The Malta Independent 14 April 2021, Wednesday

Fin whales passing by Malta is not rarity, but common occurrence in early spring - marine biologist

Bettina Borg Tuesday, 6 April 2021, 13:52 Last update: about 7 days ago
Photo: Benjamin Grech
Photo: Benjamin Grech

Fin whales passing Malta is not a rarity, but a yearly occurrence during late winter and early spring, marine biologist and university professor Alan Deidun said in a Facebook post on Tuesday morning. 

On Monday evening, a video of a fin whale surfacing in the sea to get a breath of fresh air was posted to Facebook. The whale was spotted off the coast of Gozo, near Ta’ Sanap cliffs on the southern side of the island. 

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Deidun took to Facebook this morning to explain that it is common for fin whales to pass by Malta, as it is part of their migration route this time of year. 

“In late winter/early spring, the fin whales (Balaenoptera physalus; ‘balena kbira’ in Maltese) aggregate close to Lampedusa (located to the south-west of Malta) to feed on krill”, he writes. 

Once they have passed Malta, the whales continue their migration north of the island. 

“At the onset of summer”, Deidun continues, “these whales then embark on a north-bound migration to the Pelagos Sanctuary located in the Ligurian Sea (off Genoa, to the north of Corsica)”. 

Deidun concluded his post by saying that the Mediterranean is home to a number of whales, not only fin whales. 

“Indeed, we do have whales in the Mediterranean and fin whales are not the only whale species to reside in the Mediterranean”, he said. 

Fin whale migration in the Mediterranean…. This map, which emerged through the tagging of fin whales, says it all……in...

Posted by Alan Deidun on Tuesday, April 6, 2021

The fin whale, also known as the finback whale, is the largest baleen whale found in the Mediterranean and the second-largest species on Earth after the blue whale. It can grow to between 17 and 22 metres in length. 

Although the fin whale is the most common whale species in the Mediterranean, it is considered be a vulnerable species in the area and is endangered on a global level. 

The fin whale is also common in the areas between Corsica, Sardinia, Sicily and the western Italian coast, and the region west of Corsica and Sardinia. 

Other whales that have been spotted in the Mediterranean, including the Minke whale and the Humpback whale, however sightings of these two species have been sporadic. Sperm whales also commonly reside in the Mediterranean sea, however sightings of this species above sea levels has proved to be challenging, since they typically reside in deep waters.

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