Only within the past 24 hours, the Marine Mammal Research team of Archipelagos Institute encountered and collected data on sperm whales, Cuvier’s beaked whales, and four species of dolphins in the region of NE Aegean. These sightings confirm the region’s global environmental significance for multiple cetacean populations. Through extensive surveys with the boats “Pinelopi” and “Naftilos”, and persistent presence of the Institute in the North-Eastern (NE) and Central part of the Aegean, Archipelagos Institute monitors these important populations for over 21 years.
- For sperm whales, the largest of the toothed whales in the Mediterranean, the NE Aegean comprises of a key part of their migratory course.
- Cuvier’s Beaked Whales are one of the least studied species of cetaceans worldwide. Twenty-one years of data collection suggest that they usually form small pods and reside permanently in the same marine areas.
- Striped dolphins constitute the biggest population of dolphin species in the NE Aegean but are unfortunately also the species most commonly found stranded in nearby coasts.
- Common dolphins and bottlenose dolphins live in the area in resident populations, whereas Risso’s dolphins migrate in small pods, following the same rutes as sperm whales.
Even though the marine mammals are not actively protected in Greek seas, some of the most significant populations in Mediterranean still survive here. Although whales and dolphins have been reported in the Aegean for almost 2500 years (with the first record of their presence dating back to Aristotle’s time), their presence here is still incorrectly considered circumstantial by many people.
The study of marine mammal populations requires patience and persistence, but also the almost continuous presence of researchers in the field for months or even years. Even though the sighting of six different cetacean species in a single day is rare, the recent surveys confirm that Archipelagos’ research team, with its 24 years of experience, is becoming increasingly effective. Year-round efforts to conduct field work, along with cutting-edge research technologies have resulted in an ever-growing understanding of the behavior of populations and the oceanographic characteristics of the area.
The main goal of Archipelagos Institute is to contribute to filling the knowledge gap, which will ultimately help enforce policies that will safeguard the survival of these rare species.
Most cetacean species in the Mediterranean show a concerning decline in their populations. Here in Greece, we share the responsibility to protect them. All together, we have the common duty to actively contribute to their conservation before it’s too late.