Wednesday, 6 June 2018

How ships bring agonising death to last Greek whales

Government promises action on collisions to avoid slaughter on busy shipping routes

Sun 27 May 2018 07.05 BSTLast modified on Mon 28 May 2018 11.34 BST

In an office up a steep hill in a seaside suburb of Athens, a tiny blue light flickers from a computer terminal. Dr Alexandros Frantzis, Greece’s foremost oceanographer, points it out. The light, he says, tracks marine traffic “in real time”.

It is key to saving one of the world’s most endangered whale populations.

“Every few seconds it logs the position, course and speed of a vessel entering Greek waters,” he says. “And that is vital to mapping shipping densities in areas populated by sperm whales.”

Frantzis has spent nearly a quarter of a century studying marine mammals. His desk, like his small Pelagos Cetacean Research Institute, is testimony to a passion that has helped transform understanding of dolphins, porpoises and whales in a country where little was known about marine life barely two decades ago.

Shelves are stacked high with the bones of sea mammals big and small. The remains of a sperm whale’s lower jaw are propped against a wall in his back office. And in a room beyond, the skeletons of two whales – gargantuan, crusty and yellow – lie neatly assembled across the floor.

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