A rare minke whale stranded on Adana shore, eastern Mediterranean coast of Turkey
A minke whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata), considered a “visitor” in the Mediterranean and distributed in Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, stranded dead on Adana – Yumurtalık shore on the 10th of April, 2015.
Turkish Marine Research Foundation (TUDAV) and Istanbul University (I.U.) Faculty of Fisheries teams were informed by Coast Guard of Adana – Yumurtalık and BIL-BOTAŞ staff. A young female whale, which is 3,5 meters long and weighs 400 kg, was transferred to Istanbul by TUDAV and I.U. teams and necropsy studies were started in order to investigate the cause of death of the animal.
According to preliminary investigation by the expert team, consisted of marine biologists, fisheries engineers and veterinarians, it is estimated that the whale, who seemed to have lost weight, died due to starvation and feeding problems. Several external parasites were also found on the dead whale.
Morphological measurements were completed prior to necropsy and samples were taken only from the tissues in good condition because of the advanced decomposition of the whale. Then the whale was buried. Its skeleton will later be used as a museum material.
The second record in Turkey
This is the first time that Turkish scientists have been able take samples from a stranded minke whale in Turkish coasts. It is also the second minke whale record in Turkey. First record belonged to a 4 m-long male stranded on the coast of Mersin Erdemli in August in 2005, which only had a video recording. In the eastern Mediterranean waters, there are other rare minke whale stranding records in Israel and Greece.
“Minke whale is not the first whale species that stranded on Adana – Yumurtalık shore” said Dr. Arda M. Tonay from TUDAV and Istanbul University. “Fin whale deaths were observed in the region before. This shows that this area particularly needs to be investigated. Although it is sad that the whale stranded dead on our shores, having the opportunity to have another record of this precious species is relatively pleasing. In Turkey, reporting stranded dolphins and whales to TUDAV and I.U. teams urgently and recording of stranding cases of this species by us is extremely important for the development of effective policies for the protection of cetaceans in the Mediterranean, Aegean and the Black Sea. We must strengthen our National Stranding Network to act on cases from Turkish coasts immediately and need to train volunteers to cover a wider area. It becomes important to do necropsy examination in stranding cases of rare species such as the minke whale without wasting time. It is not only crucial to organize professional rescuers to step in immediately, but also to establish appropriate marine mammal rehabilitation centers in Turkey for carrying out care and treatment of animals in live stranding cases.”
Dr. Arda M. Tonay
TUDAV Vice President
+90 535 940 22 22
About the minke whale:
Minke whales live in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and occasionally enter Mediterranean through the Strait of Gibraltar. The oldest record in the Mediterranean was in the Adriatic Sea in 1771, whereas the most interesting record was on the Black Sea coast of Georgia in 1880. The total number of observations and strandings in the last 200 years is around 30 cases in the entire Mediterranean.
Minke whale is one of the smallest baleen whales and lives in cold and coastal regions of the Arctic. It feeds mainly on krill and small fish schools by filtering them with comb-like baleen plates on both sides of its mouth. Adult minke whales grow to be about 9 meters long and weigh about 14 tonnes. Calves are usually around 2,5 meters long when they are born. There was intensive minke whale hunting in Antarctica before the 90s. Currently, Japan, Norway and Iceland continue to hunt this species.
In addition to deaths by natural causes, military underwater exercises and the negative effects of oil exploration-drilling operations and ship collisions are also presented as a justification of whale stranding cases throughout the world.