Visual monitoring of the marine megafauna
The technique of aerial tracking consists of counting marine mammals and birds from the air by flying at low altitude in a high-winged aircraft equipped with bubble windows.
In France, the census of the marine megafauna by aircraft had its beginnings during the ATLANCET campaign in the summer of 2002 in the Bay of Biscay. Since 2008, this system has been developed in overseas waters through the REMMOA programme.
In 2011/2012, the SAMM (Aerial Monitoring of Marine Megafauna) campaigns were deployed in all the waters of mainland France as part of the PACOMM (Programme for the Acquisition of Knowledge on Marine Birds and Mammals for Natura 2000 at Sea).
At the regional level, the SPEE campaign (Monitoring the marine megafauna off the Charentais PErtuis, the Gironde Estuary and Rochebonne by aerial observation) aims to improve knowledge of the distribution, abundance and use of the area by marine megafauna in the Park and the “Pertuis Charentais-Rochebonne” SPA.
How does it work?
The protocol is based on the implementation of a sampling plan consisting of line transects, preferably zig-zag transects to optimise the prospecting effort. The observation platform is composed of two observers and a navigator who ensures live data entry, embarked on board a high-wing aircraft equipped with bubble windows.
The method used by this protocol is called line transect distance sampling and makes it possible to produce relative densities by correcting biases linked to the observation conditions (but potentially linked to biases in detection by the observer or the availability of the animal on the surface). The platform can be doubled by two additional observers, thus correcting some of these biases and refining the abundance estimates produced.