The creation of the Pelagos Sanctuary is also an opportunity to implement a scientific program monitoring cetacean populations, as well as their habitats and the threats they face. The results of research are used to guide general management decisions so that measures taken by the countries and partner groups are better able to protect the cetaceans of the Pelagos Sanctuary, with the ultimate aim of enabling these species and human activities to co-exist.

In France, the use of a passive listening device at sea is subject to a prior declaration or an authorization request from the DDTM (Directions Départementales des Territoires et de la Mer) or the maritime prefecture of the French Mediterranean. The form can be downloaded from the link below and it must be sent at least two months before installing the equipment or using the towed device.

DEclaration form or authorization request for the use of a passive listening devise in French waters.

STRANDED MARINE MAMMALS SHOULD BE DEALT WITH BY A QUALIFIED ORGANIZATION AND TRAINED SPECIALISTS WITH KNOWLEDGE OF THE HEALTH RISKS AND SCIENTIFIC CONSIDERATIONS INVOLVED.

 

 In all cases, please immediately contact:

  • In Italy:
    • the Port authorities concerned
    • or the marine emergency number: 1530

 

Give accurate information

  • Whether the animal is dead or alive
  • The species of marine mammal, or a description of it if you don’t know, or if the carcass is in an advanced state of decomposition
  • The number of individuals stranded
  • The location – be as specific as you can (GPS position if possible, if not, identify the location from the general area and place name then in relation to roads, pathways, beach entry points, distance from landmarks etc.).

 

Dead animals that have been stranded

  • Do not touch or move the animal under any circumstances, even if the carcass is in good condition – avoid any risk of transmissible disease or illness
  • Alert the authorities 

 

Stranded animals that are still alive

  • Do not move the animal – avoid injuring it
  • Do no not climb on
  • Remember that a wild animal in distress will seek to defend itself (biting, sudden movements etc.)
  • EAvoid large crowds building up – the animal will be alarmed by noise and agitation
  • Do not attempt to return the animal to the water without the assistance of a network correspondent
  • Protect the animal from sunlight using a beach umbrella
  • Protect the animal from becoming too dry (dehydration) by covering it with a wet cloth, making sure that you do not block its blowhole that allows it to breathe
  • Dig the sand out from beneath the animal to help it breathe and to protect it from suffocating under its own weight


Risks associated with moving stranded cetaceans, whether dead or alive

  • Risk of injury (sudden tail movements, biting etc.), falls or cuts
  • Risk of infection (Vibrio sp. Poxvirus)
  • Brucella maris, recently discovered and found to be potentially contagious to humans in laboratory environments, is routinely found in the spleens of stranded animals
  • Autopsies also present a risk for health (‘swine erysipelas’ caused by Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae)

 

The National Stranding Network has its own branch, which is coordinated by GECEM, covering the French Mediterranean. The network is made up of local correspondents (mainly veterinarians, but also volunteers and government employees).

The Port-Cros National Park participates in the Stranding Network by making available its trained staff and two trailers for the collection stranded animal carcasses.

The two trailers are shared between the Alpes-Maritimes and Var departments.

Monthly distribution of strandings covered by the Network.

Source : GECEM

Changes in the number of strandings in the French Mediterranean per year

Source : GECEM

Strandings in the French Mediterranean per month

Source : GECEM

 

Stranded long-finned pilot whale/h4>

© Mathieu Foulquié SNPN Agde

Stranded sperm whale in Corsica

© Catherine Cesarini GECEM Corse

GECEM website

As well as advising local authorities and playing a practical role, returning stranded mammals to the sea and coordinating efforts to remove carcasses, the National Stranding Networks also act as an environmental observer.

Strandings provide a significant source of information about cetacean and pinniped (seals, otters etc.) populations along the Pelagos Sanctuary coastline.

Monitoring strandings, then, provides demographic information on the species studied (cause of death, reproduction, growth) and enables biological samples to be taken, which can be used to identify an individual’s species, age, reproductive status, pollutant concentrations, pathologies, and diet; this information provides an insight into the state of marine mammal populations, their relationship with the ecosystem and, occasionally, the impact of human activities.

 

 

Monitoring stranding events gives a lot of benefits:

  • Understanding a species: information on some species can only be collected via strandings, as they are rarely seen at sea.
  • The distribution of different species: analyzing the geography of strandings provides an insight into cetacean distribution.
  • Understanding the biology of different species: genetics of different populations, feeding habits, structures of different populations.
  • Understanding causes of death: natural deaths, being captured in nets, collisions, pollution monitoring (cetaceans, at the end of the food chain, consume concentrated amounts of pesticides and heavy metals), parasitology, infectious diseases, assessing the risk of diseases that can be transmitted to humans etc.
  • Annual mortality monitoring: establishing a mortality index. The Network, in operation for nearly fifty years, has gathered and analyzed information. This made it possible to determine a ‘normal’ mortality index, known as a ‘benchmark’, which can be used to explore the features of particular events and, as a result, alert scientists.
  • Other scientific research: biometry, genetics of different populations, whales’ feeding areas, feeding habits studies, determining the cetacean sex ratio, age, anatomy etc. and other information derived from samples.
  • And occasionally the successful rescue of living cetaceans!

 

In France, about fifty cetacean strandings are recorded in the Mediterranean every year. A National Stranding Network (NSN) was established in 1972 to study the causes of the death and thus monitor the health of marine mammals. The network covers the entirety of the French coastline. It is coordinated nationally by the Pelagis Observatory (former CRMM [Centre for Marine Mammal Research], based in La Rochelle). The National stranding database is avalaible on the Observatory website, which gives histograms and maps about French stranding. The CRMM appointed GECEM (Mediterranean Cetacean Study Group) to coordinate the activities of the Stranding Network for the whole of the French Mediterranean in 2000. The network is made up of local correspondents (mainly veterinarians, but also volunteers and government employees). The new circular issued by the Ministry concerning the reporting of strandings of marine mammals is available since 27 April 2017 at the following link: http://circulaires.legifrance.gouv.fr/pdf/2017/05/cir_42149.pd (four technical sheets on the code of conduct to have in case of cetacean stranding are already available. You can consult them on the Pelagis Observatory website mentioned above).

The Port-Cros National Park, in its role as coordinator of the French branch of the Pelagos Sanctuary, participates in the Stranding Network with its trained staff as well as by making equipment available (full range of dissection tools, signaling and information equipment, two trailers for collecting the carcasses of stranded animals, a freezer to store samples) and making its offices and facilities available for training programs of the GECEM’s ‘National Stranding Network Correspondents’.

The network also operates in specific research programs, collecting biological materials to use in conjunction with routine observations. This was the case, for example, with studies into feeding habits, population age structures and pollutant concentration in cetacean predators, which are at the end of the food chain, as well as sanitary assessments of diseases that could potentially be transmitted to humans and a study of the consequences of epidemics impacting dolphin populations.

A collaboration between France and the Principality of Monaco was initiated in order to let the Principality benefit from the NSN.

For more information about the Stranding Network in the French Mediterranean, click here.

 

In Italy, the National Stranding Network was strengthened after the morbillivirus outbreak in the Mediterranean in 2013, which caused a many cetacean strandings along the Italian coast, and now incorporates the following groups:

 * Coordination Centers for the data acquisition on strandings of marine mammals: Banca Dati Spiaggiamenti (Strandings
 Database)

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