Population Genetics

The 2023-2025 Working Programme (Resolution 8.2) foresees that the ACCOBAMS Secretariat and the Scientific Committee should improve data collection on cetacean population genetics in the ACCOBAMS Area, and develop the genetical identification of population structure (particularly for Mediterranean) by:

·    Establishing and promoting a common protocol on data collection on cetacean populations genetic

·    Facilitating the creation of a general data-base/archive/inventory on existing samples/tissues in ACCOBAMS Area

·    Disseminating databases and guidelines to stakeholders

·    Facilitating analysis of existing tissue samples (including those from biopsies) to address questions on stock structure and genetic diversity

·    Organizing workshop about genetic population structure (including e-DNA) for marine mammals in the framework of international scientific events or meetings

·    Collaborating with relevant organizations (CITES, ABS Nagoya Protocol,…)


A better collaboration between Institutions was also encouraged in order to facilitate sample exchanges for joint analysis.

Two expert “ACCOBAMS workshops on Data Collection on Cetacean Population Genetics in the ACCOBAMS area” were organized on 2 September 2022 (online) and 20-21 September 2022 (in-person, Monaco). The workshop report can be downloaded here .

During the workshops, several documents were produced:

Database of existing cetacean samples in the ACCOBAMS area
To gain a better understanding on the sampling effort within the Agreement area, scientific institutions (e.g. universities, research centers, tissue banks, NGOs) that collect biological samples from free-ranging or stranded cetaceans suitable for the purpose of genetic analyses were contacted to gather information about their samples.


The first version of the database, based on 40 questionnaires received between July and October 2022, can be consulted here. It will be updated regularly. It should be noted that other institutions might collect cetacean samples and are encouraged to contact the ACCOBAMS Secretariat.

Database of suitable genetic laboratories
A database with genetic laboratories that can perform genetic analyses within the ACCOBAMS area was created based on the information received from ACCOBAMS NFPs and workshop participants in September 2022. Field researchers that require laboratory facilities to process or store biological samples can refer to this database to identify suitable national laboratories or to facilitate collaboration with international institutions. The list of laboratories is provided here. It should be noted that the list is not exhaustive and other laboratories may also have suitable facilities.

ACCOBAMS Best Practices on Cetacean Population Genetics
A document was drafted during the workshop held in September 2022 to help researchers interested in population genetics. Due to the quick development of new analytical techniques, these guidelines should be considered as a living document and be updated regularly. The ACCOBAMS Best Practices on Cetacean Population Genetics [version 2, November 2023] can be downloaded.

Caution: Permits may be required to collect samples from live or stranded cetaceans. Researchers should contact competent national and regional authorities to make sure they follow all relevant legislation regarding cetacean sample collection in their country.

ACCOBAMS Webinar – Regional Training on Genetic Data Collection & Analysis
The webinar was organised based on the 2023-2025 ACCOBAMS Working Programme (MOP8 Resolution 8.2) that foresees that the ACCOBAMS Secretariat and the Scientific Committee should improve data collection on cetacean population genetics in the ACCOBAMS Area, and develop the genetic identification of population structure (particularly in the Mediterranean Sea) by disseminating databases and guidelines to stakeholders. This webinar was organised thanks to a contribution from the Italian Ministry of the Environment and Energy Security.

Link to the Final report


  Relevant ACCOBAMS Resolutions

1.10Cooperation between National Networks of Cetacean Strandings and the Creation of a Database
2.10Facilitation of Exchange of Tissue Samples
2.11Facilitation of Scientific Research Campaigns and Programs
3.9Guidelines for the Establishment of a System of Tissue Banks within the ACCOBAMS Area and the Ethical Code
4.18Guidelines on the granting of exceptions to Article II, paragraph 1, for the purpose of non-lethal in situ research in the Agreement area
4.19Model measures for the conservation of cetaceans
7.14Best practices in monitoring and management of cetacean stranding
8.11Cetacean Population Genetics