Morbillivirus Epidemic: ACCOBAMS sits up
Last July, ACCOBAMS Permanent Secretariat was informed of the discovery of stranded stripped dolphins along the Spanish coast near Valencia and Murcia.
In August, a rise in strandings was recorded: since then, the epidemic seems to have spread to other species such as pilot whales. Affected animals display a desoriented and agitated behaviour before dying a few hours after being stranded.
Following the official scientific report, which identified the Morbillivirus as the cause of death for these species, ACCOBAMS Secretariat has contacted the Parties in order to establish a state of alert within the various Stranding Networks.
This virus affects the immune system of cetaceans. It does not constitute a direct threat to humans however, precautions should be taken when approaching stranded animals as they can carry infectious pathogens.
Not all of the Stranding Networks have the same degree of fonctioning nevertheless, within its capacity building program, ACCOBAMS started two years ago a program aiming to develop and/or reinforce the existing structures in Morocco, Monaco, Syria and in four Black Sea countries: Bulgaria, Romania, Georgia and Ukraine.
Last October, the Contracting Parties of the Agreement adopted Guidelines enacting measures to follow when confronted to such an epidemic. These Guidelines have been distributed to all the Mediterranean and Black Sea Riparian States and a network composed of scientists has been established in order to create a team capable of facing adequately this kind of event for which the pollution impact cannot be neglected.
Beyond the scientific and administrative capabilities, and tools made available to Governments, it is imperative to strengthen the collaboration between scientists and Governments in order to fight against this new menace threatening our marine biodiversity.
Marie-Christine GRILLO- VAN KLAVEREN