Stranding of Three Whales in Greece Raises Alarm Over Seismic Testing for Fossil Fuels
  Stranding of Three Whales in Greece Raises Alarm Over Seismic Testing for Fossil Fuels

Athens, 9 Mar (ONA) --- While cause remains unconfirmed, green groups fear the three whales could be the ‘tip of iceberg’ with many more animals hurt.

Environmental groups have linked the beaching of three whales in Corfu to seismic testing for oil and gas in the waters off the Greek island, the British Guardian reported.

Two Cuvier’s beaked whales were found stranded at Arillas and Agios Gordios beaches on the west of the island on 20 February. A third beaked whale ran ashore on Agios Gordios beach the day after.

“It took dozens of volunteers over five hours using rudimentary ropes to hoist the whales back in the sea,” said Nastazia Koronaki, local vet who helped coordinate the rescue efforts.

Beached whales are not unknown in Greece, but for three healthy whales to be stranded on the same coastline within such a short space of time is unusual, said Koronaki.

While it has not been established what caused the whales to become stranded, environmental groups suspect the beachings were connected to SW Cook, a ship commissioned by oil company Hellenic Petroleum, which has been conducting testing in the Ionian Sea off the Corfu coastline. This region includes the Hellenic trench and the Ionian Sea archipelago, which have been designated important marine mammal areas.

Seismic testing is a method of oil and gas exploration that involves continuously blasting the seafloor with airguns to map the fossil fuels below. These blasts can reach more than 250 decibels. The effect of these sound levels on marine mammals is “like a bomb repeatedly going off in their home every 10 seconds – a home they can’t flee”, according to US non-profit the National Resources Defense Council.

Research has linked seismic testing to a range of negative impacts in marine animals, including hearing impairment, difficulties with feeding and interference with communication. In beaked whales, which are deep divers, studies have found links between seismic testing and decompression sickness.