Around ten Cuvier’s beaked whales unexpectedly washed up dead on the northern shores of Cyprus, possibly affected by the massive earthquakes in Turkey and Syria this week, authorities said on Saturday.
The whales were found on beaches along the north coast between Polis and Pachyammos. There were reports another three Cuvier’s beaked whales had been found dead on beaches further east in Northern Cyprus.
It is the biggest number of whale deaths recorded on Cyprus, where whales are occasionally seen but are not common. The Cyprus government is investigating how exactly the whales died.
“These animals have a sensory system that is affected by the noises of the sea; it could be military exercises, underwater drilling, or of course, the earthquake that happened in the area,” Giannis Ioannou, an official from the Department of Fisheries and Marine Research of Cyprus told broadcast network Sigma TV. He said experts collected samples for further examination.
Cuvier’s beaked whales are known for their unique, elongated beak-like snouts. They are considered to be one of the most deep-diving marine mammals, capable of reaching depths of over 2,000 meters (6,500 feet) in search of food, primarily on squid and deep-water fish.
They are medium-sized, typically growing to lengths of around 5-7 meters (16-23 feet) and weighing up to 4,000 kg (8,800 lbs). They are solitary animals or found in small groups, located in cool and tropical waters throughout the world’s oceans.
In recent years, there has been increasing concern about the potential impact of human activities, such as military sonar and shipping noise, on these whales and their populations.
In 2021 and 2022, two incidents were recorded of whale deaths on Cyrpus, but on both events a single whale was found dead.