Although grey whales have occasionally been spotted in the Mediterranean and bottle nose dolphins are often seen following commercial fishing trawlers, neither of these marine mammals are now commonplace in the Mediterranean; especially along Israel’s shoreline. The Mediterranean Sea is feared by oceanographers and marine life ecologists as becoming increasingly more polluted and less able to support such creatures as whales and dolphins which depend on an ample amount of fish and crustaceans to feed on. It’s even thought by some marine biologists that the Mediterranean may be harboring a giant plastic garbage patch similar to the one present in what is known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch which is said to compose nearly 10% of the world’s waste items.
A recent Jerusalem Post article reported on the rare sighting of a baby dolphin swimming alongside its mother of Israel’s Mediterranean shoreline. While this sighting was good news for marine biologists, it was also noted in the article that an unusually large number of carcases of dolphins and whales have washed ashore, with a total of 16 already found by mid August. This is a much larger number than the annual average of 15 that usually come ashore. With around 300 to 400 dolphins being in permanent residence in the eastern Mediterranean, losing a larger number of these creatures could be an ominous indication that the waters of the Med, which are also becoming warmer and more saline, may be less able to support such creatures.
This is especially so for occasional whales that wander into this sea via the Straits of Gibraltar.
Commercial fishing often involves boats using large “drift nets” that float near the surface and are supported by buoys. Fish and sometimes dolphins get caught up in these nets. In the case of dolphins, the poor creatures wind up suffocating.
According to Dr. Aviad Scheinin, chairman of the Israel Marine Mammal Research & Assistance Center, “fishing boats are the most dangerous cause of death for the local dolphin population.”
This danger is in addition to the sea’s increasing state of pollution and salinity. The salinity increase could be partially attributed to the growing number of desalination plants along the shorelines of Israel.
Dr. Scheinin and his Center are now working of trying to find the main cause of the increase in dolphin deaths, especially among the common dolphin species. The common dolphin used to inhabit an area off the Sinai coast that had been formerly declared as a nature reserve. They have been venturing north along Israel’s coast in search of food. Dr. Scheinin is very interested in finding out why “so many Israeli common dolphins are dying along Israel’s coasts.”
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Dolphins Swimming in the Sea from Shutterstock