBAMS Area, Part I – Mediterranean Sea” for the period 2005 to 2015, are drawn from a dataset covering 1446 harbours and marinas, 228 oil drilling platforms, 830 seismic exploration activities, 7 million ship positions, publicly available information regarding military activities, and 52 wind farm projects.noise

 The increase in seismic activities is particularly striking, especially in connection with oil and gas explorations which deploy so-called ‘airguns’ sending loud impulsive noise of up to 260 decibels towards the sea floor about every 10 to 12 seconds for weeks or months at a time. While 3.8 % of the Mediterranean’s surface was affected by such airgun use in 2005, this share increased to 27 % in 2013. The scientists also found that an average value of around 1,500 commercial vessels are contemporarily present in the area – at any given time – not taking into account leisure crafts and fishing vessels. Considering that data surrounding military activities – such as manoeuvres, use of medium and low frequency sonar (LFAS, MFAS) for submarine detection, etc. are generally not available to the public, such results for this sector represents an underestimation of the reality of the situation as well.

noise_hotspots_fig_10

Noise-cetacean interaction hotspots: overlap of noise hotspots and important cetacean habitats

Crucially, through such mapping exercise, the scientists were able to reveal several noise hotspots overlapping with areas that are of particular importance to noise-susceptible marine mammal species, and/or areas that are already declared protected areas. Such important cetacean habitats include the Pelagos Marine Mammal Sanctuary in the Ligurian Sea, the Strait of Sicily, and parts of the Hellenic Trench, as well as waters between the Balearic Islands and continental Spain where noise-producing activities accumulate, according to the report. The risk for the marine animals in such areas is thus high, as they are exposed to cumulative and synergistic noise, and hence, extensive sources of stress.

Such threat has also been recognised by the Spanish Government. Their Ministry of the Environment recently announced that the waters between the Balearic Islands and the Spanish mainland will be designated a protected migration corridor for whales and dolphins, which will also result in strict management measures for noise producing activities.

“This report is the first basis for a purposeful development of noise reducing measures. It substantiates the urgent need for action to establish a transparent data register on anthropogenic noise sources in the Mediterranean and to take measures to reduce the problem”, says Silvia Frey, PhD, co-author of the report and director for science and education at OceanCare. Implementing such a register is also part of the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive’s current action plan.

“With this report, we stand at the beginning of an acoustic assessment of the Mediterranean Sea as a marine habitat. Thus far, only noise sources which are timely and spatially incomplete could be identified. Hence, there is further need for scientific investigations into noise levels within the Mediterranean and, moreover, into what can be assessed as an acceptable and safe noise limit. Nevertheless, this first glance is remarkable and the extent of the noise sources is worrisome”, explains Frey.

“The present mapping also reveals data weaknesses, as we have to assume that some areas currently identified as ‘quiet’, particularly along the coastline of Northern Africa, are only considered quiet due to a lack of data. In particular, activities by oil and gas companies, as well as the military remain largely obscure”, adds Nicolas Entrup, consultant on underwater noise pollution for OceanCare and for US-based organisation NRDC.

“For the first time we have a wide spatial and temporal vision of the multiple and often overlapping human activities that produce noise underwater and that may have synergistic and cumulative effects on marine life. We now need models to map sound levels and sound exposure. We should not forget that conservation also means ‘conserving the acoustic quality of the habitats’”, says Gianni Pavan, co-author of the report and professor of the University of Pavia, Italy.

“Loud noise sources appear to cover very big portions of the Mediterranean Sea, and, of course, their impacts on marine wildlife propagate, regardless of human boundaries. Although far from being exhaustive, results shown in this study point out the need of a regulatory framework which takes into account the transboundary effects of man-made noise on the marine environment”, Alessio Maglio, co-author and scientist at SINAY SAS, adds.

Manuel Castellote, PhD, co-author and scientist at NOAA, concludes: “With this report we have barely grasped the tip of the iceberg when it comes to underwater noise occurrence in the Mediterranean Sea. A major concern is the amount of silent Mediterranean countries, silent when it comes to information sharing, not underwater silence!”

The report was commissioned by the Agreement on the Conservation of Cetaceans in the Black Sea, Mediterranean Sea and Contiguous Atlantic Area (ACCOBAMS) in order to identify areas of concern, to propose the need for further scientific assessment, as well as to deduce appropriate conservation measures.

 

More information:

Full report “Overview of the Noise Hotspots in the ACCOBAMS Area. Part I – Mediterranean Sea“

Short video ‘Underwater Noise – The Overlooked Catastrophe’ and the brochure ‘Drowning in Sound’.

Further information on the Silent Oceans Campaign: www.silentoceans.com

The Devil We Don’t Know


Dear readers, I am pleased to announce the publication of the followingpaper in the PLoS ONE journal. The full paper as well as supplementary material can be downloaded from the journal  webpage.

Notarbartolo di Sciara, G., Lauriano, G., Pierantonio, N., Cañadas, A., Donovan, G., Panigada, S., 2015. The Devil We Don’t Know: Investigating Habitat and Abundance of Endangered Giant Devil Rays in the North-Western Mediterranean Sea. PLoS ONE 10, e0141189. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0141189
PLoS ONE Mm2015

Fin whales migration in the Mediterranean Sea


(From the International Whaling Commission website)

A collaborative satellite tagging programme under the auspices of the IWC has shed light on the migration patterns of Mediterranean fin whales.  This latest research develops understanding of the routes travelled by the whales, and therefore the threats they face.

The project began in 2013, but the first tagging attempts were unsuccessful due to an unfortunate combination of harsh weather conditions, erratic whale presence and tag failure.  In March, scientists successfully tagged two whales in waters around the island of Lampedusa, between Sicily and the North African coast.

After several weeks feeding in this area the whales separated, but both ultimately travelled across the Strait of Sicily towards the Pelagos Sanctuary in the northern Mediterranean.  This journey gives the first clear indication that the whales feeding in the Strait of Sicily in winter are the same animals that congregate in the Pelagos Sanctuary in summer.  This research also confirms that fin whales migrate north-south across one of the busiest east-west shipping lanes in the world.

The number of collisions between whales and ships, known as ‘ship strikes,’ is hard to quantify.  Collisions with large ships often go unnoticed or unreported.  The IWC has developed a global ship strike database and is gathering information to build a clearer picture of the problem, in order to develop solutions.

What is already clear is that ship strikes are more likely in areas where whale migration routes and shipping lanes cross.  More work is needed to understand and address the threat to whales when they leave the safety of the Pelagos Sanctuary.  Further work will also be undertaken to establish if there is any relationship between these whales and other known congregations in the eastern Mediterranean.

This programme is a multi-agency collaboration, funded by the Italian Ministry of the Environment, through the IWC and the Tethys Research Institute.  The research is conducted in conjunction with the Institute for Environmental Protection and Research (ISPRA), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the University of Siena, and the Pelagie Islands Marine Protected Area.

You can read more about the project on the website of the Tethys Research Institute as well as the website of the Pelagos Sanctuary.

See also https://duritos.wordpress.com/2015/03/22/monitoring-fin-whales-in-the-central-mediterranean-sea/

Monitoring fin whales in the Central Mediterranean Sea


The Tethys Research Institute, with the support of the local Marine Protected Area of Pelagie Islands, is monitoring fin whale movement and migration patterns in the Mediterranean Sea through a satellite telemetry programme. Research activities are carried out in the Island of Lampedusa, Central Mediterranean Sea. In the following video (sorry only in italian, but hopefully soon with subtitles) The Tethys vice-president, Simone Panigada, explains why.