Report on the Mass Stranding of Beaked Whales in the Canary Islands on 24th September 2002

30th Sep 2002 You can imagine all the logistic and personnel difficulties during these moments, mostly due to the long coast and the multitude of inaccessible creeks and beaches that characterise the island. All the strandings occurred during NATO naval exercises (manoeuvres called “Neo tapon 2002E, in which at least 58 boats, 6 submarines, and 30 aeroplanes participated in the zone. A Military High Command recognised that they were making acoustic exercises at that time.

The strandings probably occurred during 05:00-06:00 a.m., therefore the “factorEthat caused this situation probably began during the night. At dawn, most of the animals were already beached. The naval exercises were suspended under request of the Canary Islands Government. Nevertheless, up to date, the military authority say that they have not found any relationship between these manoeuvres and the strandings.

The stomach contents of many animals contained fresh crustaceans and cephalopods (common situation of the other animals examined during other mass strandings occurred in the Canary Islands), which suggests that these animals were feeding or had fed recently. The work of animal rescue and pursuit was co-ordinated by the Environment Department of the Canary Islands Government, with the participation of the implied city councils and the town halls (“cabildo insularesE of the islands of Fuerteventura, Lanzarote and Gran Canaria (Dr. Pascual Calabuig), as well as numerous organisations and volunteers.

The priorities at any moment were:

1. helping and refloting the alive animals

2. localising and preserving the corpses along the coast

3. realising necropsies in order to determine the causes of the death and to obtain biological information.

The necropsies were conducted by the SECAC (biological information) and by the Veterinary Department of the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (pathological information and determination of the causes of the death).

The results up to now are the following:

5 or 6 refloted animals,

9 dead animals (7 Z. cavirostris, 1 M. europaeus and 1 M. densirostris),

2 animals sighted near the coast in the last hours.

The general report of the dead animals is the following:

1. Z. cavirostris. Immature male, 455 cm. 09/24/02. SE Fuerteventura

2. Z. cavirostris. Immature male, 510 cm. 09/24/02. SE Fuerteventura

3. Z. cavirostris. Immature male, 521 cm. 09/24/02. SE Fuerteventura

4. Z. cavirostris. Immature male, 528 cm. 09/24/02. SE Fuerteventura

5. Z. cavirostris. Immature male, 461 cm. 09/24/02. SE Fuerteventura

6. Z. cavirostris. Mature male, 510 cm. 09/24/02. SE Lanzarote

7. Z. cavirostris. Mature male, 530 cm. 09/24/02. NW Lanzarote

8. M. densirostris. Mature female, 421 cm. 09/24/02. SE. Fuerteventura

9. M. europaeus. Mature female, 441 cm. 09/24/02. SE Fuerteventura.

The heads of the 6 animals stranded in Fuerteventura on the 24th of September 2002 (4 Z. cavirostris, 1 M. europaeus and 1 M. densirostris) were transferred to the Veterinary Department of the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria for the analysis. Another Z. cavirostris appeared floating on the 25th of

September 2002, in front of the coast of Gran Tarajal. The necropsy was conducted in the area. Both Z. cavirostris of Lanzarote showed a high degree of autolisis, reason why the heads were not examined. One animal was thin and the stomach content analysis showed a strong parasitism (probably of Anisakis sp).

In the stomach of the other animal was found a piece of cloth of 80 x 100 cm. All the Z. cavirostris had Crassicauda sp in the kidneys, but this can be considered normal in the species (up to date all the animals beached in the Canary Islands have showed this nematode).

The preliminary results presented by the Veterinary Department of the ULPGC indicate that the animals of Fuerteventura (7) were healthy, but macrocospically they displayed a severe congestive picture with multifocal haemorrhages in the