The Mediterranean Sea is a high-density maritime traffic area, particularly in the Pelagos Sanctuary. Ship strikes pose a substantial threat to fin whales (Balaenoptera physalus) according to reports from the IUCN, the IWC, the ACCOBAMS and the EU Habitats Directive.
In this paper, near miss events (NMEs) were collected, as a proxy indicator of ship strikes for fin whales, along the main ferry routes crossing the Pelagos Sanctuary and adjacent western waters during summertime.
The results show that of the 2,775 fin whales encountered, 43 individuals were involved in MMEs (1.55% of the sightings). NMEs occur over the great majority of the routes monitored with enough effort and were correlated with the density index of fin whales.
The study identified high-risk areas for NMEs in the central and deeper parts of the north-western Mediterranean Sea and in some sections of the northern Tyrrhenian Sea. The authors highlight that the speed of the ferries seems to play a role in the occurrence of the NME, as this parameter is significantly different for NMEs compared to all fin whale sightings, whereas month and hour of the day were not.
It is concluded that quantifying NMEs based on real-time observation with observers on board, could be used as a feasible and efficient way to limit collisions, raise awareness by the crew, and test or evaluate other potential tools that can help mitigate this threat.
David et al. (2022) Computing ships strikes and near miss events of fin whales along the main ferry routes in the Pelagos Sanctuary and adjacent west area, in summer. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems DOI: 10.1002/aqc.3781.