U.S. Navy Implicated in New Mass Stranding of Whales

8th Apr 2014

On 1 April (yes I know), while the U.S. and other navies played war games somewhere offshore in the Mediterranean Sea, Cuvier’s beaked whales began stranding along the southern coast of Crete. 

Those on the scene knew right away what they were dealing with, for the strandings were only the most recent in a line of similar calamities in the region, going back two decades.  And in this case, as in the previous ones, all signs point navy.

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Update from Pelagos Cetacean Research Institute

The atypical mass stranding spanned 2 days (1st and 2nd April ) and involved five single stranding events involving 3, 2, 1, 1 and 1 individuals. According to the analysis conducted so far, a minimum of five (but analysis is on going) and a maximum of seven individuals were recorded (two single standing events concerned the same individual and the two individuals of another event cannot be identified).

The distance between the western and eastern stranding locations for the strandings of the 1st April was 16.5 km in straight line. The single stranding of the 2nd of April occurred 4.1 km further west of the western stranding location of the 1st of April (While writing this message and according to preliminary information from the local port-police authorities, three more reports of three different stranding events became available.

They occurred the 3rd or 4th, the 5th and 6th April and all involved single animals. The two first concerned live animals re-floated and the last one (today 6th April) a dead animal still being on the beach. All of them occurred at a distance of less than 1 km between each other and took place in a location about 48 km west of the stranding event of the 2nd of April. (These news are very important and indicate that the impact of the exercise may concern a very large sea area)

Two of the stranded whales died (all others  were re-floated and not seen so far) and necropsies were performed on both of them (the whale that was disposed according to our first message was recovered). The necropsies were conducted under the guidance of Dr. Anastasia Komnenou,
Veterinary School of Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. Please address any questions regarding the necropsies and the histopathological
findings directly to her.

At least one of the photos of the stranding event is amazing and can greatly contribute to the conservation of beaked whales. Therefore, we thought that sharing it with the entire cetological community can help our common goal to protect the beaked whales from navy sonar and anthropogenic sound in general.

Dr. Alexandros Frantzis
Scientific director
Pelagos Cetacean Research Institute

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