THE TURKISH NATIONAL ACTION PLAN FOR THE CONSERVATION OF CETACEAN SPECIES IN THE TURKISH WATER OF THE
AEGEAN AND MEDITERRANEAN SEAS
1. Cetacean Diversity
In the Turkish waters of the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas, nine cetacean species can be observed (Table 1). These are Delphinus delphis, Tursiops truncatus, Stenella coeruleoalba, Globicephala melas, Grampus griseus, Pseudorca crassidens, Physeter catodon, Ziphius cavirostris and Balaenoptera physalus. There are a total of 14 cetacean species living in the Mediterranean Sea. Among them, ten species including the Phocoena phocoena living in the Black Sea, are observed in the Turkish waters. All these cetacean species are under protection by law since 1983 in Turkish waters (Öztürk, 1996).
The species listed below appear in the Annex 2 to the Protocol Concerning Specially Protected Areas and Biological Diversity in the Mediterranean.
Fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus)
Common dolphin (Delphinus delphis)
Long-finned pilot whale (Globicephala melas)
Risso’s dolphin (Grampus griseus)
Sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus)
False killer whale (Pseudorca crassidens)
Striped dolphin (Stenella coeruleoalba)
Bottlenose dolphin (Trusiops truncatus)
Cuvier’s beaked whale (Ziphius cavirostris)
The listings of those cetacean species in Table 1 and their status in IUCN Red Data Book are summarized in Table 2. Besides those listed in Table 2, ACCOBAMS covers all those species.
Brief information on the cetacean species in Turkish waters of the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas is as follows.
Balaenoptera physalus (Linnaeus, 1758)
Common names: Fin whale (En), uzun balina (Tr), Rorqual commun (Fr) The second largest cetacean, reaching 27 m (southern hemisphere) and 75 t. In the Mediterranean, reliable length measurements are considerably smaller (<22 m). Feeds on krill, small, schooling fishes, and squid. Distribution: Cosmopolitan, inhabits primarily oceanic waters in both hemispheres, from the tropics to polar waters. Undertakes extensive seasonal migrations between tropical and polar zones. Abundant in the western and central (Ionian Sea) Mediterranean, rare in the eastern region. B. physalus is recorded in the Turkish Mediterranean Sea around the Karatas, Antalya, Finike and Mersin areas. Status in the Mediterranean: Recent genetic evidence supports the hypothesis that fin whales in the Mediterranean are a resident population, reproductively isolated from the Atlantic. The population estimate in the eastern Mediterranean in summer is above 1500 individuals. Records exist of accidental captures in pelagic driftnets, although the impact of fisheries on this species appears to be moderate.
Delphinus delphis (Linnaeus, 1758)
Common names: Common dolphin (En), Tirtak (Tr), Dauphin commun (Fr) Distribution: Once common throughout the Mediterranean, common dolphins are now rare except in the Alboran Sea and in the coastal waters of western Greece (Ionian Sea). This species is common mainly in Finike area near Antalya. Status in the Mediterranean: There is no population estimate of common dolphins in the Mediterranean. The causes of this species’ sharp decline in the region are unknown. The Mediterranean population(s) should be considered endangered and is regarded as a conservation priority by the IUCN 1996-1998 Action Plan for the Conservation of Cetaceans. Common dolphins are accidentally caught in fishing gear (Öztürk, 1998).
Globicephala melas (Traill, 1809)
Common names: Long-finned pilot whale (En), Pilot yunus (Tr), Globicéphale commun (Fr) Distribution: Common in the region of Gibraltar and in the deepest portions of the Alboran Sea, Balearic waters and waters west of Sardinia, pilot whales become rare in the Tyrrhenian Sea, and are virtually absent from the Adriatic Sea and the eastern basin. G. melas has also been recorded on the Turkish Mediterranean coasts. Status in the Mediterranean: There is no population estimate for this species in the Mediterranean Sea. Pilot whales are known to be bycaught in pelagic driftnets.
Grampus griseus (G. Cuvier, 1812)
Common names: Risso’s dolphin (En), Risso yunus (Tr), Dauphin de Risso (Fr)
Distribution: A common Mediterranean odontocete, particularly frequent in waters over steep continental slopes throughout the basin. Vagrant in the northern Adriatic. Reports from the eastern Mediterranean are rare, but probably reflect the lack of observations rather than of presence. Indications exist that individuals may be year-round residents of some areas. This species is also found in the Turkish coasts, such as Fethiye and Kalkan. Status in the Mediterranean: There is no population estimate for this species on the Turkish coasts. There have been some instances of accidental capture in fishing gear in Fethiye area (Öztürk & Öztürk 1998).
Physeter catodon (Linnaeus, 1758)
Common names: Sperm whale (En), Kasalot (Tr), Cachalot (Fr) Distribution: Sperm whales are found throughout the Mediterranean in deep waters, particularly where the continental shelf slope is steepest. Based on observations of newborn specimens, sperm whales supposedly breed in the Mediterranean. It is unknown whether sperm whales in the Mediterranean belong to a North Atlantic population or make a separate, resident population. P. catodon is also distributed along the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts of Turkey, namely; Saros Bay, Güllük Bay, Fethiye Bay, Göcek Bay, and Finike Bay. P. catodon is observed off Kemer-Antalya, which is one of the deepest areas of the Mediterranean Seas. Status in the Mediterranean: Considered common in the Mediterranean according to ancient literature, sperm whales are currently infrequent. Mortality by entanglement in driftnets is significant in sperm whales, and potentially unsustainable. Such bycatch of a female sperm whale was reported in June 2002 and she was successfully rescued and released within a few days.
Pseudorca crassidens (Owen, 1846)
Common names: False killer whale (En), Yalanci katil balina (Tr), Faux-orque (Fr) Distribution: Quite rare in the Mediterranean, as a vagrant from the North Atlantic. Reports of sightings, strandings and captures exist from the Alboran Sea, the Balearic Islands, the Ligurian Sea, Sardinia, Sicily, the northern Adriatic and the Aegean Sea. A specimen was stranded in Izmir in 1997. Status in the Mediterranean: The individuals occasionally observed in the Turkish seas are likely to belong to either North Atlantic or Red Sea populations.
Stenella coeruleoalba (Meyen, 1833)
Common names: Striped dolphin (En), Cizgili yunus (Tr), Dauphin bleu et blanc (Fr) Distribution: Today the commonest pelagic cetacean in the Mediterranean, the striped dolphin is found throughout the offshore deep waters. Striped dolphins are year-round residents and breed in the Turkish Aegean and Mediterranean coasts (Öztürk, 1996a). Status in the Mediterranean: There is no striped dolphin population estimate in the Turkish Aegean and Mediterranean Seas. High mortality rates were reported for this species from accidental takes in driftnets (Öztürk et al., 2001). Mediterranean striped dolphins were affected by a severe outbreak of a morbillivirus epizootic in 1990-91, possibly linked to high levels of contamination by PCBs and other organochlorine compounds. The striped dolphin is mostly coastal in the Turkish waters of the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas.
Trusiops truncatus (Montagu,1821)
Common names: Bottlenose dolphin (En), Afalina (Tr), Grand dauphin (Fr) Distribution: The commonest coastal marine mammal in the Mediterranean, found over the continental shelf from Gibraltar to Asia Minor. In some areas (e.g., the northern Adriatic and southern Tunisia) this is the only common cetacean. Status in the Mediterranean: There are no comprehensive population estimates for this species in the Turkish Aegean and Mediterranean. Long-term studies in specific locations (e.g., Iskenderun, Cilician Basin) have demonstrated the year-round, predictable presence of a number of identifiable individuals. Bottlenose dolphins are known to become accidentally caught in fishing gear, and frequent conflicts with coastal fishing activities may result in significant mortality levels. This species’ coastal habits expose it to extremely high levels of contamination by organochlorine compounds and trace elements and make bottlenose dolphins particularly vulnerable to human encroachment on the coastal environment.
2. Major Problems Concerning the Protection of Cetaceans
a) Lack of basic information For elaborating effective protection measures for cetaceans in the Turkish Aegean and Mediterranean Seas, basic information on their population size, distribution, and ecology is necessary. However, due to lack of resources, both financial and human, very little is available at the moment. Information on strandings is hard to obtain because of the insufficiency of the stranding network. For example, Öztürk and Öztürk (1998) reported cetacean strandings in the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts of Turkey. During 1990-1997, a total of 23 strandings were recorded. However, they assumed this figure should be more as many strandings were not reported due to the lack of effective stranding network.
b) Fishing activities Illegal fishing and overfishing put considerable pressure on fish stocks in the region. Illegal fishing on juvenile fish and non-target species damages the ecological balance in the region. This may create food shortages for cetaceans, not just the decline of the fishermen’s catch. As they often prey on commercial fish species, there can be conflicts between fishermen and cetaceans over those commercial fish stocks.
Furthermore, the bycatch in the swordfish driftnets in the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts of Turkey poses a serious threat to some cetacean species, such as S. coeruleoalba, T. truncatus, and G. griseus. The swordfish fishing season lasts only two months, May and June. Mesh size of the driftnet used for the swordfish is 240-260 mm, the total length of the net is 1000 -1500 m on average and the depth is 4 m. The driftnet is set in the depth of 6-7 m in general. Even though driftnet fishery has been banned since 1998, there is still some illegal fishing in the region (Öztürk et al. 2001). One example was a female sperm whale, entangled to one of those illegal driftnets and later successfully rescued in Fethiye area on the Mediterranean coast.
c) Coastal development Loss of habitat due to coastal construction and human activities such as fishing and recreation is one of the main threats for the coastal cetaceans in these seas, such as T. truncatus, and G. griseus. There are many hotels, resorts and roads established by the water in the region. Because this coastline is very popular for tourists, there are many recreational boats cruising during summer. This may annoy some cetaceans while breeding and feeding so they may be forced to abandon these sites.
d) Pollution There are several sources of pollution, but mainly domestic and ship originated pollution are of concern. Wastewater discharges can cause eutrophication in the coastal waters as well as microbial contamination of cetaceans. Industrial wastes cause contamination related to heavy metal and organochlorines in cetaceans. Ship originated pollution, such as bilge water and oil, affect both coastal and offshore cetaceans. Shipping activities, military exercises, and seismic studies cause noise pollution in marine environment. As cetaceans greatly depend on sounds for communication and feeding, this noise pollution can be affecting them. Solid waste, such as plastic bags, can be fatal to some cetaceans when they are sucked.
e) Lack of public awareness Although ordinary public perceive cetaceans as friendly and peaceful animals in Turkey, they hardly know about their biology and ecology, sometimes even their existence in Turkish waters, because the information is so scarce. For the effective protection of the cetaceans, public participation is essential.
1. Objectives: Due to the above threats cetaceans are facing in Turkish waters of the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas, their habitats are affected and their populations are declining. Although the exact size of the cetacean populations is not known, a precautionary approach should be taken considering their low reproductive rate. Therefore, the National Action Plan is elaborated hereafter to:
a) Protect and conserve cetacean habitats including feeding, breeding and calving grounds, without however, being restricted to these aspects.
b) Protect, conserve and recover the cetacean populations in Turkish waters of the Mediterranean Sea.
2. Priorities: Priorities considering the protection and conservation of cetaceans and their habitats in the Turkish waters of the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas are:
a) Elucidating the current status of cetaceans, that is, monitoring, research and data collection and dissemination with regard to biology, ecology, and habitats of cetaceans;
b) Prevention and elimination of pollution;
c) Elimination of incidental catches in fishing gear;
d) Prevention of over-exploitation and illegal catch of fishery resources;
e) Protection of feeding, breeding, and calving grounds if identified;
f) Educational activities aimed at the public and fishermen.
Among the above priorities, a), c), and e) are considered to be the main urgent plans to be implemented for the following reasons. The priority (a), elucidating the current status of cetaceans, is the baseline for any research activities or conservation plans in the future. Nothing can be elaborated or implemented without the information which is going to be provided by this action. The other two priorities, (c): elimination of incidental catches, and (e): protection of feeding, breeding, and calving grounds, directly concern the survival of the cetaceans in the Turkish Mediterranean and Aegean Seas. The other three priorities, b), d), and f) indirectly affect the survival of the cetaceans in the region within a longer time period.
A. Survey on the distribution of cetaceans. Lack of information on cetaceans is one of the major problems concerning their protection. The result of this activity provides basic information for the other activities mentioned below, particularly the establishment of Special Protected Areas.
A.1. Objective To understand the spatial and seasonal distribution of cetaceans so that the effective protection measures can be elaborated and implemented.
A.2. Description To identify spatial and seasonal distribution, and population structure of cetaceans via cruise surveys and interviews with fishermen and other people working at sea.
A.3. Responsibilities Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs (MARA), Ministry of Environment (MOE)
A.4. Stakeholders MARA, MOE, Universities, NGOs, fishermen, local authorities, local people
A.5. Prerequisites Testing the appropriate survey methods, training the appropriate survey crew, and making questionnaires
A.6. Problems for implementation Can be costly to cover all seasons and all coasts as the coastline of Turkey is long. Data collected by interviews can be biased due to the different degree of experience of the people interviewed.
A.7. Calendar One year should be spent on the Aegean coast and another year on the Mediterranean coast. Total time span is 2 years for this project.
A.8. Budget Cruise: $20,000 x 8 cruises = $ 160,000 Surveyors (Crew) : $1,500 (per person) x 5 persons x 8 cruises = $ 60,000 Travel: $2,000 (per person) x 3 surveyors x 2 interview surveys = $ 12,000 Equipments (computer, binoculars, etc) and others: $18,000 TOTAL: $ 250,000
A.9. Monitoring Monitoring of this action is made through the evaluation of interim and final reports by relevant authorities.
B. Monitoring cetacean bycatch: Although pelagic driftnets are forbidden in Turkey, some illegal fishing is still carried out. Besides, some other fishing gears potentially bycatch some animals. It is critically important to eliminate cetacean bycatch.
B.1. Objective To eliminate or mitigate cetacean bycatch in the Turkish waters of the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas as bycatch is one of the most important factors threatening cetaceans in the region.
B.2. Description First of all, identify and examine cetacean specimen bycaught by fishing gears. This also provides a good opportunity to study their biology and ecology. Secondly, based on the data obtained, mitigation measures are elaborated concerning fishing grounds, seasons, and gears, and the legal enforcement has to be done by local authorities.
B.3. Responsibilities Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs (MARA), Ministry of Environment (MOE)
B.4. Stakeholders MARA, MOE, Universities, NGOs, fishermen, local authorities
B.5. Prerequisites Some basic information on bycatch should be distributed to all stakeholders.
B.6. Problems for implementation Can be costly to cover all seasons and all coasts as the coastline of Turkey is long. Fishermen may not be cooperative in fear of being punished by local authorities and losing their right to fish.
B.7. Calendar Total of 2 years is needed for this project.
At the end of the second report, the evaluation of the mitigation measures is made. The workshop is held to disseminate this information and agreement is made among stakeholders. All the biological information is compiled and used for understanding life history for cetacean species.
B.8. Budget Brochures: $5,000 Travel costs for experts: $10,000 Mitigation measures (equipments, experiments): $50,000 Workshop: $20,000 TOTAL: $85,000
B.9. Monitoring Monitoring of this action can be made by the evaluation of the interim and final reports by relevant authorities.
C. Establishing cetacean stranding network: Stranded animals are good sources of information about cetacean biology, especially where the fishery is forbidden and the bycaught animals are hard to find. Turkey, however, has a long coastline on the Aegean Sea and Mediterranean coasts, and it is impossible to cover the entire coastline to find cetacean strandings for a few institutions. A few meetings have been held for establishing a stranding network in Turkey, but due to lack of funds, they have not been so successful. Therefore, a well-organized stranding network is essential to cover the entire coastline and to be able to maximize the use of specimens. Consequently, a national database should be established, so that the data can be shared with a wide range of parties.
C.1. Objectives To better understand cetacean strandings in the Turkish waters of the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas, to obtain biological data of those cetaceans otherwise inaccessible, and, at last, to establish a database of cetacean strandings in Turkey.
C.2. Description A workshop will be organized to train interested parties from various parts of the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts so that they can identify and examine the specimens when necessary. A booklet and a poster will be prepared for this workshop. At the workshop, several speakers, including some experts from overseas, will give lectures on various aspects of strandings.
C.3. Responsibilities Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs (MARA), Ministry of Environment (MOE)
C.4. Stakeholders MARA, MOE, Universities, NGOs, fishermen, local authorities, diving clubs, yachtsmen, cruise operators
C.5. Prerequisites Maximum participation from various fields is expected to make a fully effective network.
C.6. Problems for implementation Interested parties may have financial difficulties for communication, traveling to stranding sites, and so on. The ownership of the data or specimens should discuss the workshop to avoid future possible conflicts among stakeholders.
C.7. Calendar Total period of 6 months is needed for this project.
C.8. Budget Booklets: $20,000 Posters: $5,000 Travel (invited speakers): $10,000 Travel (invited participants): $15,000 Seminar hall: $5,000 Other expenses: $5,000 TOTAL: $60,000
Monitoring of this action is difficult. It can be done only when actual strandings occur and responsible organizations can evaluate the effectiveness of the network.
D. Educational programs Since cetaceans sometimes damage fishing nets and compete for the common resources, some, if not all, fishermen have hostility towards them. To mitigate this hostility and to involve them in the protection of cetaceans, an educational program for fishermen is necessary. Besides, in order to protect the cetaceans and their habitats more effectively, raising public awareness at large is very important.
D.1. Objective To inform fishermen of the protection of cetaceans to ask for their active participation in various protection projects. To raise public awareness about the protection of cetaceans and their habitats in towns and villages along the Aegean and Mediterranean coastlines.
D.2. Description Educational materials such as brochures, postcards, and posters, are prepared. Seminars are given to fishermen, public, and school children for them to understand cetaceans and to encourage them to participate in the protection of cetaceans. Picture competitions are organized. A short video is prepared to show at seminars.
D.3. Responsibilities Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs (MARA), Ministry of Environment (MOE)
D.4. Stakeholders MARA, MOE, Universities, NGOs, fishermen, local authorities, schools, public at large (local and tourists)
D.5. Prerequisites: None
D.6. Problems for implementation
Fishermen may not be cooperative if the damage made by cetaceans is serious and their economic situations are not good. This activity requires to train many people, thus time consuming.
D.7. Calendar Total of 2 years is needed for this project.
D.8. Budget Brochures: $5,000 Posters: $5,000 Video: $10,000 Postcards: $5,000 T-shirts, caps: $10,000 Travel: $15,000 TOTAL: $50,000
D.9. Monitoring Monitoring of this action is made by the evaluation of the interim and final reports by relevant authorities. The number of fishermen, tourists, schools, and local authorities for whom this action was as well as their reactions should be recorded in the reports.
E. Establishing Special Protected Areas for cetaceans
As the most effective way to protect cetaceans, the establishment of Special Protected Areas is highly recommended. These areas are centered on the breeding and calving grounds of cetaceans, but should also include important feeding grounds. This action can be done in conjunction with the creation of marine protected areas along the Turkish coasts in National Strategic Action Plan. The marine protected areas in the latter action plan are covering a wide range of organisms, from seagrass to fish and invertebrates. However, this action for cetaceans are more focused on protecting some habitats having an important place in their life history.
E.1. Objective To protect the breeding and calving grounds as well as important feeding grounds of cetaceans to ensure the recovery of the populations in the Turkish Aegean and Mediterranean Seas.
E.2. Description Based on the data collected by surveys, priority areas are selected. Among them, one or two sites are selected as a pilot area. Within these pilot areas, fishing and touristic activities are strictly controlled by local authorities. A temporary research and education center is made on the coast. Detailed researches on cetacean biology are carried out and education programs are made. After two years, the result of the establishment of these pilot areas is evaluated and more protected areas can be established.
E.3. Responsibilities Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs (MARA), Ministry of Environment (MOE), coast guards
E.4. Stakeholders MARA, MOE, Universities, NGOs, fishermen, local authorities (coast guards, harbour masters), local public, tourists
E.5. Prerequisites Activity 1, Survey on distribution of cetaceans, must be completed to provide basic information needed to select sites for protected areas.
E.6. Problems for implementation There can be serious conflicts with fishermen and tour operators.
E.7. Calendar This project needs at least 2 years for pilot areas.
E.8. Budget (Considering one pilot area) Educational materials (brochures, posters): $10,000 A research and education center: $40,000 A patrol boat: $100,000 Equipment for pollution control (such as booms for oil spill): $50,000 TOTAL: $200,000
E.9. Monitoring Monitoring of this action can be made through the evaluation of the interim and final reports by relevant authorities.
4. Overall Picture of Turkish National Action Plan
The below schematic figure shows the links among foreseen activities of Action Plan.
Overall calendar is shown below, although the starting dates are not fixed. The total duration of the Turkish National Action Plan for the Conservation of Cetacean Species in the Turkish Water of the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas is 4 years.
5. Investment Portfolio
Survey on distribution of cetaceans 2 Years 250,000
Monitoring cetacean bycatch 2 Years 85,000
Establishing cetacean stranding network 6 Months 60,000
Educational programs 2 Years 50,000
Establishing Special Protected Areas for cetaceans 2 Years 200,000
Öztürk, B. 1996. Balinalar ve Yunuslar (Whales and Dolphins). Anahtar yayınevi, Istanbul, 119pp.
Öztürk, B., Öztürk, A.A., Dede, A. 2001. Dolphin bycatch in the swordfish driftnet fishery in the Aegean Sea. Rapp.Comm.int.Mer Medit., 36.
Öztürk, B., Öztürk, A.A. 1998. Cetacean strandings in the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts of Turkey .Rapp.Comm.int.Mer Medit., 35: 476-477.