As with other cetaceans worldwide, the whales, dolphins, and porpoises of the Mediterranean and Black Seas move between their breeding, feeding and over-wintering ranges, or follow their prey over long distances. On route they encounter a variety of man-made threats, including accidental entanglement in fishing gear (bycatch), marine pollution, acoustic disturbance, hunting, whale-watching and competition with fisheries. Since migrating cetaceans regularly cross-national boundaries, their effective protection requires international co-operation.
The Agreement on the Conservation of Cetaceans of the Black and Mediterranean Seas (ACCOBAMS) was concluded in Monaco in 1996 and entered into force in 2001. ACCOBAMS is the first agreement of its kind to bind the countries of the two seas to work together on a problem of common concern. The Agreement requires members to implement a comprehensive Conservation Plan, based first on legislation banning the deliberate capture of cetaceans in fishing zones by their flag vessels or those subject to their jurisdiction, on measures for minimising incidental capture and, finally, on the creation of protected zones, important for the feeding, breeding and rearing of cetaceans. Governments also undertake to assess and manage human-cetacean interactions, conduct research and monitoring; develop programmes to inform, train and educate the public, and set up emergency response measures. Membership is open to all littoral states and to non-coastal States of the Agreement area ('third countries') whose vessels are engaged in activities which may affect cetaceans.
The UK has contributed funding to the Agreement on a voluntary basis.
JNCC has provided advice to the Government (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Foreign Office) on the Agreement's conservation objectives, and staff have joined or formed the UK delegation to sessions of the Meeting of the Parties since 2002.