Observatoire Pelagis aerial surveys 2002-2021

Observatoire PELAGIS UAR 3462 University La Rochelle - CNRS

Dataset credit

Observatoire PELAGIS UMS 3462, University La Rochelle - CNRS -Agence des Aires Marines Protégées - Direction de l'Eau et de la Biodiversité


Primary contact Olivier Van Canneyt Observatoire Pelagis UMS 3462, University La Rochelle - CNRS
Secondary contact Hélène Peltier Observatoire PELAGIS, UMS 3462, University La Rochelle-CNRS
Data entry Ei Fujioka Duke University



In order to establish a baseline map of cetaceans and other pelagic megafauna across the French EEZ, the French agency for marine protected areas (AAMP) decided to conduct a series of surveys allowing hotspots of abundance and diversity to be identified and a future monitoring scheme to be established. A dedicated aerial survey methodology, following standard protocols, was preferred to ship surveys. The general design corresponds to published protocols prepared for small cetaceans, but data for other marine mammals (large whales, sirenians), seabirds, sea-turtles, large teleosts and large elasmobranchs) are collected as well. Data collected include species, group size, angle to survey track for cetaceans located within 500m on both sides of survey track, allowing line transect data analyses. For seabirds all encounters located within 200m on both sides of survey track are recorded for strip-transect analysis. Covariates collected on board include sea-state, turbidity, glare and cloud coverage. The study areas include all sectors of the French EEZ: North-East Atlantic, the tropical Atlantic (French Caribbean and Guiana), Indian (Reunion Island, Mayotte and the Scattered Islands) and south Pacific oceans (French Polynesia, New Caledonia, Wallis and Futuna).
These surveys follow the general SCANS methodology (Hiby and Lovell, 1998) adapted to aircrafts. A zigzag track layout is used and transects are sampled at a target altitude of 180 m and ground speed of 90 nm.h-1 (167 km.h-1). Survey platforms are high-wing, double-engine aircrafts fitted with bubble windows; a Partenavia P68 was used in 2008 in the Atlantic and two Britten Norman BN-2 in 2009-10 in the southwest Indian Ocean.
Survey crew typically consists in two trained observers observing with naked eyes and a flight leader in charge of data collection.


In order to establish a baseline map of cetaceans and other pelagic megafauna across the French EEZ, it was decided to conduct a series of surveys from 2008 onwards following a standardized methodology that would allow comparisons within and between regions as well as temporally, for the sake of the identification of hotspots of abundance and diversity and the establishment of a future monitoring scheme. These surveys are named the REMMOA and SAMM surveys for REcensement des Mammifères marins et autre Mégafaune pélagique par Observation Aérienne (Census of marine mammals and other pelagic megafauna by aerial survey) and Suivi Aérien de la Megafaune Marine (Aerial survey for marine megafauna). Additionally, considering the fragmented nature of the French EEZ, notably compared to the spatial scale that is relevant for the species of interest, the implementation of these surveys at regional scale by collaboration with neighboring countries was encouraged.

Supplemental information

[2022-01-18] Data in 2020 were appended.
[2018-04-26] Data in 2016 and 2017 were appended.

Time and group size of the sightings are not available online. They may be released upon request.

There are records for plankton observations but these records are not visible online.

The animals the provider identified as Sterninae spp were registered as Laridae spp. However, you can still see the original species identification online.


Van Canneyt, O. 2022. Observatoire Pelagis aerial surveys 2002-2021. Data downloaded from OBIS-SEAMAP (http://seamap.env.duke.edu/dataset/1404) on yyyy-mm-dd.



This section explains attributes included in the original dataset. OBIS-SEAMAP restricts the attributes available to the public to date/time, lat/lon and species names/counts only. Should you need other attributes described here, you are encouraged to contact the data provider.

Attributes described below represent those in the original dataset provided by the provider.
Only minimum required attributes are visible and downloadable online. Other attributes may be obtained upon provider's permission.

Attributes in dataset

Attribute (table column)Description
oidUnique ID number (generated by OBIS-SEAMAP)
cdnomdefinition not provided
speciesSpecies name recorded
sp_tsnTaxonomic Serial Number added by OBIS-SEAMAP
obs_dateDate of the observation (time is not available)
longitudeLongitude in decimal degrees
latitudeLatitude in decimal degrees
observerObserver name
data_producerData producer
data_administratorData administrator
surveySurvey name
obs_timeTime of the observation is not available
obs_countGroup size is not available.
geomGeometry field added by OBIS-SEAMAP
Marine mammals8,503
Sea turtles2,354
Rays and sharks2,733
Other species9,186
Non spatial0
Non species400
Date, Begin2002-08-03
Date, End2020-03-13
Temporal prec.111000
Latitude-25.86 - 51.57
Longitude0.00 - 360.00
Coord. prec.6 decimal digits
Data typeAnimal sighting
Traveled (km)0
Contr. through
Sharing policy CC-BY-NC (Minimum)
Shared with OBIS
GBIF (via DOI)
See metadata in static HTML
See metadata in FGDC XML
See download history / statistics