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A recent study conducted by researchers from Greenpeace, the University of Exeter, and the University of Haifa highlighted the threats facing marine life in the Eastern Mediterranean. The researchers studied whales and dolphins off the coast of Israel and found Cuvier’s beaked whales, bottlenose dolphins, and sperm whales, including a young adult male previously seen off southern France. The distance the whale traveled between sighting locations marks the furthest recorded movement of a sperm whale in the Mediterranean, illustrating the hazardous journey these creatures undertake.

Audio analysis of the whales’ vocalizations provided further evidence that the whales off the Israeli coast are part of the wider regional population, as their vocalizations matched the “Mediterranean dialect.” Researchers emphasized the need for targeted protection at key locations, given the numerous threats marine life in the Mediterranean faces, including fishing, pollution, noise, and boat strikes. Dr. Kirsten Thompson from the Greenpeace Research Laboratories at the University of Exeter highlighted the dangers faced by whales passing through narrow straits, such as the Sicily Channel or the Strait of Messina, which are busy, noisy, and potentially dangerous for deep-diving species like sperm whales.

The whale in question, known as Kim, Elia, or Onda by researchers in different regions, was likely traveling with other young males, who typically leave their birth group at this stage of their lives. The researchers suggested the installation of listening devices at these narrow, shallow seas to create an alert system and prevent ship strikes, given the high human population and industrial development in the Mediterranean. Dr. Thompson warned against further hydrocarbon extraction, stating that it not only violated EU environmental protection legislation but also threatened the already struggling wildlife in the region.

Despite the rich biodiversity in the Eastern Mediterranean, relatively little research has been done on whales and dolphins in the area. The study conducted visual-acoustic surveys in April and May 2022, which resulted in the detection of sperm whales, Cuvier’s beaked whales, bottlenose dolphins, and unidentified dolphins. The research was funded by Greenpeace International, underscoring the importance of conservation efforts and the need to raise awareness about the threats faced by marine animals in the Mediterranean. The researchers emphasized the urgent need for targeted protection measures in key locations to ensure the survival of these vulnerable species.

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