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Death of 15 dolphins in Aegean Sea in just a few weeks; Naval exercise the cause?

A shocking environmental disaster in the North Aegean Sea. Fifteen dolphins were found dead in the area in a period of just a couple of weeks. Seven of them were found on the north-east coast of the island of Samos, being swept away by north winds.

There is no indication of intentional killing or serious illness that led to the dolphins’ death, says the Greek Institute for Marine Conservation Archipelagos.

The Greek Institute suspects the recent Turkish military exercise “Blue Motherland” as one of the causes leading to the dolphins’ death.

It should be reminded that more than 100 ships of the Turkish Navy participated in the exercise conducted from February 27 to March 3, 2019.

Stressing that it will take time to have the results of necessary analyses in order to possibly link the marine mammals’ death to the naval exercise, the Institute underlines the unprecedented pressure such military exercises have on marine species and the ecosystem.

In a statement, Archipelagos emphasizes that the use of real ammunition, as well as the constant (uncontrolled) use of sonar causes severe underwater noise.

Numerous international scientific studies have shown that the noise from the naval sonar frequencies devices have catastrophic effects on marine ecosystems, especially on marine mammals, but also on fish and plankton.

The effects of explosions at sea are also dramatic and even the smallest explosion kills millions of organisms in a range of several kilometers.

Also the Greek Navy used to cause a heavy environmental footprint, however, the impact was limited after the Navy adopted environment friendly practices such as banning shots in protected areas, sonar use, warship and submarine management, during exercises.

Director of Archipelagos Thodoris Tsimpidis notes that it is urgent to extend such practice also to the rest of the Greek Armed Forces.

“The unprecedented pressure exerted in recent weeks on Aegean ecosystems during the Turkish exercises is added to the many other anthropogenic pressure that are also on the rise,” Tsimpidis said listing the continuing increase in ships passing through and the hazardous materials they carry without an operational response mechanism, the over-concentration of people on the Aegean coast without the necessary infrastructure for waste and sewage management, extensive scattering, intensive and unmanaged fishing “with practices that should never have been allowed in the Aegean Sea.”

The combination of the above goes beyond what the Aegean ecosystem can bear, which is of vital importance to the population living along the coast and depends on it.

“The recent worrying increase in the number of dolphins killed in the Aegean coast, although not yet attributable to one of the above factors, should be a matter of great concern to all of us,” the statement by Archipelagos concludes.

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