Another stranding of a 13-meter-long sperm whale, this time on the shores off of Athens in the Keratea region, reminds us how little we know about the rich wildlife of our seas. The sight of the sperm whale surprised both the media and the public, which raises once more the question of whether, as a society, we are capable of managing our seas when we are so ignorant about even the largest residents – such as the sperm whales.

The presence of sperm whales in the Greek Seas was first described in antiquity by Aristotle, with descriptions that were impressive for its time. Archipelagos Institute of Marine Conservation has recorded the population of these species for over 20 years around the Greek Seas, which verifies their presence in both deep waters and shallower waters throughout the year.

Sperm whales can surpass 16 meters in length and 40 tonnes in weight. They are generally exhibit migratory behaviour, but the populations in the Mediterranean waters are considered resident. The males are solitary, while the females live in social groups with their young. As a species, Sperm whales have managed to survive for millions of years without concern, until today. The question now is whether they can withstand the increasing human pressure in our seas.

Their exceptional ability to dive to depths that exceed 1000 meters allows them to locate their prey in deep waters where humans do not normally fish. It is remarkable that, unlike humans who continually overexploit fish stocks, Sperm whales never deplete their food and they have evolved to “manage” it through their constant migration to new feeding grounds.

The response to this stranding incident was carried out under the coordination of the National Network for Strandings of Marine Fauna, with the close cooperation between the Port police of Lavrio, the Municipality of Lavrio, Archipelagos Institute of Marine Conservation, Arion Cetacean Rescue & Rehabilitation Centre and the Cetacean Research Institute Pelagos.

Let’s use this incident to realise that we are surrounded with seas about which we know so little. If we do not get to know their unique natural wealth it is impossible to protect them…

Click here to read about the recent research expedition by Archipelagos Institute monitoring the cetacean populations in the Northern Aegean.