Biodiversity and Ecosystem (EO 1)

Common Indicator 3: Species distributional range - Marine Mammals

Geographical scale of the assessment:
Regional, Mediterranean Sea
Contributing countries:
Mid-Term Strategy (MTS) Core Theme:
2-Biodiversity and Ecosystems
Ecological Objective:
EO1: Biological diversity is maintained or enhanced. The quality and occurrence of coastal and marine habitats and the distribution and abundance of coastal and marine species are in line with prevailing physiographic, hydrographic, geographic and climatic conditions.
IMAP Common Indicator:
Common Indicator 3 (CI3): Species distributional range (related to marine mammals)
Indicator Assessment Factsheet Code:

GES Definition: Monk Seal is present along recorded Mediterranean coasts with suitable habitats for the species.  

GES Targets:

  • State: The distribution of Monk Seal remains stable or expanding and the species is recolonizing areas with suitable habitats.
  • Pressure: Human activities having the potential to exclude marine mammals from their natural habitat within their range area or to damage their habitat are regulated and controlled.
  • Pressure: Conservation measures implemented for the zones of importance for cetaceans.
  • Pressure: Fisheries management measures that strongly mitigate the risk of incidental taking of monk seals and cetaceans during fishing operations are implemented.



Robust information on species occurrence, distribution and ranges is the baseline to perform any further in depth investigation and to gain insights on the conservation status of the target populations. These are therefore pivotal to inform conservation and management at the diverse temporal and spatial scale. Cetaceans in the Mediterranean Sea are protected under statutory regulations (e.g. the Habitat Directive and the Marine Strategy Framework Directive) and by several international agreements such as ACCOBAMS among the others, which not only indicates to some extent the priorities in terms of conservation, but also clearly states the details of monitoring activities that should be in place. By consequence, these information and the process to gather them are necessary to abide to national and international regulations.

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Assessment methods                           

Visual and acoustic surveys.Before conducting any type of monitoring of animal populations aimed at assessing the species distribution, it is essential to define the main objectives of the programme, alongside with the collection of relevant information on the target study area and the species presence, occurrence and behaviour. These elements are critical to choose the right data collection methodology, survey design approach and analytical framework.

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Results and Status, including trends

This assessment presents a brief overview of the key results and status of twelve species of marine mammals, one seal and 11 cetaceans that are regularly present in the Mediterranean Sea and face several threats due to heavy anthropogenic pressures throughout the entire Mediterranean basin.

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Current knowledge about the presence, distribution, habitat use and preferences of Mediterranean marine mammals is limited and regionally biased, due to an unbalanced distribution of research effort during the last decades, mainly focused on specific areas of the Basin. Throughout the Mediterranean Sea, the areas with less information and data on presence, distribution and occurrence of marine mammals, are the south-eastern portion of the basin, including the Levantine basin and the North Africa coasts. In addition, the summer months are the most representative in the censuses and very few information have been provided for the winter months in the data pool, when conditions to conduct off-shore research campaigns are particularly hard due to meteorological adversity.

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Key messages 

  • A risk based approach for monitoring should be carried out to assess the marine mammal distribution throughout the whole Mediterranean Sea.
  • More effort should be devoted in poorly monitored areas.

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