Once considered exceptionally rare in the Mediterranean basin, in the last decade the occurrence of humpback
whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) in this Basin has increased.
Since 2001, 14 sightings, 3 strandings and 2 by-caught individuals have been reported from different locations
across the Region. All individuals, ranging between 7 and 12 meters, were estimated to be 2-3 years old juveniles.
No re-sightings have been documented to date, suggesting scouting and exploratory behaviors.
Here we report the first re-sightings of a humpback whale in three different locations in the Mediterranean Sea. A
whale, approximately 8-9-meters long, was first observed in the Ligurian Sea, NW Mediterranean, in June 2012.
The same animal was then re-sighted off Lampedusa Island, Sicily Channel, in March 2013 over 1,000 km away in a
straight line from the previous location and again in August 2013 in the Ligurian Sea.
Simone Panigada1, Sylvia Frey2, Nino Pierantonio3, Patrice Garziglia4, Fabio Giardina5
1,3 Tethys Research Institute, Viale G.B. Gadio 2, 20121 Milan, Italy
2 OceanCare, Oberdorfstrasse 16, CH-8820 Waedenswil, Switzerland
4 Fastboat Discovery, Capitainerie du Port de Plaisance, 06310 Beaulieau Sur Mer, France
5 Marine Protected Area Pelagie Islands, 92010 Lampedusa (AG), Italy
This specimen apparently managed to discover and exploit the main known feeding grounds for fin whales in the
central Mediterranean Sea, where this species regularly preys on very abundant euphausiids species (Figure 2).
These findings suggest that the Mediterranean Sea offer
suitable habitats not only for fin whales but also for other
mysticetes. The recent recovery of the North Atlantic
humpback whale population might increase migrations of
individuals in the Mediterranean through the Gibraltar
This range expansion, possibly leading to a (re)colonization of the Mediterranean in the
future, could expose the species to severe anthropic pressures (ship strikes, acoustic-
chemical pollution) and urges appropriate mitigation measures to be considered and
implemented also for this species.
Figure 2 – The whale feeding at the surface
Figure 1 – The whale was first observed and identified
in the Ligurian Sea (A) and then recaptured off
Lampedusa Island (B) using the fluke. The third
recapture (C) was again in the Ligurian Sea, using
pictures of the right sight of the body photographed off
The map below shows the locations of sightings and
strandings of humpback whales in the Mediterranean.
These data has been collected in the framework of a project funded by the Italian Ministry of the Environment to the
International Whaling Commission. We are particularly thankful to Greg Donovan for his valid and continuous
support. We are grateful to Salvatore Taranto and Giovanni Raptis for their support in the field off Lampedusa.