First Scientific Record of Fin Whales in Maltese Waters
The Dolphin and Whale Research Project launched by Dr Adriana Vella in 1996 as one of her academic research projects at the University of Malta, has provided, over the years, an increasing knowledge of cetacean species presence, abundance and distribution in the central and southern part of the Mediterranean around the Maltese Islands. The long-term and year round effort demands hours of work. However, it also requires funds and would not have been possible without the sponsorship of a number of entities, such as the MMA, HSBC/Earthwatch research fellows, and Vodafone Malta Foundation together with the cooperation of AFM, fishermen and others who also report their sightings at sea. Included among the important discoveries made by this research are observations that hundreds of common dolphins (endangered in the Mediterranean Sea), Sperm whales and even the second largest whale in the world, the Fin whale, can be found in Maltese waters.
This important cetacean research, which also contributes to the gathering of valuable data on various marine species including turtle, seabird and manta ray in this central Mediterranean region, has been assisted by the Biological Conservation Research Foundation (BICREF).
Dr Vella would like the public to note that when these species are encountered at sea they should be fully respected and left undisturbed in their habitat and a minimum of 100m should always be maintained. Increasing noise, vessel traffic and pollution affect the survival of these species and we should therefore consider carefully the needs of these creatures even though we might not see them frequently.
The sea is the home of various cetacean species that use our seas, from our coasts to offshore, so if we need to consider the conservation of biodiversity, these species require monitoring and conservation considerations too. As partners of ACCOBAMS, Dr Vella and BICREF also send their recommendations to this regional body for cetacean conservation requirements in the Mediterranean.
Released on The Independent on Sunday, July 22, 2007