The Cetacean populations regularly present in the Mediterranean Sea and Contiguous Atlantic area are made of 11 species. Since the early 90s, the Contracting Parties to the Barcelona Convention have acknowledged that some cetacean populations in the Mediterranean Sea were vulnerable or endangered. The main known sources of anthropogenic mortality include shipping noise and vessel disturbance, high-intensity underwater noise from naval sonar and seismic exploration, ship strikes, incidental mortality in fishing gear, prey depletion by overfishing, pollution, ingestion of plastic debris and intentional killings.
In 1991, The Contracting Parties adopted the Action Plan for the Conservation of Cetaceans in the Mediterranean and committed to take all necessary measures to ensure a good conservation status for cetaceans.
The objectives of this Action Plan are:
The protection and conservation of cetacean habitats including feeding, breeding and calving grounds, without however, being restricted to these aspects.
The protection, conservation and the recovery of cetacean populations in the Mediterranean Sea.
The Action Plan recommends the following general priorities:
prohibition of deliberate taking;
prevention and elimination of pollution;
elimination of incidental catches in fishing gear;
prevention of over-exploitation of fishery resources;
protection of feeding, breeding and calving grounds;
monitoring, research and data collection and dissemination with regard to biology, behaviour, range and habitats of cetaceans;
educational activities aimed at the public at large and fishermen.
The Appendix of the Action Plan was updated in 2016.