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Soundings Archive

ACCOBAMS Bycatch Actions So Far Ineffective
ACCOBAMS is the acronym for the Agreement on the Conservation of Cetaceans in the Black Sea, Mediterranean Sea and Contiguous Atlantic Area. ACCOBAMS Resolution 2.21 commits the member states to take action to mitigate bycatch of cetaceans during commercial fishing.

Bycatch occurs when whales or other marine mammals become entangled in fishing nets and drown. ACCOBAMS believes that bycatch is perhaps the most serious anthropogenic risk to marine mammals.

Resolution 2.21 states in part that the ACCOBAMS members agree to:
    "a special action program aimed to mitigate cetacean by-catches in the project area with the following objectives:
    - To collect historical data about the cetacean by-catch in the project area;
    - To provide assistance to national authorities at their request to enable independent observers to board fishing vessels;
    - To collect data about the present cetacean by-catch in the project area;
    - To test the most appropriate mitigation measures;
    - To help Countries undertaking information campaigns for fishermen with special focus on the handling procedures in case of incidental catch of cetaceans...."
The ACCOBAMS Scientific Committee met for the third time in Cairo on May 15 to 17, 2005. The Committee's meeting report states "strong concern" that "illegal drift-netting continues to occur at a substantial level, e.g., in the southern Tyrrhenian Sea, the southern Alboran Sea, and the Ligurian Sea inside and outside the Pelagos sanctuary....."

The report notes "that in 2003, the SC2 [second Science Committee meeting] had recognized that traditional or modified gillnets, whether drifting or not, are known to be a major source of threat to cetaceans." After the SC2, the ACCOBAMS parties adopted Resolution 2.21, which was intended to mitigate bycatch harm to cetaceans. Based on the SC3 meeting report, the resolution has met with limited success so far.

An annex to the SC3 meeting report recommends further ACCOBAMS actions though the 2005-2007 period to address and mitigate the bycatch of cetaceans. These recommended actions are based in part on "Guidelines for technical measures to minimise cetacean-fishery conflicts in the Mediterranean and Black Seas." These Guidelines resulted from a workshop in Rome in July 2004. The workshop was organized by the ACCOBAMS Secretariat and was held at the FAO headquarters.

The Guidelines extensively discuss the use of acoustic ‘pingers' to prevent cetaceans from being entangled in fishing nets.
  • Click here to read ACCOBAMS Resolution 2.21
  • Click here to read ACCOBAMS Bycatch Guidelines
  • Click here to read ACCOBAMS Website discussion of its Bycatch activities
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