The largest cetacean aerial survey mission in the Black Sea just ended! The preliminary results to be published.

After 3 weeks and 7.000 km surveilled, the most extensive aerial survey activity on cetaceans in the Black Sea basin has come to an end! Preliminary results of the action: 1750 sightings of dolphin and porpoise. The aerial survey was conducted over the Black Sea waters in Romania, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Turkey and Georgia. The work was carried out within the CeNoBS project, co-funded by the European Union.

Eight specialists from 4 European countries, divided into 2 teams, traveled over 12,000 km (transects were 7000km) in 19 days in two Cessna Skymaster “Push Pull” aircraft of Action Air Environment. Two teams started from opposite sides of the survey area and collected data on cetaceans simultaneously over the waters of Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey and Georgia.

Working method

In the more than 7.000 km monitored, the two observing teams collected data on the abundance of Cetaceans in the Black Sea as well as fish, birds (Descriptor 1 Biodiversity) and Marine litter (Descriptor 10), descriptors found in defining the Good Environment Status (GES), the main objective of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive.

Under the coordination of Dr. Ayaka Amaha Öztürk, faculty members from Istanbul University’s Faculty of Aquatic Sciences, TUDAV General Assembly members Assoc. Prof. Ayhan Dede, Assoc. Prof. Arda M. Tonay, and Vet. Dr. Erdem Danyer from the Republic of Turkey Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry’s Etlik Veterinary Control Central Research Institute, participated in the aerial survey that covered the Black Sea coasts of Turkey.

Sixty linear transects were covered across the perimeters of the five mentioned countries, and an innovative software was used to collect data efficiently: SAMMOA is a software dedicated to aerial observation missions of marine megafauna developed by Observatoire PELAGIS (La Rochelle – CNRS, France). The software allows real-time visual observations, GPS positioning, and simultaneous audio recording, which greatly helps in the data validation process.

Preliminary data

According to preliminary data, in 19 days and 7.000km monitored, more than 1,750 dolphin and porpoise records were made. A record can have between 1 and 50 individuals. By species, bottlenose dolphins were recorded in only 121 cases, a very small number compared to the other two species: harbour porpoise and common dolphins. In total, there were 3.898 observations and 41 recorded species and human activities (fishing, transport, etc.),

The mission ended in Turkey at Zonguldak Çaycuma Airport, where the two teams reunited to complete the mission.

We can say that it is a historic cooperation effort from both the Black Sea basin countries and those from the outside, involving experts from Italy and France, as well as the support of ACCOBAMS – the Secretariat of the Agreement on the Conservation of Cetaceans in the Black Sea, the Mediterranean Sea and the adjacent Atlantic area.

The Project

Supporting the implementation of the Marine Strategy for the Black Sea by creating a regional cetacean monitoring system (D1) and noise monitoring (D11) for GES implementation “- CeNoBS is a 24-month project co-funded by the European Union. CeNoBS is a project with several European partners, coordinated by the NGO Mare Nostrum / Romania and aims to improve the implementation of the second cycle of the framework directive for two key descriptors:

Descriptor 1 – marine mammals / cetaceans and Descriptor 11 – noise in the Black Sea by achieving greater coherence in determining, assessing and achieving Good Environmental Status (GES).

The proposed activities will complement the lack of background data on the distribution / abundance of cetacean populations and the incidence of by-catches. The main objectives are:

– the assessment of the D1 criteria for cetaceans and the setting of threshold values

– Evaluating and supporting the development of D11 monitoring in the Black Sea

– Strengthening coordination between the Black Sea region by disseminating project activities, outputs and results.


NGO Mare Nostrum is the coordinator of this European project. The partners involved in the project are Romania and Bulgaria, Ukraine, Monaco and Turkey. Starting with the competent authorities in Romania –  The Romanian Ministry of Waters and Forests and the Bulgarian Black Sea Basin Directorate, together with the institutions responsible for the MSFD scientific implementation, the Institute of Oceanology – Bulgarian Academy of Sciences IO-BAS and the Institute for Marine Research and Development “Grigore Antipa” – INCDM, as well as NGO Green Balkans (Bulgaria). Other partners involved in the project activities are the Ukrainian Ecological Research Center for the Sea (UkrSECS), the Turkish Marine Research Foundation (TUDAV), the Karadeniz Technical University (KTU) and the Permanent Secretariat of the Agreement on the Conservation of Cetaceans in the Black Sea, Mediterranean and the adjacent Atlantic area (ACCOBAMS). And last but not least, Ilia State University, Georgia, associate partner.

Supporting the implementation of the MSFD in the Black Sea by establishing a regional cetacean monitoring system (D1) and noise monitoring (D11) for GES implementation” – CeNoBS is co-funded by the European Union. Project value: 548,285 euros