Sperm and fin whales at risk of being injured by fast ships in the Mediterranean

In the Mediterranean Sea there are an estimated 3,000 fin whales and 2,000 sperm whales. Tethys is a whale monitoring charity. A spokeswoman for the charity, Maddalena Jahoda, said that they have a list of 143 whales spotted in the Mediterranean with scars and injuries from collisions with fast ships.

50 foot-long fin whale

Photo: International Whaling Commission.

An example of a Mediterranean whale having been hit by a ship describes one spotted floundering off the coast of Italy with most of its tail missing. It is the second case of its kind this year. There are concerns for whales in the Mediterranean.

This particular whale was seen last month near Imperia where it was noted to be emaciated. It is struggling to swim because it has to rely on its two lateral fins. The loss of its tail also means that it cannot dive deep to find krill, its main food source.

The evidence that the whale was hit by the propellers of a ship is that it’s back is marked with a deep cut.

Naming the whales based on their injuries

The charity has labelled certain whales based on their injuries. For example, they have a whale that they describe as “Half Tail”. Another is called “Chopped Tail”. The latter has disappeared and is feared to be dead. They fear for the life of the 50 foot-long fin whale mentioned.

Another whale with the name “Propeller” has spiralled scarring on its side due to a Propeller raking along its back.

The situation is deteriorating. The ships are moving faster and there are more of them in the Mediterranean Sea. Magdalena said, “Incidents like this will likely increase as traffic increases”.

Other safety concerns

Another issue is that whales appear to be swimming nearer to shore perhaps because krill is drying up because of global warming. This exposes them more to injury by ships.

A further issue is drift nets, which are outlawed by the European Union, snaring and slicing into whales. Coastguards from Italy tried to remove netting from a 24 foot-long sperm whale last July without success. The whale was agitated and it swam off with the net wrapped around its tail.

P.S. In Greek mythology, Tethys was a Titan daughter of Uranus and Gaia, sister and wife of the Titan Oceanus, mother of the river gods and the Oceanids (src: Wikipedia. Source of the article: The Times hard copy.

1 thought on “Sperm and fin whales at risk of being injured by fast ships in the Mediterranean”

  1. Marine wildlife of all kinds is at risk in the Med. There are many tons of ghost nets at the bottom of the sea which snag up whales and other large marine wildlife. It is also polluted with plastic and probably human feces.

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