Six Goose-Beaked whales (Ziphius Cavirostris), a.k.a. Cuvier’s beaked whale, were spotted this week about 90 miles west of the Haifa shore. “This is a rare observation because the Ziphius lives in the deep sea where it hunts and therefore is not frequently seen in visual surveys,” said Dr. Aviad Scheinin, Director of Superfunders at the Morris Kahn Station for Marine Research at the University of Haifa, who is also Director of the Dolphin and Sea Center of IMMRAC (Israel Marine Mammal Research & Assistance Center).
“We know of their presence in the deep sea based on acoustic surveys, but even there they are not present in large quantities. In yesterday’s survey, we saw a rare thing: the whales were in a restive state and swam in a group of six, when they are usually a reclusive species,” Scheinin said.
Goose-Beaked whales feed on several species of squid; they also prey on deep-sea fish. In 2014, scientists reported that they had used satellite-linked tags to track Goose-Beaked whales off the coast of California, and found the animals dived up to 8,980 feet below the ocean surface and spent up to two hours and 17 minutes underwater before resurfacing, which represent both the deepest and the longest dives ever documented for any mammal.
Eyal Beagle, a doctoral student in the Department of Marine Biology at the University of Haifa, also participated in the observation. Beagle is working on his doctoral dissertation developing a cheaper and higher-quality alternative to manned aerial surveys.
The observation, which was carried out for the first time in Israel using a special plane that arrived especially for the project from France, with a team of French researchers and pilots, relies on the reports of an observer and
is not photographed or otherwise documented. It is part of a Mediterranean survey (including aerial surveys and marine surveys) conducted by ACCOBAMS (Agreement on the Conservation of Cetaceans in the Black Sea and Mediterranean Sea). Its aim is to produce a snapshot of marine mammals throughout the Mediterranean.
ACCOBAMS attempts to reduce threats to cetaceans in Mediterranean and Black Sea waters and improve our knowledge of these animals. It is the first agreement binding the countries in the two subregions, enabling them to work together on a matter of general interest.
This week’s observation took about five hours, covering 330 miles, and was conducted at a height of 600 feet within the economic waters of Israel.
“The data collected during the observation will provide an overall view of the condition of marine mammals and of sea turtles, as well as a bleak picture of the plastic waste in the Mediterranean,” said Dr. Scheinin.