Unique whale research vessel sets off from Monaco for Mediterranean summer research season

Monday, 24 June, 2013

A state-of-the-art whale research boat dropped anchor in Monaco at the weekend for the launch of its summer research in the Mediterranean.

Before setting off to continue its vital mission to protect the planet’s whales, the International Fund for Animal Welfare’s (IFAW) Song of the Whale, was visited yesterday (Sun) by His Serene Highness Prince Albert II of Monaco.

With whales facing more threats today than ever before, IFAW’s purpose-built vessel carries out non-harmful studies of cetaceans around the world. From late June until mid-September, Song of the Whale will be surveying firstly in the Northern Aegean Sea before moving to Egyptian waters with possible additional research off the south coast of Turkey and around Cyprus.

Students from the region will be joining Song of the Whale’s expert research team.

Patrick Ramage, Director of IFAW’s Global Whale Programme, said: “Some of the most exciting science in the world today is studying living whales in their ocean environment.

“We are grateful to H.S.H. Prince Albert II for his continuing leadership, the Prince Albert II Foundation, and other long-time partners in Monaco for their support as we embark on this effort to better understand modern threats to whales in the Mediterranean and what we all can do to help them.”

SE M Bernard Fautrier, Vice President Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, said: “Whales and marine habitats across the Mediterranean and around the world face new and emerging threats from a range of human activities. Meeting these challenges will require improved scientific understanding, a pragmatic approach, and the commitment illustrated by the actions conducted by the men and women of IFAW and aboard their research vessel Song of the Whale.

“I wish the IFAW team every success in this vital mission and look forward to the important results of this Mediterranean research cruise.”

One of the quietest research vessels in the world, Song of the Whale continues to gather valuable information about whales and the threats they face using techniques such as photo-identification and passive acoustics (listening to the sounds they make using underwater hydrophones) while showing that it is not necessary to kill whales or even disturb them to study them.

The latest project will help threatened and vulnerable species, including Mediterranean sperm whales, beaked whales, harbour porpoises, common dolphins and others by supporting the designation of marine protected areas, and examining risks from ship strikes and man-made underwater noise pollution.

A recent review of the threats and status of species in the Mediterranean identified ship strikes and entanglements in drift nets as primary threats to large whales, and man-made underwater noise is of major concern for certain species, such as Cuvier’s beaked whales. Chemical pollution and marine debris, entanglements and disturbance also pose serious threats to small cetaceans.

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