Whales, dolphins strongly present in Maltese islands, ERA study finds

The Sperm Whale, one of the largest toothed whales on the planet, were among the cetaceans sighted in Maltese waters

The Environment and Resources Authority has confirmed the presence of several whales and dolphins around the Maltese coast, including that of the large sperm whale.

This research forms part of Malta’s Assessment of Marine Waters, with the newest results showing how four whale species and four dolphin species were reported from Malta in the latest surveys.

Among the whale species found was the Sperm Whale, the largest toothed predator roaming the seas.  

Other whale species include the Fin Whale, Sperm Whale, Cuvier’s Beaked Whale, and Long-Finned Pilot Whale.

Meanwhile, the Risso’s Dolphin, Common Dolphin, Striped Dolphin and Bottlenose Dolphin were all sighted in Malta’s waters.

Most of these species aren’t frequently sighted by the public, likely due to their migratory nature and presence at deeper depths, according to ERA.

However, this doesn’t mean that sightings don’t occur. Passers-by at Gozo’s Ta’ Sanap Cliffs caught a glimpse of a Fin Whale in April this year – a common time for Fin Whales to be spotted swimming near the islands.

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The Common Dolphin, Striped Dolphin, and Bottlenose Dolphin are the most frequently recorded all year round, commonly encountered by boaters.

According to ERA, in terms of by-catch, abundance and distribution, the populations of the three dolphins appear stable.

But longer-term monitoring is still required. ERA said it is investing in such issues while undergoing further monitoring studies. Part of this will include the establishment and pilot implementation of a long-term strategy for marine mammals in Maltese waters, with funds received from the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund.

In line with the ACCOBAMS treaty, ERA said that it is working to address underwater noise and marine litter, which are two major pressures on whales and dolphins.

Miraine Rizzo, an ERA official, said that Malta must step up the protection of such animals in the local marine waters.

“Cetaceans are not only beautiful marine animals which people like to encounter, but they are also an important part of our marine ecosystems,” she said.