The starving grey whale Wally is lost in the Mediterranean Sea

Wally, the young starving gray whale, swimming in the Mediterranean Sea, photo: Reuters/Alexandre Minguez
Wally, the young starving gray whale, swimming in the Mediterranean Sea, photo: Reuters/Alexandre Minguez

The young grey whale Wally is lost in the Mediterranean Sea and can’t find his way home to the Pacific ocean, thousands of miles away. Biologists fear he may not survive.

“We are very worried about his future, as his fat, which is his fuel to travel, has gone down a lot. He is exhausted and just skin over bones. We have not seen him eat since we started tracking him,” said Eric Hansen, head of the state biodiversity agency in southern France.

Grey whales usually migrate along the United States’ west coast, but biologists think that with global warming opening northern routes, Wally became lost and swam into the Atlantic Ocean via the Arctic.

“With global warming accelerating the melting of the ice, the passage [between the Pacific and Atlantic Ocean] is much easier to go through today,” Hansen told Reuters.

“This young whale made a mistake in its navigation, and instead of descending along the Pacific coast, it descended along the Atlantic coast,” Hansen said.

Wally entered the Mediterranean through the Gibraltar Strait and followed the Moroccan coast before arriving in France, Hansen said.

Wally is starving
He is around two years old and eight meters (26.25 ft) long, but biologists are worried about his rapid weight loss. He cannot find the invertebrates that are his normal food source in the depths of the Pacific.

“The Italians have estimated that he is at less than around 37 percent of the mass of his species of his age,” Celine Trady, a researcher at Criobe research laboratory, said.

“Apart from that, it’s just that he’s very close to the coasts. We’ll really have to watch out for this animal,” Trady added.

Many obstacles at sea
A few days ago, Wally got caught in a fishing net off the Camargue coast but managed to free himself. But he will find more obstacles, especially the heavy shipping traffic in the Gibraltar Strait.

Moving about 80 to 90 kilometers a day, the whale closely follows France’s southern shores and is now approaching the Spanish coast.

“He is trying to enter harbors, as if to find a way out. Its strategy should work, and we hope it can make its way back to Gibraltar in about a week,” Hansen said.

It is only the second time biologists have observed a grey whale in the Mediterranean. The last time was in 2010.

“We will probably see this [lost whales] more often because of climate change, which not only opened the northern route but is also changing ocean currents because of the melting of the ice caps,” Hansen said. 

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