A young fin whale, of approximately 6 meters, was found stranded at the shores of Kiparissia in NW Greece. A local resident/volunteer of Archipelagos Institute contacted us to report the incident, and in close cooperation with “Arion – Research Centre for Cetacean Rescue & Care”, alerted the port authorities and the veterinarian of the area.

Despite their immediate response, the whale already had advanced decay and was buried before necessary samples were collected, which could provide us with clues to the causes of death. Our concern for the future of whales that live or migrate to the Ionian Sea increasingly grows, since there are ongoing seismic surveys to locate hydrocarbon deposits. The Ionian Sea is an important area for rare species of marine mammals, particularly for the three whale species regularly recorded there.

We invite residents of coastal areas of Crete and the Ionian where seismic surveys are currently carried out, to remain alert, observing the coast around them, and contact us directly in case they spot a stranded marine mammal.

A few words about Fin Whales

Passing regularly through the Western and Central Mediterranean Sea, Fin whales, Balaenoptera physalus, are an incredibly long- lived species, often living for more than 80 years and reaching up to a huge 50 tonnes in weight. Even at birth, a Fin whale calf is already 6 metres in length and can grow to an enormous 20 metres long, making them the second largest whale species in the world.

Characterised by their streamlined shape and v-shaped head, ‘falcate’ dorsal fin and asymmetrical colour pattern, fin whales move in small groups of 2 to 7, making complex seasonal migration patterns into and out of high latitude feeding grounds, feeding on fish, cephalopods and crustaceans.

Fin whales migrate through the Ionian Sea and are more rare in the Aegean.

Since 2008 Fin whales have been described as ‘endangered’ on the IUCN red list due to a huge population reduction caused by commercial whaling in previous decades, and due to vessel strikes and pollution being more important threats in recent years. At the current state this reduction can be reversed, if the correct conservation actions are to be taken.