MSC became the first major shipping line to re-route their ships on the west coast of Greece to reduce the risk of collision with endangered sperm whales in the Mediterranean.
fter discussions with four major environmental NGOs, the company decided to take action and re-route all of their container vessels in this area to protect the critical habitat for the subpopulation of whales.
The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), OceanCare and WWF Greece are working in collaboration with the Pelagos Cetacean Research Institute, which has been studying the eastern Mediterranean sperm whale population since 1998.
These studies have identified the Hellenic Trench, to the west and south of the Peloponnese and southwest of Crete, as critical habitat for these whales. These deep diving whales are found there year-round directly in the path of busy shipping routes.
We have a responsibility to ensure that our cargo operations make a positive impact, reflecting our longstanding commitment to conserving and protecting the ocean and marine wildlife
aid Stefania Lallai, Vice President of Sustainability at MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company.
The area of most concern is currently a major container shipping route, making this re-routing a substantial contribution to the survival of these at-risk whales.
As Dr. Alexandros Frantzis, Scientific Director of the Pelagos Cetacean Research Institute, explained the whales found dead on the shore with propeller marks and cuts are just the tip of the iceberg. As he notes “up to 20 times more die offshore and are never recorded.”
It is our fear that without urgent action, deaths through ship strikes will cause this already small population to go extinct very soon
Earlier this year, the Greek Ministry of Defense through the Hellenic Hydrographic Office in collaboration with the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Insular Policy and the Greek shipping industry issued an official notice informing mariners about the presence of marine mammals in the Hellenic Trench. The NAVTEX (NAVigational TEleX) warning instructs mariners to look out for whales and try to avoid collisions with them.