Beaked whale strandings associated with NATO navy exercises

Yesterday, April 1st five beaked whales were found stranded near Ierapetra on the south-east side of the Greek Island of Crete. This stranding occurred concurrently with an annual Greek, Israeli, and US Joint Naval operation named “Nobel Dina 2014” where Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) exercises would include the use of mid-frequency sonar – a signal source commonly associated with marine mammal strandings.

There is concern that this group of beaked whales may become locally extinct due to sonar-associated strandings (Kyparissiakos Gulf, 1996, 12 beaked whales, Greece 1997, 9 beaked whales, and many others). This would occur as a result of continued military exercises in areas known to be areas of concern and in need or protection suggested by the scientific committee of Agreement on the Conservation of Cetaceans of the Black Sea, Mediterranean Sea and Contiguous Atlantic Area (ACCOBAMS).

ziphius_1-4-2014_se_crete_greece_c_pelagosIt seems that even while areas of concern have been recognized (and thus less sensitive areas highlighted), strandings continue to occur as a likely consequence of naval exercises in these sensitive areas.

Given that there had been a stretch of time where Navy-associated strandings seemed to have abated, I was beginning to believe that some of the prescribed mitigation procedures may be working. This stranding puts a damper on that hopeful view.