What do we do?

Applying ecosystem-based science, an open data policy and will to engage with any and all stakeholders, since 1989 Alnitak has contributed to the design and management schemes of 14 MPAs, the reduction of sea turtle batch in Spanish longline fishery by over 95%,the reconfiguration of IMO maritime traffic separation schemes in the Strait of Gibraltar and Cabo de Gata (over 30% of the World’s transport of dangerous substances), and the replication of MPA management schemes with coastal communities and other stakeholder involvement in Africa and South and Central America with the support of the ASHOKA Foundation.

The MEDTOP research and conservation programme was initiated in 2013 as a continuation of Alnitak’s “Mediterranean cetacean, seabird and marine turtle monitoring programme” which started in 1990. The end goal is to produce robust scientific contributions to regional and international biodiversity conservation strategies and sustainable development policy.

This is done, firstly, providing scientific maps and figures for the European Commission, the Bern Convention, the Bonn Convention for Migratory Species, the United Nations Environment (UNEP-MAP) and Development (UNDP) programes, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and its General Council for Fisheries in the Mediterranean (GFCM), the Agreement for the Conservation of Cetaceans in the Black Sea and Mediterranean (ACCOBAMS), the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT).

Second, we aim to build a bridge between sustainable development policy and science and all relevant stakeholders, from the general public to sectors that have key roles to play such as maritime transport, security, energy, fishing and tourism.

In 2021 our main projects on board research ship Toftevaag are:

· MED GHOST FADs: In the summer of 2019 our surveys retrieved over 120 Ghost FADs in just 90 days to the south of the Balearic Islands, and the rise of these artefacts made us begin mobilising experts and institutions for an urgent basin-wide concerned effort to mitigate this particular risk. To tackle the threat of ghost fishing in the open sea, and in particular ghost FADs, we are acquiring data to inform relevant authorities and management bodies. Our aim is to map the core sites of Ghost FAD production, identifying the key factors of risk. To achieve this, we need the collaboration between research and conservation institutions, fisheries, marine fauna recovery centres and port authorities.

· “OASIS - Turtle Oceanographers” In 2013 we began implementing NOAA and Stanford University – Tag a Giant’s vision of “animal oceanographers” which consists in using highly mobile marine animals as “oceanographers of opportunity” integrating their telemetry data in the Integrated Ocean Observation and Forecasting Systems (IOOS). The results of the modelling of this data can be used to design MPAs and develop management schemes in diverse sectors (energy, fishing, transport, tourism, etc.) to mitigate risks.

· Offshore Risso’s Project: The Mediterranean open sea ecosystem, and in particular highly productive escarpments and sea mounts, can be challenging to monitor. However, teutophagous Risso’s dolphins (Grampus griseus) may be an indicator species for these habitats of steep-bottom topography. Using features such as the 348 km-long Emile Baudot Escarpment and in particular MPAs such as the CabreraArchipelago National Park as survey sites, the aim is to implement a multidisciplinary monitoring project of this cetacean which is Data Deficient (IUCN) in the Mediterranean, to discover more about its life history, behaviour, social life, ecology, and of course exposure to open ocean threats.

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