Ayhan Dede Ph.D. & Arda M. Tonay Ph.D.
78 cetaceans exist around the world seas and fresh waters. Cetacea ordo is divided to 2 different suborda that are; Odontoceti and Misticeti. Even though it can create some conflicts, if the cetacean is bigger than 4 m, we name them whale and if it’s smaller, we name them dolphins. They spend all of their life stages in the water.
There is 21 different Cetacea species in Mediterranean, including Black Sea. 10 of them live in Turkish water (Table 1). Another marine mammal who is endangered in Mediterannean and Aegean Sea, is the Monk Seal, Monachus monachus.
Table 1. Marine Mammals in Turkey
Balaenoptera physalus (Fin whale)
Physeter catodon (Sperm whale)
Ziphius cavirostris (Cuvier’s beaked whale)
Globicephala melas (Long finned whale)
Pseudorca crassidens (False killer whale)
Grampus griseus (Grampus)
Tursiops truncatus (Bottlenose dolphin)
Stenella coeruleoalba (Striped dolphin)
Delphinus delphis (Common dolphin)
Phocoena phocoena (Harbour porpoise)
Monachus monachus (Mediterranean Monk Seal)
In Turkey, since 1983, marine mammal hunting has been prohibited and they are under protection by the laws.
Harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena)
They live only in the cool waters of north hemisphere and sub polar region. They mostly occur on the shores and coastal regions. The Harbor Porpoise is a little smaller than the other porpoises. It is about 70–90 cm long at birth. Both sexes grow up to be 1.4 m to 1.8 m. They weight 40-86 kg. They only live in the Black Sea in Mediterranean Basin and they are the smallest cetacean member. There are observations on North Aegean, Marmara. They forage both on benthic and pelagic fishes. Their group size is mostly less than 8 individual but they can form to be 50 or more than hundreds individual during the migration or foraging. Normally, they don’t jump out the water. Bycatch also occurs for this species. Their distribute in the Black Sea Coast of Turkey. They show a sharp decline on the population number during the hunting season of turbot (april, may, june)
Bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus)
They are wide range, cosmopolite species which distribute along the coast and inland sea. They can be observed all around in Mediterranean, especially near the shore and sometimes in the open sea. They have an obvious melon, short beak and a high dorsal fin. Their body color is mostly grayish white and ventral part is brighter. They mostly feed with fishes like anchovy and blue fin. Their adult can reach to the size of 1,9-3,8 m and weighted as 650 kg. Their pregnancy takes 11 month. Their group size is mostly less than 20 and can reach up to hundreds. It is reported that they race with sea vessels. They sometimes damage the nets when they hunt. But also they got drown in the nets in Black Sea
Common dolphin (Delphinus delphis)
They live in the tropical and warm oceans. Their rostrum is thin and long. Their dorsal fin shapes like an hook and its middle part has a brighter color. While, the color of their dorsal is grey and blackish, their ventral is white. The new born size is 80-85 cm, however adult females can reach to 2,3 m and males can reach to 2,6 m. They weight 135 kg. They are a fast swimmer. Common dolphins travel in groups of around 10-50 in number and frequently gather into schools numbering 100 to 2000 individuals. They occur in all of the seas of Turkey.
Striped dolphin (Stenella coeruleoalba)
The Striped Dolphin likes temperate or tropical, off-shore waters and they are a cosmopolite species. They come close to the shore when the deep seas are close to the coast. Their rostrum is long and their dorsal fin shapes like an hook. There are one or two black bands that circle the eye, and then run across the back, to the flipper. These bands widen to the width of the flipper which are the same size. There are two further black stripes running from behind the ear – one is short and ends just above the flipper. The other is longer and thickens along the flanks until it curves down under the belly just prior to the tail stock. Above these stripes the dolphin’s flanks are colored light blue or grey. All appendages are black as well. By adulthood they have grown to 2.6 m and weigh 150 kg. Gestation lasts approximately 11 months. They are fast swimmers and they jump out of the water frequently. They distribute in Aegean and Mediterranean coast. It is reported that they drown from the fishing nets of sword fish.
Grampus (Grampus griseus)
They live in both of the hemispheres. They prefer temperate and tropical pelagic water. They form small groups and may follow the other species of dolphin. Juvenile color is bright grey or brownish grey. However the adult color is between the dark grey and white. It is observed that adult ones have scars and dots on their body. Their frontal fins are long and dotted. At birth, their size is 1,2-1,5 m, while adults reach to 3-4 m. and weight 400 kg. they live pelagic. They distribute in Aegean and Mediterranean Sea of Turkey. They can get bycaught during the sword fish hunting.
Pilot whale (Globicephala melas)
Their distribute in the temperate and sub polar regions. Their body color is black and dark grey. Their pectoral fin is flat and long. New born are in the length of I 1,7-1,8 m. while adult males reach to 6,7 m and females reach to 5,7m. Adults can weigh 2 ton. Mostly, they form groups in 20-100 individuals. They can be observed in Aegean and Mediterranean coast.
Cuvier’s beaked whale (Ziphius cavirostris)
They live in the pelagic regions and mostly prefer the temperate and tropical off shore regions. They widely distribute in all around the Mediterranean. They prefer depths like 1000m or more. They have a rough and long body. Front part is white if they are adults. Mostly their group size is 2 to 7 individuals and they can dive for 40 min. At birth, they are 2,7 m and adult females reach to 7 m while males can reach to 7,5 m. they can weigh 3 ton . They have been observed on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey.
False killer whale (Pseudorca crassidens)
They mostly live in tropical and temperate water and prefer offshore areas. Their color is black-dark grey and ventral part is grey-white. There are brighter parts in the front and ventral. They group is formed from 10 to 50 individuals. They show mass mortality. At birth, their length is 1,5-2,1 m. adult males reach to 5,5 – 6 m whereas females reach to 4,5 – 5 m. One individual of this species found wounded in Urla in 1994 and later it was death. They rarely occur in Aegean and Mediterranean coast of Turkey.
Sperm whale (Physeter catodon)
Sperm whales are cosmopolite species in the world’s sea and ocean. They can dive till to the 1500m depth. They live offshore and deep waters and can also be observed close to the coastal if the deep sea is present. They form groups in 2-50 individuals. They can stay under water for 1-2 hour. They are the biggest species in Odontoceti. Their body color is mostly black and grey-brownish and ventral part is white. They have a big angular head and one blowing hole. Mostly, prior to their long dive, their tail goes up. New born can be 3,5-4,5 m in length and adult males reach to 18-20 m., whereas females reach to 12 m. They weigh 30-50 ton. They are observed in Aegean and Mediterranean coast of Turkey. In 2002, a female sperm whale was by caught from the mouth and rescued by divers of navy forces and fishermen in Ölüdeniz.
Fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus)
This species show cosmopolite behavior and frequently observed in central and west Mediterranean. They mostly live in open seas. They can be solitary or form groups in 6 to 10 individuals. Their dorsal part is black and dark brown and ventral part is in brighter color. They have 260-480 plates in maxilla. They are the biggest whale of Mediterranean. At new born, their length is 6-6,5 m. Adult length is 18-27 m and can weigh 45-75 ton. They observed ib the Aegean and Mediterranean coast of Turkey. In 2000, juvenile fin whale was stranded to Adana Yumurtalık and buried for a year. After a year, its skeleton was taken out and prepared for the educational exhibitions.
Mediterranean Monk Seal (Monachus monachus)
They are one of the most endangered species and currently can be observed in Madeira island and Mediterranean, mostly in Turkey and Greece. They prefer rocky shores and islands as well as isolated caves. They come on land for sleeping and resting. They hunt in the coastal region up to 0-30 m depth. Their deepest dive was 75 m. At birth, they are 80-120 cm and weigh 15-26 kg. Adults can reach to 2,8-3,1 m length and weigh 250-400 kg. They can group in 5-6 individuals or form colonies in wide beaches. Currently, this species are observed solitary. They feed on various types of fish, crustacean and cephalopod. It is estimated that there is only 100-50 individuals left in the Aegean and Mediterranean coast of Turkey. And recently it is not observed in Black Sea and Marmara Sea anymore.
Marine mammals are at the top of food pyramid and they can only give birth once in two years. They are under threat for many reasons. All of those threats take its origin from anthropogenic facilities like bycatch, water and noise pollution, drifting wastes, overfishing and killing on purpose. In the Mediterranean region, due to the sword fishing, common dolphins, striped dolphins, Grampus get bycaught in those nets. Moreover, in the Black sea, harbor porpoises, common dolphin, bottlenose dolphin get by caught due to the turbot fishing. Unfortunately, mass mortalities as well as sickness presence increase due to the pollution and decreasing amount of prey. All of the Odontocete and some of the Mystacoceti whales use echolocation for finding their food. Thus the effect of noise pollution on them is vital.
We are neither aware of our seas nor we are interested in. Common dolphins are classified as endangered by IUCN since 2003. It’s assumed that total population of Monk Seals is less than 250 adult and they are critically endangered.
Since 1993, by the leadership of Prof.Dr. Bayram Öztürk, our team conducts scientific studies on marine mammals. Our studies are mostly focused on the fishermen interaction, stranding, population distribution and size, migration path in Istanbul Strait, photo-id, genetic structure, skull collection, stomach content, conservation strategies and ext.
Please, inform us on the cetacean observations you did. All of these notifications are important for our scientific studies.
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Öztürk B. 1996. Balinalar ve Yunuslar Setolojiye Giriş. Anahtar Yayınları. İstanbul.(in Turkish)
Öztürk, B., Topaloğlu, B., Dede, A., 2003, Deniz Canlıları Rehberi. TUDAV Eğitim Serisi No: 6. 181s.İstanbul. (in Turkish)
Öztürk B., Dede A. (1995) Present status of the Mediterranean monk seal, Monachus monachus (Hermann, 1779) on the coast of Foça in the bay of İzmir (Aegean Sea). Turkish Journal of Marine Sciences 1(2/3):95-107
Dede, A. 1998. Investigation on the Mediterranean Monk Seal (Monachus monachus Herman, 1779) in Gökçeada (Northern Aegean Sea). 35 th C.I.E.S.M XXXV. Congress 1-5 June 1998, Vol. 35 (2) Dubrovnik (Crotia) p 534
Öztürk, B., Öztürk, A. A., Dede, A. 2001. Dolphin by-catch in the swordfish driftnet fishery in the Aegean Sea. 36th CIESM Congress Proceedings, Monte Carlo, Vol 36, p 308.
Tonay A.M.& Öztürk B. 2003. Cetacean Bycatches in Turbot Fishery on the Western Coast of the Turkish Black Sea. In: Oray, I.K., Çelikkale, M.S., Özdemir, G. (Eds.), International Symposium of Fisheries and Zoology (In memory of Ord. Prof. Dr. Curt KOSSWIG in His 100th Birth Anniversary), İstanbul. 131-138pp.