The images are impressive. A fin whale, the second largest living animal on the planet, emaciated, weakened ... and on the verge of death. The photo was taken off Toulon on July 2 by photographer Alexis Rosenfeld. And the whale in question, Fluker, is no stranger. For 25 years, it has roamed the Mediterranean and has been observed in particular by NGOs, such as WWF. "She was an old friend," laments Denis Ody, head of the Cetaceans program of the France branch of the animal defense organization. Today Fluker is a "walking corpse".
"There is only one skeleton left"
What happened so that an animal that measures about 20 meters and can reach 70 tons ends up in this state? It was in the 1990s that Fluker made a name for himself, hitting ships. The whale had then lost half of its tail. This amputated caudal fin had become a hallmark.
But in August 2019, the fin had been totally torn off. How why ? Cetologists wonder: another collision, perhaps, unless some abandoned fishing gear severed the rest of the tail.
Still, with a simple stump, Fluker can no longer dive, and therefore no longer eat. Fin whales feed on small shrimp, krill, which are found at great depths. "It's to cry", Denis Ody despairs. "There is only one skeleton left. Where normally there are bumps, they are only hollows. It is covered in parasites because it is extremely weak. It is a totally skinny whale. , who barely breathes. Frankly, it's pathetic. "
For comparison, this is what a healthy fin whale looks like:
Credit: F. Bassemayousse / WWF France
Collision and pollution
Beyond this very impressive particular case, the WWF wants to warn about the other whales which "die in the shadows". Because each year, the NGO estimates that between 8 and 40 fin whales die following a collision with a boat. The NGO therefore calls for the creation, off the French, Italian and Spanish coasts, of a "particularly vulnerable maritime zone". This would make it possible to impose changes in the routes or reduce the speed of the boats below 18 knots. The risk of collision with large cetaceans is then close to zero.
The NGO is also asking for the support of the public authorities for the development and deployment of efficient anti-collision systems and the implementation of stricter regulations for "ghost" fishing gear, often nets lost or discarded by them. fishermen who, by drifting, poison or injure underwater fauna.