On August 27th around 17:00, Davide Bedocchi and the Cetacean Research Centre (CETUS) had a rare sighting of a humpback whale breaching 1km west from Viareggio (LU) Italy. This extraordinary animal was sighted swimming southward along the coast and was followed by the research catamaran Krill for three hours while the whale swam and breached.
The last documented sightings of a humpback in the Mediterranean Sea were in 2002 Trieste and Senigallia Italy, 2004 Siracusa Italy, 2009 Trieste and now Viareggio Italy. In the last two hundred years there have only been 13 humpback whale sightings in total.
There has been a large increase in the numbers of this species being sighted in the Mediterranean since 1990 so research is being done to try to find an explanation for these new occurrences. Right now, no one can be certain to the exact reasons but different theories are being tested. Sightings of humpbacks are increasing with the recovery of some stocks in the expanding North Atlantic population after the long whaling period so it is possible that they are travelling further east with the larger numbers. Another theory is there has been an increased ‘effort’ in whale recording. The number of scientists who are studying, observing and recording the cetacean species in the Mediterranean has increased which could potentially increase the number of sightings on a whole for the area.
Which ever the reason behind the growing trend of humpback whales, nothing can be certain without increased effort so that the sightings can be properly identified photographically and genetically to figure out why these animals are coming over a thousand kilometres away from their feeding and breeding grounds.