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

Alexandros Frantzis afrantzis at otenet.gr
Wed Nov 30 16:04:32 PST 2011

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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