19 July 2010

Fin whale with propeller marks

Another sad encounter by Tethys researchers in the waters of the Pelagos Sanctuary. Last week a 13-m fin whale was photographed with unequivocal propeller marks caused by a collision with a motorboat. The relatively small distance between the cuts suggests a small propeller, possibly of a pleasure craft.

This information will be added to the database that Tethys is developing in collaboration with ACCOBAMS and the International Whaling Commission (IWC), together with a series of initiatives to investigate and mitigate the risk of collision in the Mediterranean Sea, particularly in the Pelagos Sanctuary. The project has been funded through ACCOBAMS by the Italian Ministry of the Environment.

Big ships, cargoes or fast ferries are not the only threat for large cetaceans. While fatalities are obviously higher when collisions involve large vessels, even small motorboats can cause serious injuries, possibly impairing swim and therefore foraging.

This sighting occurred just a few days before the official presentation of REPCET (Real Time Reporting of Cetaceans), one of the newest systems that researchers have developed to try to mitigate ship strikes in the Mediterranean.

On July 21st, at La Grande (France), Souffleurs d’Ecume, Chrisar Software Technologies, DIRM (Direction Inter-Régionale de la mer Méditerranée) and CROSSMED will present REPCET, the first information system for vessels that monitors the position of whales. The system has been developed over the last 10 years thanks to collaboration among shipping companies, environmental researchers and engineers. Through this system, watch-trained shipping crews transmit to an onshore server the position of large cetaceans. Such positions are instantly mapped and made available to all the vessels subscribing to the system. This information allows other vessels to be aware of the presence of cetaceans in a given area, and therefore take the necessary precautions to avoid a collision.

Elisa Remonato

Photo by Alessia Scuderi / Tethys (click on image to enlarge)

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