Local details and some content here are provided from our colleague Alexandros Franzis, Pelagos Cetacean Research Institute, Greece.
Once more we have bad news regarding Cuvier’s beaked whales in Greek waters. We fear for the future of the local population, which has repeatedly been affected by naval sonar activity of NATO or of national navies in the past.
An internet search conducted by Pelagos highlighted a two-week military exercises in the area of Crete (named Noble Dina 2014) involving the Israeli, Greek and US Navy. The naval activity includes anti-submarine warfare (ASW), which indicates the use of military sonar, well known as the cause of many mass strandings of Ziphiids (the collective name for beaked whales) around the world.
During their 5th Meeting of the Parties (in Morocco during November 2013) the Agreement for the Conservation of Cetaceans in the Mediterranean and Black Sea (ACCOBAMS) identified a map of the areas where sonar should be avoided in the Mediterranean Sea, and made this information publicly available. One of these areas on the map is southeast Crete where this latest mass stranding occurred.
Post-mortem analysis may help to provide evidence in this case, but there is strong evidence of the link between military sonar and beaked whale strandings in previous cases, especially in the Mediterranean and this area off Greece is a hot spot.
Too little is known about beaked whale populations to understand the real impacts. Where evidence exists, populations are declining.
Alexandros and his team have contacted competent Greek authorities including the Greek focal point of ACCOBAMS to inform them about the new mass stranding and to request their intervention, so that no use of military sonar is made during the rest of the exercise. The authorities and local volunteers have been alerted and we just hope that they won’t find more animals along the coasts.
Navies around the the world need to consider better and care for the marine environment in which they operate.
How many more whale deaths are needed to spark effective mitigation from military activities at the regional and international level?