[MARMAM] Large NATO sonar exercise in the Ionian Sea - Local Ziphius population unit may be at risk

Alexandros Frantzis afrantzis at otenet.gr
Tue Feb 25 10:16:14 PST 2020

Dear all,

We have just been informed from the NavalNews website that NATO exercise 
Dynamic Manta (DYMA20) began yesterday Feb. 24 2020.


According to the above article, 9 Allied nations are converging in the 
Central Mediterranean Sea (almost the entire Ionian Sea) for advance 
anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and anti-surface warfare (ASuW) training. 
That means that military sonar will be used, in areas inhabited by 
Cuvier's beaked whales, and very close to areas where several previous 
atypical mass strandings have occurred. Four atypical mass strandings 
(1996, 1997, 2011, 2014) and one live stradning (2000) have occurred in 
the past during the use of military sonar along the Hellenic Trench 
(Greek coasts), and some more along the Italian coasts.

Most of the participating nations (France, Greece, Italy, Spain and 
Turkey) are members of ACCOBAMS. ACCOBAMS has repeatedly urged for 
avoiding habitats of Cuviers beaked whales while designing such 
exercises and has mapped critical areas for the species in the 
Mediterranean Sea. The Hellenic Trench is probably the most important 
hotspot for this species according to this maps, it is a proposed MPA by 
ACCOBAMS and more recently was the first area to be listed as IMMA 
(Important Marine Mammal Area) at the global scale for both its sperm 
whale and Cuvier's beaked whale population units. Although the published 
map (Notice to airmen) of the current military activity does not include 
the Hellenic Trench (Italy is the hosting country and no precise 
geographical info is available about the military sonar use), previous 
military sonar use in the Ionian Italian coasts provoked a mass 
stranding in both the Italian and the Greek coasts (mainly in Corfu and 
western Greece in 2011).

We cannot know how important the damage will be this time and if the way 
that sonar will be used will send impacted whales to the Ionian coasts 
or make them sink and disappear in deep waters. With this message we wish:

1) To inform the cetological community

2) To alert local stranding networks in the Ionian coasts, so that they 
are ready to respond in case of stranding events

3) To let all the concerned parties, national and international, know 
that a major old environmental problem remains still unresolved and 
keeps impacting critical areas of threaten cetacean species.

All the best,



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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