Unfortunately, it seems that the initial incident of the two Cuvier’s beaked whale (Ziphius cavirostris) that were stranded in the NW of Corfu will end in mass strandings. Yesterday (20/02/2022), two individuals were found in Arilla beach and Agios Gordios, while this morning, another larger individual was stranded in Agios Gordios as well with it’s survival chances being ambivalent.
These strandings coincide with the ongoing seismic surveys carried out by ELPE for the extraction of oil and gas in the “Block 2”, located 30 kilometers west of Corfu island. The presence of the research ship SW COOK that carries out the surveys in the area is even confirmed by NAVTEX no. 20/22 091100 UTC February 2022 of NAVTEX Corfu station, as well as from the Marine Traffic Watch, as you can see below.
The presence of protected Cuvier’s beaked whales and other rare and endangered cetaceans confirms the importance of the Ionian archipelago. These marine mammals are particularly vulnerable to noise disturbances generated by seismic surveys, which pose high pressure and threat to this species, according to the last six-year reference report for Directive 92/43 / EEC. Underwater noise emitted during seismic surveys can cause hearing injuries, leading to disorientation and stranding, or even dying. However, the confirmation of these injuries can be proven with post mortem veterinary analysis of the auditory system tissue. At this point it is worth mentioning that prior to the approval of the Strategic Environmental Impact Study of the Ionian Sea by the Ministry of Environment, more than 100 scientists and international experts in marine conservation had strongly opposed the issue of the hydrocarbon exploration and extraction permits for the area, noting its ecological importance due to the presence of vulnerable species, including Cuvier’s beaked whale. You can find the relevant strategic environmental impact study here.
Furthermore, it should be noted that investing in fossil fuel exploration is not in line with the country’s commitments to tackle climate change or the provisions of the Paris Agreement that Greece partakes in, nor with the new European Biodiversity Conservation Strategy 2030, and the relevant commitment of the Prime Minister K. Mitsotakis for the implementation of the action plan for the initiative “Mediterranean, an exemplary sea by 2030“.
Finally and most importantly, the consistent non-compliance of Greece to the European Directive 2014/89/EU on the establishment of marine spatial planning, continues to undermine the conservation of the marine environment and the sustainable development of marine activities. Meanwhile, it proves that there is no intention of the Greek state to comply with Article 191 of the European Union’s déclaration, according to which the protection of the environment is ensured through proactive decision-making especially for activities that are causing disturbances to the environment and protected species.