Concern over atypical mass strandings of beaked whales in the Ionian Sea
20 April 2012, CIESM News

On 13 February the Scientific Committee of ACCOBAMS, led by CIESM independent scientists, expressed its highest concern over two atypical mass stranding events that took place in the Ionian Sea (in Greece and in Italy), and involving a minimum of 11 specimens of Cuvier’s beaked whales, Ziphius cavirostris, a species protected under many international agreements and under national legal instruments.

Ziphius cavirostris – Photo credit: A. Gannier

The deep marine waters of the northern Adriatic and northern Ionian Seas contain important, possibly critical habitat for Cuvier's beaked whales (see CIESM Monograph 41 on Marine Peace Parks).  This 6 - 7 m long odontocete usually travels in groups and feeds on deep water cephalopods. There are strong suspicions that these stranding events were caused by human generated noise. Beaked whales are particularly sensitive to sound, and in March 2011 the ACCOBAMS Scientific Committee recommended that beaked whales should not be exposed to a Sound Pressure Level greater than 140 dB.