After losing a part of her tail in a collision with a boat, fin whale Fluker has unintentionally become a symbol of the impact of human activities on marine life.
'She's clearly dying if she isn't dead already.' On Friday, July 24, Arnaud Gauffier, programs co-director at WWF France discussed the plight of a whale named Fluker who was injured in the Mediterranean Sea in an encounter with humans. Having lost her tail, the cetacean can no longer dive or feed herself.
'All that's left of her is her skeleton'
According to the NGO, the fin whale, who was recently captured by underwater photojournalist Alexis Rosenfeld off the coast of Toulon, is in critical condition. Normally, the fin whale is the second-largest animal in the world after the blue whale and is about 20 meters long and weighs up to 70 tonnes. But Fluker looks 'extremely thin.' Denis Ody, head of the Cetaceans program at WWF France told Europe 1:
It's deplorable. All that's left of her is her skeleton. Where you would normally see bumps, there are only creases. She is covered in parasites because she is extremely weak. A totally emaciated whale that can barely breathe. Frankly, it's pathetic.
Especially since Fluker is well-known in the Pelagos marine sanctuary, a protected area between Italy, France, and Monaco. She has been observed there for twenty-five years. In 1996, she crashed into a ship and lost half of her tail, an injury that allows her protectors to recognize her. But in August 2019, her fin was completely ripped off. Experts never figured out exactly what happened to her but she can no longer dive as a result. From the looks of it, her fate is sealed.
Collisions on collisions
Leading by example, the NGO wishes to raise awareness about collisions between boats and fin whales. According to their estimates, 9 to 40 whales die every year off the coast of the north-western Mediterranean, a hot spot for large cetaceans. They're calling for the creation of a 'maritime zone for particularly vulnerable species' which would require boats to change their routes or reduce their speed when there's a risk of them colliding with marine life.
The NGO is also asking for the support of public authorities in implementing stricter regulations on so-called 'ghost' fishing gear. Most often, these nets are lost by fishermen and as they drift in the ocean they risk injuring wildlife. A petition addressed to the Minister of Ecological Transition has already been posted online.