Collisions with large ships, especially cargo ships, are among the greatest threats to sperm whales in the Mediterranean Sea.
Both the number of vessels and the speed at which these can travel have increased globally in recent decades, and this means an increased risk of collisions and injury to cetaceans, particularly where shipping activities overlap with the critical habitat of these animals.
To animals that are not killed immediately, a collision can result in horrific and severe injuries; blunt trauma resulting in severe internal injuries, deep propeller scars, spines, severed tails, and fins are just some of the injuries recorded in live and stranded animals that have been victims of collisions. A cetacean that has suffered a severe injury from a ship strike often suffers a slow and painful death.
Some populations are more vulnerable to ship strikes, particularly those that are located near developed coastal areas or those that are found in large numbers in areas with large volumes of maritime traffic.
In our study area, which is recognized as both an Important Marine Mammal Area (IMMA) and a Marine Protected Area (MPA), it is necessary to impose specific measures given the high density of the species.
These concrete measures should include modifying shipping lanes and reducing speed.
In the photos, Tolomeo, a new sperm whale individual photo-identified yesterday by Ischia Dolphin Project staff. The animal, fortunately, survived a brutal accident that severed its back.