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Image from one of the WDC Risso's dolphin research catalogues

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Conservation groups, including WDC are calling for the highest levels of precaution to be used following news that a seismic survey (extremely loud noise used to probe the seabed for oil and gas deposits) is now going ahead in an area of the Mediterranean sea critical to marine mammal species particularly vulnerable to noise produced by human activities.

The Hellenic Trench in the Mediterranean is home to Cuvier’s beaked whales as well as sperm whales, the Mediterranean population of which has been recognised as “Endangered” in IUCN’s Red List.

These whale species are already threatened by collisions with ships, chemical pollution, entanglement in illegal fishing nets, and by a changing environment as a result of global warming. Surveys in the area that emit extremely loud noise for long periods potentially place them in even more danger.

Shipping, marine industries and military activities around the world are introducing powerful, loud noise into the oceans. This noise pollution threatens whale and dolphin populations, interrupting their normal behaviour, driving them away from areas important to their survival, and at worse injuring or sometimes even resulting in the deaths of some whales.

Hearing is vital for all whales, dolphins and porpoises. They live in a world of sound and rely on hearing heavily to survive, using it to find prey, communicate and navigate. A deaf whale or dolphin will almost certainly rapidly end up dead.

The company carrying out the surveys has been urge to only condcut surevys during daylight and to increase the number of properly trained marine mammal observers onboard vesssels from three to seven.