8 Jan 2012

Do military exercises cause whale mortality?

The end of November and beginning of December 2011 was a sad period for Cuvier’s beaked whales (Ziphius cavirostris) in Ionian Sea. Our Greek colleague dr. Alexandros Frantzis from the Pelagos Institute notified the marine mammal scientific community of an unusual stranding of three Cuvier’s beaked whales at the island of Corfu, Greece. In the following days two more strandings have been reported in Italy and Greece and at least nine or ten animals stranded. Cuvier’s beaked whale is a protected species, known to be especially vulnerable to underwater noise. During these latest strandings, a military operation using underwater sonar was taking place in the area, potentially influencing these events. Small Ionian population of these whales suffered three stranding events related to the use of military sonar in the past, which highly threatens this population.

Scientists and conservationists are deeply concerned about these events. Morigenos, together with some other partner organizations of ACCOBAMS (Agreement on the Conservation of Cetaceans of the Black Sea, Mediterranean Sea and contiguous Atlantic Area), addressed a letter to ACCOBAMS in which it urges member states to provide information on military activities and to make decisive steps for protection of cetaceans in the Mediterranean.

Photo: Alexandros Frantzis, Pelagos Institute

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