Threatened cetaceans off the coast of Israel and long-range movement of a sperm whale

Kirsten F. Thompson, Jonathan Gordon, Thomas Webber, Yotam Zuriel, Kim Kobo, Dan Tchernov, Sabina Airoldi, Biagio Violi, Alessandro Verga, Adrien Gannier, Elena Fontanesi, Davide Ascheri, Aviad P. Scheinin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Research in the western Mediterranean has shown that sperm (Physeter macrocephalus) and Cuvier's beaked whales (Ziphius cavirostris) are present as small, globally distinct populations that face numerous threats. The eastern Mediterranean is not well studied, and few surveys have investigated the composition of cetacean communities. In this study, visual-acoustic surveys were conducted off the coast of Israel during April–May 2022 to characterize the cetacean community. Sperm whales (three encounters), Cuvier's beaked whales (one encounter), bottlenose dolphins (one encounter (Tursiops truncatus)) and unidentified delphinids (17 encounters) were acoustically detected. Sperm whales were foraging ~10 km off Haifa, at 370–1220 m deep and social vocalizations (codas) corresponded to the Mediterranean dialect. One immature male that was photographed is known from 12 previous encounters in the Ligurian Sea, indicating a west–east movement of approximately 2800 km. Automated passive acoustic monitoring of narrow, relatively shallow areas such as the Sicily Channel could provide an opportunity to reduce mortality of individuals making long-distance movements within Mediterranean basins. Israeli waters provide habitat for cetaceans, with two threatened subpopulations—sperm and Cuvier's beaked whales—that are negatively impacted by anthropogenic activities, including those that introduce underwater noise. More data are needed on densities of these deep-water species, and an evaluation of the threats faced in the wider Levantine basin.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere4155
JournalAquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 The Authors. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


  • anthropogenic noise
  • beaked whale
  • connectivity
  • human activities
  • oil and gas extraction
  • passive acoustic monitoring
  • sperm whale

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation

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