13 May 2010
First gray whale in the Mediterranean Sea
A few days ago an adult gray whale (Eschrichtius robustus) has been spotted off Israel. Researchers from IMMRAC (Israel Marine Mammal Research and Assistance Center) photo-identified the animal and recorded behavioural data. They followed her for about two hours from Herzliya Marina (close to Tel Aviv) to Jaffa, where she was last spotted heading south.
Robert Brownell, a famous cetacean expert, said this is "The most amazing sighting in the history of whales". The sighting is indeed intriguing: first observation in Mediterranean waters and, because the animal must have come from the Atlantic Ocean where the species is believed to have been extinct for about 300 years, first time in Atlantic waters after so many years.
The grey whale might have travelled from the Pacific Ocean, the only area where the species is found, to the North Atlantic. Experts are now discussing which could be the most reasonable route: through the Panama Channel, the Northwest Passage or around Cape Horn?
Photo: the flukes of the gray whale, by Aviad Schenin / IMMRAC
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