PostHeaderIcon Ongoing seismic survey work in the area of the Hellenic Trench

Statement from the ACCOBAMS Scientific Committee concerning
the ongoing seismic survey work in the area of the Hellenic Trench
The ACCOBAMS Scientific Committee has been informed by several NGOs about a programme of seismic survey work scheduled to take place in the region of the Hellenic Trench including in international waters and reported to be starting early November. Unfortunately, details of this have not been received by the Secretariat and we do not know the details of the scale, methods or any planned mitigations. This region constitutes an area of critical habitat for the endangered Mediterranean sperm whale, whose population only numbers a few hundred individuals at best, and which, as a deep diving species, may be strongly affected by the loud noise used in such surveys. Sperm whales are an important international resource. The Hellenic Trench is also an important habitat for Cuvier’s beaked whale, another particularly vulnerable species, and the bottlenose dolphin, striped dolphin, common dolphin and Risso’s dolphin are also found there. This is an area which ACCOBAMS has proposed should be designated as an Area of Special Importance/MPA because of its cetacean populations.  
The Scientific Committee therefore calls on all those involved in the planned surveys to provide information to the ACCOBAMS Scientific Committee and take urgent precautionary action to protect the local cetaceans and offers its expertise to the relevant Greek authorities and the companies involved.

In particular, the Scientific Committee draws the attention of those involved to the ACCOBAMS guidelines for seismic surveys, including the deployment of visual and acoustic marine mammal observers empowered to require the shut-down of airguns if cetaceans are detected within the prescribed zone and urges:
  • that duplicate surveys should be avoided across the same area;
  • alternative approaches to seismic airgun survey should be sought and deployed; and
  • efforts should be made to avoid ensonifying adjacent areas simultaneously.
In addition, there should be a full and transparent Environmental Impact Assessment.
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