Subject: sperm whales bycatches (fwd)

Mike Williamson (
Tue, 8 Jul 1997 12:17:01 -0400 (EDT)

From: Museo di Storia Naturale <>
Reply-To: Marine Mammals Research and Conservation Discussion
Subject: sperm whales bycatches

Sperm whales entangled in pelagic drifting nets

In a single week two sperm whales still alive have been entangled in
drifting nets in the waters of the Southern Tyrrhenian Sea, Italy.
The first has been found during the night of the 9th of June, about 5 miles
off the Calabrian coasts. It was 12 meters long; it had a big portion of
the net around the lower jaw and a second one around the tail. The two
portions were connected by a string of net along one side of the body. As
the specimen was particularly restless, two days of work were necessary to
cut the net.
The 14th of June a second sperm whale, a male 10 meters long, has been
found entangled, about 13 miles offshore, in the same area. The net was
around the body and the tail. Even if in this case the specimen was quiet,
many hours occurred to release it. The portion of the net around the tail
weighed more than 100 kilos.
G. Paolillo (representing the Italian stranding network Centro Studi
Cetacei) directed the operations to release the sperm whales, with the help
of the scuba divers of Italian Finance Police.
In this area many striped dolphins, with amputations or clear marks of
entanglement in a fishing net, strand every year in these months. In the
same period many fishing boats using surface pelagic drifting nets to catch
swordfish are working in the area.
The legal length of this kind of net in Italy is <2.5 km; we have no
certainty of its respect, that in any case is not a safety measure for
marine mammals. As the majority of the data that we collect are about
cetacean found stranded on the Italian coasts, a lot of bycatches remain
probably unknown. We think that the few data we have are enough to produce
a big concern on cetacean conservation. In this connection many
environmental associations are asking for the total ban of this fishing gear.

dr. Michela Podesta'
Centro Studi Cetacei
Museo di Storia Naturale
corso Venezia 55
20121 Milano - Italy
fax:  39 2 76022287

Michela Podesta'
Museo di Storia Naturale
corso Venezia 55
20121 Milano - Italy
tel. +39 2 62085405
fax +39 2 76022287