SAMBAH - Static Acoustic Monitoring of the Baltic Sea Harbour porpoise

LIFE08 NAT/S/000261

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Contact details:

Contact person: Mats AMUNDIN
Tel: +46 11 24 90 18
Email: Mats.amundin@kolmarden.com

Project description:


The Baltic Sea subpopulation of harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) is small and has been drastically reduced in recent decades. The species is listed in Annexes II and IV of the Habitats Directive, as well as in the national red lists of several EU Member States. This, in combination with a complex of threats and problems that are still fairly poorly understood, especially with reference to potential cumulative impacts, necessitates the need for improved methodologies for collecting data on population size and range, and its fluctuation over time.


The overall aim of the SAMBAH project was to apply a best practice methodology to provide data for the reliable assessment of the distribution and habitat use of the Baltic Sea subpopulation of harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena). This should enable the designation of Sites of Community Importance (SCIs) for the critically endangered Baltic Sea harbour porpoise within the Natura 2000 network, and also provide necessary data for other relevant mitigation measures. The project’s specific aims were to estimate porpoise densities and produce distribution maps; identify possible hotspots, habitat preferences, and areas with higher risk of conflicts with anthropogenic activities; increase knowledge of the species in EU Member States bordering the Baltic Sea; and implement best practice methods for cost-effective, large-scale surveillance of this low-density subpopulation.


The SAMBAH (Static Acoustic Monitoring of the Baltic Sea Harbour Porpoise) project generated robust data on the abundance, distribution and habitats of the Baltic Sea subpopulation of harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena), a species listed in Annexes II and IV of the Habitats Directive. The data on the spatial and temporal distribution of the porpoise is supporting the designation of offshore marine Natura 2000 network sites for the critically endangered species, and its addition to target species lists in existing marine Natura 2000 network sites.

The project’s study area stretched from the Darss- and Limhamn ridges in the southwest to the northern border of the Åland archipelago in the north of the Baltic Sea, where it deployed an innovative methodology using static acoustic monitoring devices as well as additional data from hydrophone arrays and from satellite tagged animals. During the project, an average 478 days of logging were collected per station (corresponding to 64% of the data collection time and a total of 398 logging years). Data on the Baltic Sea harbour porpoise was obtained from 298 of the 304 stations, and the mammal’s echo-location clicks were detected at 144 stations. This data was generated through the implementation and demonstration of best practice methods for cost-efficient, large-scale surveillance of a low density harbour porpoise population, to determine absolute density and abundance.

The project team produced distribution maps showing a clear separation of two population clusters during the summer. An approximate delimitation line east of Bornholm was drawn through a large area with very low probability of detecting porpoises. East of the delimitation line the porpoises, the majority of which were found on the shallow offshore banks south-west of the island of Gotland, were estimated at around 500 animals. Since this concentration coincided with calving (May-June) and more importantly mating (July-August), it is evident that this population is genetically separated from the porpoises in the south-western part of the Baltic Sea, although some gene flow between them cannot be excluded. Hence, it is suggested that these banks are very important for the survival of this population.

Direct conservation benefits derive from the new knowledge gained on abundance, and spatial and temporal distribution, of harbour porpoises. Based on new information about ‘hotspots’ of seasonal distribution and abundance from this LIFE project, the Swedish government designated a large marine Natura 2000 network site in the Baltic Sea for the harbour porpoise. With an area in excessive of one million hectares, this is the largest marine area ever proposed by Sweden as a Natura 2000 network site, and it includes the major part of the most important Baltic harbour porpoise breeding ground, which is mainly within Sweden’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). The data is also supporting efforts to include the Baltic Sea harbour porpoise in the target species lists of existing Natura 2000 network sites.

Estimates of density and abundance are necessary to assess the conservation status of the Baltic Sea subpopulation of harbour porpoise, and to identify areas with higher risk of conflict with anthropogenic activities, especially due to entanglement in fishing nets. The data also serves as a baseline for future surveys, and to follow up the effects of conservation actions taken at local, regional, national or transnational scales. SAMBAH increased knowledge about the harbour porpoise among policymakers, marine stakeholders and the general public in EU Member States bordering the Baltic Sea. Throughout the project, the beneficiaries actively communicating results to all relevant stakeholders, and this will continue. SAMBAH collaborated extensively with the (non-LIFE) “German SAMBAH project” and networked with other marine projects.

The project directly contributed to the implementation of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) and the Habitats Directive. The harbour porpoise is listed in Annex IV of the Habitats Directive, for instance, as a species needing strict protection. This implies that Member States, in addition to designating protected areas for the species, must also ensure that it is protected in the rest of its distribution area (e.g. against fisheries by-catch). SAMBAH also has relevance to the Marine Spatial Planning Directive.

The SAMBAH results have already been incorporated in the updated (2016) ASCOBANS Jastarnia plan, and offers vital new information to its comprehensive list of actions necessary for the conservation of the Baltic Sea harbour porpoise (http://www.ascobans.org/sites/default/files/document/ASCOBANS_JastarniaPlan_MOP8.pdf).

The project results are relevant for several industries and sectors in the marine environment, such as fisheries and marine construction businesses (e.g. offshore wind energy companies), in that the results may affect where and how they execute their activities. The methods used in SAMBAH are readily transferable to other areas. They are suited for studies of all small cetaceans emitting echo-location clicks, and especially useful for obtaining abundance and distribution data from low-density populations.

Further information on the project can be found in the project's layman report and After-LIFE Conservation Plan (see "Read more" section).


Environmental issues addressed:


Habitats - Marine
Species - Mammals


endangered species‚  monitoring‚  survey‚  harbour‚  environmental assessment‚  risk assessment

Target EU Legislation

  • Nature protection and Biodiversity
  • Directive 92/43 - Conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora- Habitats Directiv ...
  • Marine environment and Coasts
  • Directive 2008/56 - Framework for community action in the field of marine environmental policy (M ...
  • Directive 2014/89 - A framework for maritime spatial planning (23.07.2014)
  • Nature protection and Biodiversity
  • COM(2011) 244 final “Our life insurance, our natural capital: an EU biodiversity strategy to 2020 ...
  • Marine environment and Coasts
  • HELCOM Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment in the Baltic Sea Area of 1992 (fur ...

Target species

 Phocoena phocoena     

Natura 2000 sites

Not applicable



Coordinator Kolmardens Djurpark AB
Type of organisation SME Small and medium sized enterprise
Description The beneficiary is Kolmarden (Kolmardens Djurpark AB), the largest wildlife park in Scandinavia. Led by Mats Amundin (LIFE project manager), research on dolphin behaviour and sound production has been carried out at the park’s research and education centre since 1995. In the last two decades, work has focused on ways of reducing the numbers of dolphins and porpoises becoming accidently entangled in fishing nets.
Partners Swedish Environmental Protection Agency (Swedish EPA), Sweden Särkänniemi Oy, Finland Turku University of Applied Sciences (TUAS), Finland Finnish Ministry of the Environment (YM), Finland University of Gdansk (UG), Poland Institute of Meteorology and Water Management (IMGW), Sweden Chief Inspectorate of Environmental Protection (CIEP), Sweden National Environment Research Institute (NERI), Sweden Danish Forest and Nature Agency (DFNA), Denmark Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management, Sweden


Project reference LIFE08 NAT/S/000261
Duration 01-OCT-2010 to 30-SEP -2015
Total budget 4,244,013.00 €
EU contribution 2,112,098.00 €
Project location Københavns amt(Danmark) Roskilde amt(Danmark) Storstrøms amt(Danmark) Bornholms amt(Danmark) Põhja-Eesti(Estonia Eesti) Lääne-Eesti(Estonia Eesti) Kesk-Eesti(Estonia Eesti) Kirde-Eesti(Estonia Eesti) Lõuna-Eesti(Estonia Eesti) Extra-Regio(Estonia Eesti) Associated Estonia (EE)(Estonia Eesti) Ahvenanmaa/Åland(Finland Suomi) Klaipedos apskritis(Lithuania Lietuva) Kurzeme(Latvia Latvija) Latgale(Latvia Latvija) Riga(Latvia Latvija) Pieriga(Latvia Latvija) Vidzeme(Latvia Latvija) Zemgale(Latvia Latvija) Extra-Regio(Latvia Latvija) Associated Latvia (LV)(Latvia Latvija) Sydsverige(Sverige)


Read more:

Leaflet "SAMBAH: Static Acoustic Monitoring of the Baltic ...
Leaflet "SAMBAH: Statisches akustisches Monitoring des Ost ...
Leaflet "SAMBAH: Statisk akustisk monitering af marsvin i ...
Leaflet "SAMBAH: Kansainvälinen Itämeren pyöriäisen seuran ...
Leaflet "SAMBAH: Cūkdelfīnu akustiskais monitorings Baltij ...
Leaflet "SAMBAH: Statyczny Monitoring Akustyczny Bałtyckic ...
Leaflet "SAMBAH: Passiv akustisk övervakning av tumlare i ...
Leaflet "SAMBAH: Läänemere pringlite akustilene seire" (2. ...
Leaflet "SAMBAH: Baltijos jūros kiaulių statiniai akustini ...
Newsletter "SAMBAH NEWS: September 2010" (1.60 MB)
Newsletter "SAMBAH News: January 2011" (513 KB)
Newsletter "SAMBAH News: June 2012" (263 KB)
Newsletter "SAMBAH News: August 2014" (379 KB)
Newsletter "SAMBAH NEWS: March 2016" (367 KB)
Newsletter "SAMBAH NEWS: December 2011" (262 KB)
Poster "SAMBAH: Static Acoustic Monitoring of the Baltic ...
Project web site Project's website
Publication: After-LIFE Communication Plan After-LIFE Conservation Plan
Publication: After-LIFE Conservation Plan After-LIFE Conservation Plan (Polish version)
Publication: After-LIFE Conservation Plan After-LIFE Conservation Plan (Danish version)
Publication: After-LIFE Conservation Plan After-LIFE Conservation Plan (Swedish version)
Publication: Layman report Layman report (Finnish version)
Publication: Layman report Layman report (Danish version)
Publication: Layman report Layman report (Swedish version)
Publication: Layman report Layman report (Polish version)
Publication: Layman report Layman report
Publication: Technical report Project's Final technical report
Publication: Thesis "The Baltic Sea ecosystem from a porpoise point of ...
Slides Presentation "Introduction to underwater noise theme: Porpoises ...
Slides Presentation "The habitats directive and its role in cetacean c ...
Slides Presentation "SAMBAH: Static Acoustic Monitoring of the Baltic ...
Slides Presentation "Porpoises and fisheries: How can we reach agreeme ...
Slides Presentation "Porpoises in the context of marine spatial planni ...
Slides Presentation "SAMBAH Static Acoustic Monitoring of the Baltic S ...
Video link To jest morświn! [SV - 0'30] - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xVIqK9DpkUY


Project description   Environmental issues   Beneficiaries   Administrative data   Read more   Print   PDF version