Northern Aegean porpoise sightings mark the first in over fifteen years

Members of the team searching for porpoises on the primary observation platform.The team aboard Song of the Whale, the International Fund for Animal Welfare’s unique whale research boat, has sighted what we believe may be the first confirmed live harbour porpoises in Aegean waters since 1997. 

Harbour porpoises were thought to have been extinct in the Mediterranean since the 19th Century until, in the Greek Northern Aegean in 1993, there was a sighting of a group of porpoises, followed by a further sighting of a single animal in 1997. 

Since then, there have been approximately one to two stranded porpoises around the coast of Greece and Turkey every year but no further live sightings. 

Distant, but definitely harbour porpoises.It is thought from recent genetic studies of the stranded animals that the porpoises have travelled from the Black Sea and are part of the endangered genetically distinct sub-species (Phocoena phocoena relicta); however, due to the small sample size of the data, the possibility of the existence of a Mediterranean sub-population remains. 

This is the first systematic survey for harbour porpoises in the Mediterranean Sea, and although the team has had several days of poor sighting conditions, when the conditions changed to flat, calm, mirror-like seas, the team sightings also improved!

Within just a few hours of observation, four groups, each of one to three porpoises, were sighted with photographic confirmation of the species. We’re hopeful that the analysis of our acoustic data will reveal more encounters.

This is a first for Turkish Aegean waters and represents the largest number of porpoises sighted in the Northern Aegean in recent records.

--AC

Keep checking back for further updates on Song of the Whale’s summer research in the Mediterranean.

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Experts

Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova, Regional Director, Russia & CIS
Regional Director, Russia & CIS
Dr. Ralf (Perry) Sonntag, Country Director, Germany
Country Director, Germany
Isabel McCrea, Regional Director, Oceania
Regional Director, Oceania
IFAW Japan Representative
IFAW Japan Representative
Patrick Ramage, Program Director, Whales
Program Director, Whales