Meet Julie Belmont from ACCOBAMS

From the Auvergne volcanoes to the Mediterranean sea, discover the story of Julie.
Who are you?

"I’m Julie Belmont, program officer at the ACCOBAMS, Agreement on the Conservation of Cetaceans of the Black Sea, the Mediterranean Sea, and contiguous Atlantic area."

WHAT led you to become involved in Marine conservation?

"I grew up in the middle of the Auvergne volcanoes, nature has always been part of my life. 

As a child, I dreamed of becoming a veterinarian to care for animals. I initially studied biology and ecology at a Master of Research level, and then obtained a master's degree in economics and international development

Before turning to the protection of marine mammals, I worked on programs for the protection of charismatic species in Africa such as the great apes (UN- Great Apes survival partnership program, based in Nairobi Kenya) or for local NGOs, dedicated to sea turtles’ conservation for example.  I also worked several years for the protection of marine species and ecosystems in the Caribbean, and today with ACCOBAMS, I’m focused on the cetaceans in the Black Sea, the Mediterranean, and the adjacent Atlantic area."

Which project are you coordinating?

“I’m coordinating the Mitigation dolphin depredation project

Depredation caused by cetaceans in fisheries - when dolphins partially or completely remove catches from fishing gear - is a growing matter of concern for several fisheries in the Mediterranean. Socio-economic impacts caused by the damages to the fishing gears and the loss of catches create situations of conflicts between fishers and dolphins, weakening the conservation and sustainability efforts promoted by the Mediterranean countries.

This project aims to unify the efforts of regional competent organizations, with the view to pursue the identification of technical or management solutions to reduce depredation and to expand the regional network of expertise on this issue.”

What is the strength of your project?

“Little data exists in the Mediterranean on the depredation issue, this project allows the improvement of knowledge, for a better evaluation of the issue, its impact, and possible mitigation solutions. It is a multidisciplinary issue, involving research, conservation, and socio-economical aspects, which is what I like about this project.

In the Mediterranean region, the project sheds light on this complex phenomenon and lays the foundations to better understand and manage it in a sustainable way. We are looking for solutions that are useful to fishers while protecting cetaceans. In the Mediterranean basin, this project will increase the knowledge of this growing problem and will allow the development of concrete solutions for fishers.”

What are the main challenges you are facing?

There is no magic easy recipe to stop depredation, unfortunately.

Some mitigation measures may be possible, such as acoustic repellents or reinforced netting systems. We need time and resources to develop, in collaboration with local fishers, appropriate technical solutions before submitting them to policymakers. The covid crisis has considerably slowed down the testing of these measures, and therefore their possible implementation locally but we are making the most of the precious resources provided by MAVA to support this important topic and by the end of the project we will have made considerable progress.”

What can your project bring to the conservation community?

“There have always been conflicts of use between humans and other species. How can we protect endangered species that cause a negative impact to a food industry such as fishing in the Mediterranean? In the region, we can see that the problem is growing. It involves complex economic, social, and, of course, environmental problems. 

With this project, we want to show that solutions exist so that fishers can live in harmony with marine life. This project allows the construction of a dialogue based on trust between fishers and conservationists."

For your together for the med is... 

"Together for the Med brings together the most important organizations working on sustainable fishing in the Mediterranean, our union will be our strength.

We need to work as a network to highlight our actions and increase our impact together, so as to find new horizons for marine conservation in the Mediterranean."

Discover more about the Mitigation project.