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Mar Pollut Bull. 2006 Oct;52(10):1287-98. Epub 2006 Apr 25.

Mediterranean fin whales at risk from fatal ship strikes.

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  • 1Tethys Research Institute, Viale GB Gadio 2, 20121 Milan, MI, Italy.


This paper reviews and analyzes ship collision records for the relatively isolated population of fin whales in the Mediterranean Sea from 1972 to 2001. Out of 287 carcasses, 46 individuals (16.0%) were certainly killed by boats. The minimum mean annual fatal collision rate increased from 1 to 1.7 whales/year from the 1970s to the 1990s. Fatal strike events (82.2%) were reported in or adjacent to the Pelagos Sanctuary, characterized by high levels of traffic and whale concentrations. Among 383 photo-identified whales, 9 (2.4%) had marks that were attributed to a ship impact. The reported rates are unusually high for baleen whales. The high likelihood of unreported fatal strikes combined with other anthropogenic threats suggests an urgent need for a comprehensive, basin-wide conservation strategy, including ship strike mitigation requirements, like real-time monitoring of whale presence and distribution to re-locate ferry routes to areas of lower cetacean density, and reducing ship speed in high cetacean density areas.

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