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Greek Sperm Whales Narrowly Avoid Disaster

sperm whale
A pod of sperm whales. Credit: Gabriel Barathieu, CC BY-SA 2.0

Greece’s majestic Mediterranean sperm whales narrowly avoided a disaster last week.

The rare and precarious whales tend to cluster around a major shipping route along the Greek coast, leading to many beautiful encounters between people and the whales, but, unfortunately, putting them in harm’s way as well.

The Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) recently changed its ships’ course outside the west coast of Greece in order to avoid harming the endangered sperm whales.

The company spoke with four different environmental non-governmental organizations who told them to act fast and assure the safety of the hundreds of sperm whales that live in the region.

“As a global leader in container shipping and logistics, we have a responsibility to ensure that our cargo operations make a positive impact, reflecting our longstanding commitment to conserving and protecting the ocean and marine wildlife,” said Stefania Lallai, Vice President of Sustainability at MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company.

There are roughly 300,000 sperm whales left in the world’s oceans and seas, a staggeringly small number compared to the 1.1 million that roamed the planet before the advent of whaling.

The majority of the whales off the coast of Greece find themselves in the ships’ paths. Although much evidence has been found to suggest that whales are repeatedly hit by ships, very few of these cases get reported or even detected.

“The whales found dead on the shore with propeller marks and cuts are just the tip of the iceberg. Up to 20 times more die offshore and are never recorded. We are also seeing fewer whales in our yearly research surveys than in previous years, which is a huge concern”, explains Dr. Alexandros Frantzis, Scientific Director of the Pelagos Cetacean Research Institute. “It is our fear that without urgent action, deaths through ship strikes will cause this already small population to go extinct very soon”.

Sperm whales exist peacefully in the Ionian Sea

Stunning footage of a sperm whale family joyfully playing in Greece’s Ionian Sea was captured by the Pelagos Cetacean Research Institute recently.

The rare footage was released in an effort to raise public awareness of the need to protect these marine animals.

The action occurs when, after several hours of deep dives to feed, the sperm whale family reach the surface. The mother, two calves and several juveniles playfully interact.

Arguments erupt, but the mother whale establishes order.

The Pelagos Cetacean Research Institute is a scientific non-profit organization aiming to the study and conservation of cetaceans. Cetaceans include whales, dolphins, porpoises and a few more related species.

Cetaceans have been an inspiration to people since ancient times, when they were found to appear as a main theme on numerous wall paintings, urns, coins, jewelry etc.


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