Alborán Sea, Mediterranean
The Western Mediterranean, regularly refreshed by Atlantic currents, has the densest and most diverse whale and dolphin populations in the Mediterranean. People come to southern Spain and Morocco for beach holidays but just beyond the beach you can find nine resident whale and dolphin species. The five dolphin species include the short-beaked common dolphins watched by the ancient Greeks and Romans and endangered elsewhere in the Mediterranean but still commonly seen here. You may meet the deep-diving Cuvier’s beaked whales, giant fin whales, extended families of sperm whales and, in the Strait of Gibraltar, at least 30 known orcas, or killer whales, that often associate with the tuna boats. These whales and dolphins live here year round, sharing their food and habitat with other large predators and prey – a rich ecosystem that deserves full protection.
Also, beyond the beach, invisible to most people are threats to whales and dolphins and their habitat. The threats include intensive fishing, drift nets that catch and kill large numbers of dolphins and even sperm whales, as well as extensive, noisy shipping traffic and pollution, originating both from land and sea. The Mediterranean has 30% of the world’s shipping traffic on only 1% of the surface area and nearly all of it enters through the Strait of Gibraltar. There are also intense human pressures in the Mediterranean from the large resident and visitor numbers. For these umbrella species of whales and dolphins to persist and thrive they need safe homes, marine protected areas.
The Alborán Sea Marine Protected Area, proposed
In 2007 Mediterranean whale and dolphin scientists agreed to recommend the area shown on the map for MPA conservation as the Alborán Sea Special Protected Area of Mediterranean Interest (SPAMI). This would establish the area on the high seas while national laws and the EU Habitats Directive would take care of selected waters within 12 nm. In March 2008, the countries of the Mediterranean and Black seas agreed in principle to consider this area and other proposals in the Mediterranean for designation to help fulfil worldwide 2012 biodiversity and MPA targets. Now Spain, Morocco, Algeria and Gibraltar (UK) need to take further action to designate this MPA and prepare a management plan. Please sign WDCS’s Global Petition for Marine Protected Areas and put pressure on your government representatives.
If you are sailing in the Alborán Sea and you see whales and dolphins, you can enjoy the dolphins when they come to bow-ride but be careful and watch from a respectful distance when whales are travelling or when whales and dolphins are resting, feeding or socializing. For guidelines on whale watching, click here.
For more information about the proposed Alborán Sea Marine Protected Area, please go to www.cetaceanhabitat.org.
Read our reports
Sign up for our newsletter
Read our blogs