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Research project data

Research subject/title:
Conservation of cetaceans and sea turtles in Murcia and Andalusia

Project coordinator / institution in charge:
Ricardo sagarminaga - Erika Urquiola / Spanish Cetacean Society

ACCOBAMS Priority number (VIEW):

Project description:
The Alboran Sea and its adjacent Mediterranean and Atlantic waters is the only natural “gate” of the Mediterranean biogeographic region. The unique oceanography and the geography of this region make it a region of extraordinary productivity and biological diversity. As one of the European Union’s most valuable marine sites, Alboran is to play a role of special relevance in Europe’s contribution to the Rio Summit for the conservation of biodiversity. A reflection of this natural richness is the relevance of the region in the framework of the strategies for the conservation of sea turtles and cetaceans, and especially the bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus), the harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) and the loggerhead (Caretta caretta). It is with regards to these three species included in the Annex II of the Habitat Directive that the Spanish Cetacean Society initiated the four year LIFE Nature “Conservation of cetaceans and sea turtles in Murcia and Andalusia”, with the partnership of the Spanish Environment and Fisheries Ministries, the Nature Conservation and Fishery Agencies of the regional governments of Andalusia and Murcia, and the University of Cadiz. The central objective and action of this project has been the development of the Conservation Plans for these species and the Management Plans for their proposed SACs. With the conviction that management in the open seas has to be based on: • A solid scientific foundation • The implication of stakeholders All the other actions of the project have evolved around the development of these conservation plans, contributing at the levels of research to establish the management baseline and develop the monitoring plan, management actions to mitigate the impacts identified threats, capacity building actions to actively implicate stakeholders in the management process and public awareness actions to create the link between the project and the public. From science to management Monitoring is a fundamental part to management as is stated in Article 17 of the Habitat Directive. But monitoring of marine pelagic species poses important logistic and economic challenges. Monitoring actions in the project therefore focused not only on obtaining the baseline data for the conservation and management plans, but also on developing cost efficient tools to tackle these challenges throughout the European Union and the Mediterranean biogeographic area. Visual and acoustic surveys were used as the main data collection tool. A total of 19568 nautical miles of survey effort generated over 20000 sets of data on cetacean and sea turtle sightings and human activity observations. A total of 40000 photographs of fins were obtained, as well as 223 skin and biopsy samples. Surveys also provided the opportunity for capturing 21 sea turtles used in the satellite telemetry study of migration and habitat use. In complement, interviews, meetings and observations onboard fishing boats and samples from the stranding network completed the data compilation. Hereafter a variety of analyses were used as tools for obtaining data on population identity, distribution, and habitat use. Photo identification analysis, statistical modelling, and molecular analysis of stable isotopes, mitochondrial DNA and microsatellites, were complemented with a socioeconomic analysis, in order to obtain the baseline for the development of the conservation and management plans. In order to make sure both that research actions were adapted to the conservation objectives established in the management process of the conservation plan, and that they would be a contribution to the challenge on monitoring pelagic species beyond the scope of the project, actions were directed by an external management and monitoring scientific committee. Moreover, some of the actions were carried out at an international cooperation level, both with other European projects as EUROPLHLUKES, SCANS II, NECESSITY, as with other entities, IUCN, ACCOBAMS, Barcelona Convention, UNEP MAP and NOAA Fisheries. Implicating the stakeholders in the process With the intention of ensuring consensus among stakeholders over the resulting conservation and management plans, a large amount of effort was put into implicating fishermen, whalewatching operators and navigators in the process. Moving gradually from one to one meetings to management meetings both during the “Todos por la Mar” tours of the classic ships as well as in conjunction with other actions, resulted in generating an extremely positive input. Over 1127 meetings, 466 conferences, 48 capacity building courses and 67 music, theatre and movie events were taken from port to port during three years. The inertia created now ensures that after the LIFE project both these tours as well as the coastal community school education project, in which over 8802 school kids participated, will have a follow up, spreading even to other regions of the Spanish Mediterranean coast. At the outcome of the project, in July 2006, apart from the Species Conservation Plans which should be an important contribution to the conservation of marine pelagic species in Europe, the links have been created for the establishment of prioritary and feasible actions addressing some of the main threats that challenge cetacean and sea turtle populations, as interactions with fisheries, acoustic pollution, debris pollution, etc.


  • Ziphius cavirostris
  • Tursiops truncatus
  • Stenella coeruleoalba
  • Phocoena phocoena
  • Delphinus delphis

Study area:

Alboran sea and contiguous Atlantic and Mediterranean

Geographic Area:

  • Gibraltar Strait
  • Entire contiguous Atlantic subregion
  • Alboran Sea

ACCOBAMS subregion:

  • Western Mediterranean and Contiguous Atlantic Area
Year beginning: 2002Year end: 2006

Ongoing project:


Main research platform/facility:

Principal investigator:

Ricardo Sagarminaga

Investigator email:

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Project team:

Ana Cañadas
Erika Urquiola
Jose Antonio Fayos
María Ovando
José Antonio Vazquez
Jeppe Dalgaard
Scott Eckert
Pilar Marcos
Susana García
Renaud de Stephanis
Mar Padilla
María Carbó
Neus Pérez
Lucía Rueda
Elena Téllez

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