Corsica: Ship collision in the Pelagos Sanctuary

by    DiveSSI    10th October 2018
Sei whale (Balaenoptera borealis) mother and calf as seen from the air. (c) Christin Khan, NOAA
Fin whale surfacing (c) Aqqa Rosing-Asvid
Screenshot youTube Video

Oil spill threatens marine mammals

In Corsica, after a collision between two cargo ships marine fuel expired in the Mediterranean. It has formed a 20-kilometer oil slick 300-400 meters wide. The collision occurred in the middle of an international marine reserve for whales and dolphins, warns Heike Vesper, head of marine conservation at WWF Germany.

Eight species of whales and dolphins are found in the Pelagos Conservancy, including fin whales, sperm whales, Cuvier's beaked whales, longfin pilot whales, sei whales and several species of dolphins.

"With the accident, our fears have come true: in the only whale sanctuary in the Mediterranean, protection exists only on paper. Although whales and dolphins are supposed to find a retreat in this species-rich part of the Mediterranean, it resembles a freeway for ships. One-third of all shipping traffic in the Mediterranean passes through the whale sanctuary. High-intensity freighter and ferry traffic is a constant threat to marine mammals. Every year larger whales die after collisions with ships. Maritime traffic kills up to 40 cetaceans each year in this Mediterranean “sanctuary”.

Now, despite high visibility, a collision of two ships has occurred. The authorities must do everything they can to stem and pump off the oil. The spilled fuel can damage the sensitive skin of whales if they have to surface in the spill. Plankton, which drifts directly into polluted water, also pollutes the main food source for baleen whales and finback whales. Above all, the authorities must finally ensure that the protected area fulfills its purpose nearly 20 years after its founding and protects whales from the dangers of shipping traffic, pollution and noise. For this an anti-collision system has to be introduced for all ships. Protected areas should be a refuge for food intake, rest and reproduction. If human pressures in the reserve are as high as they are outside, there is no shelter for whales anywhere," explains Vesper.

Background Pelagos Sanctuary:

With its 87,500 km2, it is the largest marine reserve in the Mediterranean. The region is very diverse: 4 - 18% of all marine species worldwide occur in this marine area. Each year alone, 200,000 movements of merchant ships are recorded in the reserve, plus many ferries and yachts.


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10th October 2018
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