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Whales under threat – Mission in the Mediterranean

November 20, 2023

Collisions with ships are one of the most frequent causes of death for many whale species. Whales in the Mediterranean are especially at risk because of the sheer volume of shipping. The faster the vessels move, the greater the threat to the whales.


The Pelagos Sanctuary, off the coasts of France, Italy, and Monaco, is home to 2,000 whales. Driftnet fishing and offshore motorboat racing are both banned in this region. But the whales still face threats, especially from collisions, or “ship strikes” as they’re known.
Whale researcher Sabina Airoldi from the Tethys Research Institute has spent decades documenting the threat to these huge marine mammals. She spends months at a time on her research boat in the Ligurian Sea locating and identifying whales. Over time, she has been able to document an exceptionally large whale population in the area, but has also seen that they face a constant threat.
A program for paying volunteers helps to finance the whale watching. From May to September, eleven guests can travel on board the “Pelagos" research vessel for six days at a time. They pay 700 to 900 euros, sleep in four-person cabins, have kitchen and cleaning duties and help the researchers gather information on whale sightings. 17-year-old Emma decided to volunteer. She’s keen to find out whether she too would like to become a whale researcher.

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