[MARMAM] New atypical mass stranding of Ziphius in the Ionian Sea, Greece

Jasny, Michael mjasny at nrdc.org
Thu Dec 1 05:56:56 PST 2011

In response to one of Alexandros' questions: in at least one incident
involving Navy sonar training (the Haro Strait, Washington, event of May
2003) witnesses reported hearing sonar whistles above the waterline.  


These latest strandings are extremely concerning.  It has sometimes
taken governments months or  years to publicly divulge information on
intrusive acoustic activities - including sonar training and seismic
surveys - after a mass stranding event has occurred.  Along with
Giuseppe, I would urge ACCOBAMS and CMS - and other intergovernmental
organizations that have adopted resolutions on ocean noise - to request
relevant information from their member states; and I would urge states
to respond as soon as possible. 


Finally, this incident underscores the need for meaningful,
habitat-based mitigation for sonar training, seismic exploration, and
other intense sources of ocean noise.  It seems clear - simply on the
basis of prior mass stranding events - that the eastern Ionian Sea
should be put off-limits to such activities, as were the Canary Islands
to mid-frequency sonar training through the responsible actions of the
Spanish government several years ago.  The MPA that ACCOBAMS has
proposed there is long overdue.


Best to all,




From: marmam-bounces at lists.uvic.ca [mailto:marmam-bounces at lists.uvic.ca]
On Behalf Of Alexandros Frantzis
Sent: Wednesday, November 30, 2011 4:05 PM
To: ecs-talk at jiscmail.ac.uk; marmam at lists.uvic.ca
Subject: [MARMAM] New atypical mass stranding of Ziphius in the Ionian


Dear all,

Once more we have bad news regarding Cuvier's beaked whales in the
Ionian Sea. The local population unit, which has repeatedly been
affected by NATO naval activity (last time in February 2011 east of
Sicily) may be steadily heading towards its extinction...

Today 30 November 2011 at least three Cuvier's beaked whales stranded
alive and atypically in west Corfu, along 23 km of coast. All whales
were led offshore by people who tried to rescue them. One whale died
some 200 m offshore. Another whale, after having swam some 600 m
offshore, returned and stranded once more (if this wasn't a different
animal). It was led once more offshore after the sunset, so no further
information is available so far. The third animal was not seen after it
was "rescued".

I would like to draw your attention on two "peculiarities":

1) Independent rescuers in two different stranding areas, reported that
they were hearing "whistles" while approaching the single animals. The
"whistles" were heard even out of the water at a distance of 100 m from
the animal (!), and became much louder when the rescuers entered the
water to approach the animal. The rescuers kept hearing the "whistles"
until they left the place, two hours after the death of the unique whale
present! They thought that there might be other whales calling the
stranded animal from further offshore, although they could observe
nothing for hours.

Two independent rescuers (separated by 23 km) described these "whistles"
as "emission"-pause of 10-15 seconds-"emission"-pause and so on. I
wonder if what the rescuers were hearing was the probable sonic cause of
the stranding. If you have a similar experience or knowledge, please
share it with us.

The rescuers didn't see any military or seismic survey vessels from the
shore. A fisherman from the area said that today he saw an "unusual"
research vessel offshore that he believes (it is known in the area that
seismic surveys have started or are about to start) was performing
research for oil.

2) The whale that died 200 m offshore was found at about 3-4 m depth at
an unusual position (to me at least). Its flukes were on the sea bed
while the beak and part of the head of the animal was out of the water!
For some reason the head could float at surface and the animal never
sunk. Does anyone has an explanation?

Unfortunately no necropsy was performed to the animal that died.

The port-police authorities and local volunteers have been alerted and
we just hope that tomorrow we won't find more animals along the coasts.

Repeated use of military sonar and now growing seismic survey activity
go on in an area that is critical for the two deep diving Mediterranean
species, the Cuvier's and the sperm whales. In 2007 ACCOBAMS officially
proposed the creation of a MPA for deep diving cetaceans in the eastern
Ionian Sea (Hellenic Trench), but nothing has happened so far.

Best wishes,

Dr. Alexandros Frantzis 
Scientific director 
Pelagos Cetacean Research Institute 
Terpsichoris 21 
16671 Vouliagmeni, 
Tel.: +30-210-8960108 
e-mail: afrantzis at otenet.gr 
website: http://www.pelagosinstitute.gr 
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