Between 2007 and 2014, 83 cetaceans were found stranded along the Ligurian coast of Italy, in the Pelagos Sanctuary, the largest marine protected area in the Mediterranean basin. Forty-nine (59%) were submitted to complete or partial necropsy, depending on the conservation status of the carcass. Based on gross and histological pathology and ancillary testing, the cause of death was determined and categorized as anthropogenic or natural (i.e., nonanthropogenic) in origin for 33 animals (67%) and of undetermined origin in the remaining 16 (33%). Natural causes of death, accompanied by either poor or good nutritional status, were attributed to 29 animals (59%), whereas four (8%) were diagnosed with an anthropogenic cause of death, consisting of interaction with fishing activities. Infectious and noninfectious disease was the most common cause of death, involving 29 cetaceans (59%). These data are valuable for understanding health and mortality trends in cetacean populations and can provide information for establishing policies for cetacean conservation and management in such an important protected area of the Mediterranean basin.
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Vol. 53 • No. 4