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The International Maritime Organisation launches the Cetacean Protection Zone in the Mediterranean.

Updated: Jul 15, 2023

The International Maritime Organization (IMO), the United Nations specialised agency ensuring the safety and security of maritime transport as well as the prevention of marine and atmospheric pollution produced by shipping, has been contributing to put in practice Goal 13 (Climate Action) of the UN Sustainable Development Goals through climate mitigation via the reduction of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions as well as capacity-building programmes to support single Countries to build up a fully energy-efficient shipping sector. The mission is to cut shipping emissions by at least 50% below 2008 levels by 2050. The 80th Marine Environmental Protection Committee, held at IMO headquarters in London from the 3rd to the 7th July 2023, helped boosting both decarbonisation and the preservation of marine ecosystems through the creation of a of a Cetacean Protection Zone in the Mediterranean Basin.

Photo >> Participants to the 80th Marine Environmental Protection Committee, held at IMO headquarters in London from the 3rd to the 7th July 2023 © Direction de la Communication

Armelle Roudaut Lafon, Deputy Permanent Representative to the IMO, leading the delegation from the Principality of Monaco, took an active part in pleading the cause to laid the foundations of a pivotal international agreement that could mark a change in the course of the maritime body. All Member States agreed unanimously to up-date the strategies in order to fight against greenhouse gases induced emissions resulting from the marine transport. In particular, revising the reduction targets of CO2 emission, introducing a pricing to be set on carbon emissions.

Monetising the emissions can encourage energy efficiency measures and the use of low-carbon fuel sources. Carbon price raised funds are capable to sustain investments in cleaner technologies (e.g.: hydrogen or ammonia) and mitigation action plans or to help developing countries to foster the energy transition.

According to recent data, international shipping is producing up to 17% of the global pollutant emissions. Despite that, the Paris Agreement, the binding international treaty on climate change resulting from COP21 (2015), did not include does not include maritime transport as an impact factor, not considering the increasing concentration of pollutants coming from merchant vessels as well as industrial ports and marinas.

Photo >> Dolphins in open water © Wix

At the same time, the Committee launched the process of making a particularly sensitive area in the North Western Mediterranean, to reinforce the protection of cetaceans that concentrate in that area to feed and reproduce. The risk of collision by the ships should be significantly reduced thanks to a series of targeted voluntary measures, notably the reduction of the speed of the ships, appropriate distances of navigation, information reported on the presence of cetaceans, etc.

A total of 426 large cetaceans have collided with ships in the Pelagos Sanctuary since 1970's, 285 of them stranded and 141 survived the impact. The estimeem however seems underestimated, according to Tethys' analyses, a non-profit research organisation supporting marine conservation through science and public awareness with a focus on whales and dolphins. The matter is particularly obvious considering that maritime traffic has increased by 50% within the Sanctuary in the last decade, including ferries to and fro Corsica. Cachalots and fin whales are the most involved species.

The IMO's achievement is then emblematic resulting from a debate that has been carried out since 2022, involving France, Italy, Principality of Monaco and Spain, through a set of national and international consultations with decision-makers and the various IMO departments. Let's stay tuned for the follow-up. ***


By Maurice Abbati

Springer International Publishing

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