The Mediterranean Sea is among the world’s busiest waterways and shipping traffic is continuously growing along with the concern for its potential impacts on marine fauna
The 30% of all international maritime traffic originating transits through the Mediterranean basin, and at any moment there are approximately 2.000 cargos of over 100 tons in the Mediterranean, totaling at 200.000 vessels crossing it annually.
Commercial shipping can represent a significant risk for slow-moving species, in particular, large species such as fin and sperm whales.
Different types of vessels could be implicated in the accidents (for example, fast ferries, tankers, or cargo ships). The size and speed of boats seem to be directly related to the severity of the wounds on the animals.
Intense boat traffic usually may have a direct and immediate effect, such as injury, death, stress, or displacement, as well as changes in behavior for different cetacean species (fin whale, bottlenose dolphin, beaked whale).
Vessel density is likely to cause also chronic effects (e.g. changes in distribution) that may affect populations over the longer term.
Ship strikes in the study area
While ship strikes are a well-known cause of mortality for larger cetaceans, such as fin and sperm whales, not much is known about the impact of this phenomenon on the smaller dolphins.
Over time, our study has confirmed that collisions are also a risk to dolphins. Several photo-identified individuals show injuries related to impacts with motorboat propellers.
Juvenile individuals, such as the juvenile striped dolphin in the photo at right, are particularly at risk.
Commercial and passenger traffic (ferries, high-speed vessels, and hydrofoils) in the Gulf of Naples and the nearby Phlegrean Islands (Ischia, Procida, and Vivara) exceeds 200000 trips/year, and up to 2000 pleasure boats may be moored during the summer in the ports of Ischia.