Miles away from its natural habitat in the Pacific Ocean, this is not the first sighting of a young grey whale lost in the Mediterranean Sea. Just months before the COP26 climate change summit in Scotland, this sighting is a stark reminder that climate change is disrupting marine ecosystems and their rich biodiversity.
Usually, grey whales spend their time between the Bering Sea, covering the area between Canada and Russia, and the warmer waters in Baja California, Mexico, where conditions are ideal for giving birth to offspring in winter. However, as climate change worsens, some of these mammals are swimming off course, venturing beyond their normal migration route. This month, one whale did just that, and has been spotted in the Mediterranean, making this the second sighting of its kind since 2010.
For several days now, this young whale has been swimming off the coasts of Morocco, Italy and Spain. Scientists believe that melting ice caps in the Arctic North West passage and the decrease in food supplies in the Bering Sea caused the mammal to take a wrong turn and cross the Atlantic.
Starving and disorientated
In 2010, the first whale lost in the Mediterranean managed to escape the waters, but scientists lost track of it after it passed through the Strait of Gibraltar. They believe it likely died from hunger and exhaustion.
Will the young whale recently seen on the Côte d’Azur fall victim to the same fate? Sadly scientists do not have high hopes for survival since the mammal appeared disorientated and emaciated.
As climate change worsens and continues to damage marine ecosystems, the UK Presidency of COP26 has already announced that it will reinforce the work being done in our oceans under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).