Preliminary findings on Cuvier’s beaked whale mass stranding in Northern Cyprus

Preliminary findings on Cuvier’s beaked whale mass stranding in Northern Cyprus

Arda M. Tonay, Işıl Aytemiz Danyer, İlayda Taşkaya, Erdem Danyer, Neslihan Öznur, Ayhan Dede, Ahmet Gülçubuk, Gülay Yüzbaşıoğlu Öztürk, Sabri Hacıoğlu, Tayfun Çanakcı, Ayaka Amaha Öztürk

ORCID IDs: A.M.T. 0000-0003-2718-9328; I.A.D. 0000-0003-4658-1819; İ.T. 0009-0008-3180-6054; E.D. 0000-0002-7922-7384; N.Ö. 0009-0003-0229-1091; A.D. 0000-0002-7712-615X A.G. 0000-0002-9722-8831; G.Y.Ö. 0000-0002-1761-0409;
S.H. 0000-0002-5493-0807; T.Ç. 0000-0002-6551-6820; A.A.Ö. 0000-0003-2281-7372

Faculty of Aquatic Sciences, Istanbul University, Fatih, Istanbul, TÜRKİYE
Turkish Marine Research Foundation (TUDAV), Beykoz, Istanbul, TÜRKİYE
Cyprus Wildlife Research Institute, Taşkent Doğa Parkı, Taşkent, Kyrenia, CYPRUS
Veterinary Control Central Research Institute, 06020, Etlik, Ankara, TÜRKİYE
TRNC Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Veterinary Department Directorate, Lefkoşa, Nicosia, CYPRUS
Department of Pathology, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Istanbul University-Cerrahpaşa, Büyükçekmece, Istanbul, TÜRKİYE


Cuvier’s beaked whales, Ziphius cavirostris, one of the regular cetacean species of the Mediterranean Sea, are affected by underwater noise, mainly shipping, naval exercise and seismic operations worldwide. Between 9 February – 6 March 2023 but mostly in 9-10 February, at least 13 beaked whales stranded in the northwest and west of the Cyprus Island in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. This study presents the preliminary findings of necropsy, histopathology and virology of six individuals and compiles information on the present human threats in the region at the time of the incident. Histopathological findings did not provide a clear result. However, intense congestion was seen in both macroscopic and histopathological examinations. The presence of undigested fresh squid in the stomach is an indicator of sudden death. Besides, intravascular gas bubbles in macroscopic examination were in line with the general findings in previous studies on beaked whale strandings after they had died due to military exercises. As a precautionary approach, activities generating impulsive underwater noise need to follow the ACCOBAMS Mitigation Guideline and if not they should halt particularly in areas where cetaceans presence is known. In a further note, all the Parties of ACCOBAMS are expected to refrain from conducting naval exercises involving sonar or underwater bursts near “Areas of Particular Concern for Beaked Whales”, taking into account the ACCOBAMS resolution 5.13 of 2013 and urges the implementation of underwater noise mitigation strategies in the fragile habitats of the eastern Mediterranean Sea. 

Keywords: Ziphius cavirostris, eastern Mediterranean Sea, military exercise, impulsive underwater noise, mitigation, ACCOBAMS

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