The international sanctuary for mediterranean marine mammals
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The International Sanctuary for Mediterranean Marine Mammals. IUCN and WWF High Seas Marine Protected Areas Workshop 15-17 January 2003 - Malaga, Spain. W hat is the S anctuary?.

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The international sanctuary for mediterranean marine mammals

The International Sanctuary forMediterranean Marine Mammals

IUCN and WWF

High Seas Marine Protected Areas Workshop

15-17 January 2003 - Malaga, Spain


W hat is the s anctuary
What is the Sanctuary?

A large protected area (about 90.000 km2), including shallow coastal and deep pelagic habitats, comprising the territorial waters of France, Italy, and Monaco, and the Mediterranean high seas.


W hy a s anctuary
Why a Sanctuary?

The impetus for the creation of the sanctuary was provided in the late 1980s by the obvious lack of legal instruments to protect the Mediterranean high seas, particularly in view of:

  • the recent scientific findings of a rich pelagic mammal fauna in the area, and

  • the awareness of the existence of serious conservation problems for such fauna.


1. Scientific findings



Notarbartolo di Sciara, G., M.C. Venturino, M. Zanardelli, G. Bearzi, F. Borsani, B. Cavalloni, E. Cussino, M. Jahoda, S. Airoldi. 1990. Distribution and relative abundance of cetaceans in the Central Mediterranean Sea. pp. 41-43 in Proc. 4th Annual Meeting of the European Cetacean Society, Palma de Mallorca, 2-4 March 1990.


Forcada, J., A. Aguilar, P. Hammond, X. Pastor, R. Aguilar. 1996. Distribution and abundance of fin whales (Balaenoptera physalus) in the western Mediterranean during the summer. Journal of Zoology, London 238:23-34.




Why are cetaceans so abundant? 90s’ revealed an important presence of

Oceanographic studies revealed the presence in the area of a permanent frontal system, and consequent upwellings of deep, nutrient-rich waters.


Such presence of nutrients at the surface allows substantial primary productivity in the area, in striking contrast with most of the Mediterranean pelagic domain


Meganyctiphanes norvegica primary productivity in the area, in striking contrast with most of the Mediterranean pelagic domain

the main Mediterranean euphausiid


  • Conservation problems primary productivity in the area, in striking contrast with most of the Mediterranean pelagic domain

  • for Mediterranean cetaceans


  • Fishing primary productivity in the area, in striking contrast with most of the Mediterranean pelagic domain

  • Pollution

    • hydrocarbons

    • toxic chemicals

    • noise

  • Collisions

  • Disturbance

  • Global change


Obstacles to the implementation of conservation measures
Obstacles to the implementation primary productivity in the area, in striking contrast with most of the Mediterranean pelagic domain of conservation measures

Most of the habitat of these pelagic cetacean species rests in international waters, beyond 12 n.m. from the coast.

In the Mediterranean Sea, where Exclusive Economic Zones (up to 200 n.m. from the coast) have not been created, management and conservation of high seas resources are problematic.


S earch for a solution
S primary productivity in the area, in striking contrast with most of the Mediterranean pelagic domain earch for a solution

towards the end of the 1980s it had become increasingly clear that novel initiatives in the field of international law were necessary to protect Mediterranean cetaceans


A brief history of the sanctuary primary productivity in the area, in striking contrast with most of the Mediterranean pelagic domain

  • Large numbers of carcasses of cetaceans by-caught in Italian pelagic driftnets are found in the Ligurian Sea (1988).

  • “Operazione Cetacei” by Greenpeace Italy, under the scientific supervision of the Tethys Research Institute, presents the first evidence of the ecological importance of the Ligurian Sea for cetaceans (1989).

  • ENPA collects signatures for a petition against driftnets (1989). Several Courts in Liguria confiscate the nets. The Minister of merchant marine emits several decrees (1989-90).

  • The San Remo Rotary Club organises a seminar with the attendance of several Members of the Italian Parliament (1990).

  • Several NGOs recur to the Administrative Court against the Ministry of merchant marine to ban driftnets (1990). The Court approves. The Ministry recurs to the Council of State, which upholds the Court’s ruling; fishermen blockade the Strait of Messina (1990).


  • The Minister of merchant marine primary productivity in the area, in striking contrast with most of the Mediterranean pelagic domain delimits a triangle in the Ligurian Sea and decrees it offlimits to driftnetting, except for the (few) Ligurian vessels (1990, modified in ‘91 and ‘92).

  • The Tethys Research Institute conceives and drafts “Project Pelagos”, for the creation of a Biosphere Reserve in the Ligurian-Corsican-Provençal Basin, funded and promoted by the European Foundation Rotary for the Environment (1990).


  • Project Pelagos primary productivity in the area, in striking contrast with most of the Mediterranean pelagic domain is presented in Monaco in the presence of Prince Rainier III (1991).

  • France, Italy and Monaco sign in Bruxelles a Declaration for the creation of an International Sanctuary for the protection of Mediterranean marine mammals, inspired by Project Pelagos (1993).

  • After many obstacles and political changes in France and Italy, the sanctuary idea is revived in Italy in 1998.

  • A formal Agreement among France, Italy and Monaco is signed in Rome on 25 November 1999 by Ministers Fautrier, Ronchi and Voynet.

  • All Parties ratify the Agreement (2000 - 2001).

  • The Sanctuary is inscribed in the list of SPAMIs (2001).

  • The Sanctuary Agreement enters into force (2002).


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