29 September 2007
27 September 2007
“Ma non era raro incontrare i capodogli nel Santuario?” ci chiede Akemi, una simpatica ragazza giapponese, dopo il quarto capodoglio della giornata.
Nei primi due giorni della crociera, l’intero equipaggio è stato costretto in porto da un forte vento da levante, ma giovedì mattina finalmente si esce in mare. Non passa un’ora dalla calata dell’idrofono che già abbiamo un contatto acustico… “Secondo me sono cinque! Ma no, non senti che a prua, lontano, ce n’è un altro? Guarda, lo si intravede anche nello spettrogramma!” -- Ben sei capodogli!
Quando sono così tanti diventa difficile registrare i dati per ogni singolo individuo, ma alla fine riusciamo a fotoidentificarne tre: due vecchie conoscenze, Bios e Walter, e uno nuovo che battezziamo Potter.
Il giorno successivo, tutti danno per scontato l’incontro con altri capodogli. La latitanza delle ormai “rare” stenelle striate comincia quindi a pesare, ma per fortuna ne avvistiamo un gruppetto proprio in prossimità di uno dei nostri colossi. Questo doppio incontro ci regala una bellissima registrazione mista: gli intensi click del capodoglio e i fischi e le “mitragliate” dei ticchettii dei delfini.
Nonostante gli sforzi dei ricercatori e i vari calcoli sui possibili spostamenti dei tre capodogli della giornata, riusciamo a foto-identificarne solo due: Gogo e Shreck, anch’essi già incontrati in passato. Vista la successione degli avvistamenti, una lunga lezione sull’acustica dei cetacei è d’obbligo, così Francesca, tesista del Centro di Biacustica dell’Università di Pavia, svela ai partecipanti i segreti di questa disciplina.
Sabato mattina partiamo con la speranza di incontrare qualche stenella, ma avvistiamo invece un gruppetto di sei grampi adulti, che Vittorio ci segnala essere quasi tutti individui mai incontrati prima.
Ci rimettiamo in rotta, e di nuovo sentiamo un capodoglio! Si tratta di “Fourty”, un individuo chiamato così perché avvistato per la prima volta da Sabina nel giorno del suo quarantesimo compleanno. Alla prima emersione lo fotoidentifichiamo, registriamo le vocalizzazioni, il comportamento, e raccogliamo anche un campione di feci. Alla seconda, il gommone, con a bordo Sabina, Veronica, Vittorio e tutto il loro armamentario di macchine fotografiche e videocamere, è già in acqua.
Dopo una lunga immersione, Fourty affiora a un chilometro da noi e, mentre ci avviciniamo, si esibisce in un salto e poi in un paio di strani tail slap, che lo vedono girarsi su se stesso. Vista la situazione, decidiamo di monitorare con attenzione lo strano comportamento dell’animale. Lo raggiungiamo e lui si avvicina tranquillo al gommone. Con il respiro affrettato per l‘emozione, iniziamo a scattare immagini e a girare video, e quando lui tira fuori la coda per iniziare un’altra immersione, capiamo la ragione delle sue evoluzioni aeree: una grossa lampreda è saldamente attaccata alla parte terminale della coda.
Il team CSR
This was an incredible experience for me. I’m so happy to see lots of sperm whales, Risso’s dolphins, and striped dolphins. However, I should mention that it was not only cetaceans who made me happy here. Life on the boat is so fun with nice people. All the researchers were so helpful and informative and I really appreciate their effort. I feel it was a very well balanced program. I also appreciated that they involve us in the research, includine sighting shifts and recording whale blows.
I hope that more Japanese will come and visit animals in the water and people on board. Life with European people itself is fun, and you will surely have an unique experience. I think I will come back next year, or go to the other project in Greece. Thank you so much everyone in CSR19 for sharing a great experience!
Akemi from Tokyo, Japan
Pubblicato da Istituto Tethys a 07:02
26 September 2007
The fifteenth course of the CSR research project was full of emotional encounters, despite the fact that rain kept the whole team in port on the first day. A beautiful sighting of Risso’s dolphins was the start of the week’s encounters and these continued with as many as three fin whale sightings.
During one of these occasions, our enthusiasm was quickly transformed into grave concern because of a ferry approaching fast, right on a whale’s route. Luckily, collision was avoided by a few meters and the whole team let out a sigh of relief. We cheered up when the return to port rewarded us with another Risso’s dolphin sighting.
The other days were even better…
One day we were involved in collecting data for fin whale and sperm whale and we ended with a great sighting of striped dolphins in the sunset.
The following day we had two more fin whale sightings. As evening fell, around 30 miles from the French coast, the hydrophone revealed the clicks of a sperm whale in the distance, and we were able to follow the animal and photo-identify it. We thought this animal was the last of the day, but we heard other clicks and suddenly, a sperm whale breached. At the same time, right next to our astonished team, two more individuals emerged. Their heads rose up out of the water, looked at Pelagos (our boat) using impressive spy-hopping. Then the animals swam alongside each other, showing tails and dorsal fins.
They repeated this magical “dance” whilst the sun set behind the mountains of Provence. In the meantime, Pelagos remained still, with her audience of silent and awed spectators watching an opening night performance.
During the two hours spent in the company of sperm whales at the surface, the team continued to collect behavioral and acoustic data, minute after minute, without missing a moment of what was going on in front of their eyes. No one had expected such a spectacular show!
The CSR team
Pubblicato da Istituto Tethys a 06:51
16 September 2007
In Greek mythology, Tethys (Greek Τηθύς), daughter of Uranus and Gaia, was a Titaness and sea goddess who was both sister and wife of Oceanus.
She was mother of the chief rivers of the world known to the Greeks, such as the Nile, the Alpheus, the Maeander, and about three thousand daughters called the Oceanids.
Considered as an embodiment of the waters of the world she may be seen as a counterpart of Thalassa, embodiment of the sea.
(adapted from Wikipedia)
Pubblicato da Istituto Tethys a 18:33
15 September 2007
(one of a series of questions posed to the Tethys president during a recent interview)
Common dolphins are quintessential expressions of beauty and grace in the marine environment. They are elegant and highly-evolved marine mammals that are tightly interconnected with their habitat. As long as they are there, and they are doing well, you know that the sea is alive and you can expect to find a number of other marine creatures all around. Tuna and swordfish, and of course their main prey: anchovies and sardines.
When I started studying common dolphins at Kalamos, these animals would surround our boat every day and swim in its wake. It was the marine equivalent of the Garden of Eden. Today, after the apple was stolen, we see common dolphins once a month. Their formerly healthy population has been reduced by one order of magnitude in only ten years. Common dolphins have become a symbol of how the most beautiful marine environment can be quickly devastated and corrupted by human activities, in the interest of a handful of commercial fishermen.
Pubblicato da Istituto Tethys a 07:16
14 September 2007
(one of a series of questions posed to the Tethys president during a recent interview)
I wish I could say actual protection of the animals I have been studying, but this would be far too optimistic.
A Marine Protected Area has been created recently with the intention of protecting bottlenose dolphins around Losinj, 16 years after our initial proposal. But I wonder if the animals there have noticed.
Kalamos has become an Area of Community Importance (Natura 2000) and common dolphins living there make the theoretical conservation targets of international agreements and recommendations. But the dolphins certainly haven’t noticed.
I did my best to promote dolphin conservation in several Mediterranean areas, but has anything happened? At best, I may have contributed to a microscopic increase in public and institutional awareness. Maybe.
So, perhaps the greatest success of my engagement has been influencing the choices of a number of young people and students, who eventually decided to devote their life to cetacean research and conservation. Several excellent people around me claim to have been inspired by my own work (as much as I myself have been - and still am - inspired by the work of my mentors). This makes me proud, and gives a meaning to what I am doing.
In addition, I’m happy to have been working with the Tehys Research Institute for two decades, giving my share to let this ship navigate over troubled waters in a rather hostile Italian reality.
Pubblicato da Istituto Tethys a 08:30
13 September 2007
Che settimana straordinaria! Non ci sono altre parole per definire gli ultimi sette giorni trascorsi a bordo di Pelagos.
Nonostante un giorno fermi in porto a causa del maltempo, abbiamo collezionato ben venti avvistamenti. Tre avvistamenti di capodoglio per un totale di quattro animali fotoidentificati, tre avvistamenti di balenottera comune, ben tredici avvistamenti di stenella e, dulcis in fundo, meraviglia delle meraviglie, uno stupendo avvistamento di globicefali.
Si tratta di una specie ancora poco studiata e conosciuta nell’area del Santuario Pelagos, dove gli incontri sono piuttosto rari. L’avvistamento di questa settimana è infatti l’unico effettuato negli ultimi tre anni dai ricercatori dell’Istituto Tethys.
All’inizio dell’avvistamento, a causa della lontananza del gruppo, si era pensato a un gruppo di grampi ma non appena l’inconfondibile sagoma della pinna dorsale è risultata pienamente distinguibile, lo stupore e l’emozione di tutti a bordo sono divenuti evidenti.
Sei adulti, un giovane e un piccolo, per un totale di otto animali. Tra i ricercatori e i partecipanti è iniziata la suddivisione dei compiti e in pochi minuti ci siamo attivati per la raccolta dei dati. Due persone registravano il comportamento, due le respirazioni, due erano pronte a raccogliere minuscoli campioni di pelle, due intente nella fotoidentificazione degli individui, e uno alla parte acustica. Nel corso dell’avvistamento è stato anche raccolto un campione di feci, al fine di ottenere informazioni sulle abitudini alimentari dei globicefali in quest’area.
A raccolta dati terminata, ci siamo goduti ancora per qualche minuto lo spettacolo e poi, con l’immagine dei globicefali ancora negli occhi, ci siamo rimessi alla ricerca di altri animali.
Non molto tempo dopo è stato rilevato acusticamente un capodoglio – il quarto della settimana - che è stato avvistato non molto lontano mentre il sole tramontava. A fine giornata, esausti ma felicissimi, ci siamo diretti in porto. Un ringraziamento molto sentito va a tutti i volontari a bordo, che hanno assistito il team di ricercatori Tethys con molto interesse e partecipazione.
Il team CSR
Pubblicato da Istituto Tethys a 05:41
11 September 2007
Il 24 agosto il Ministro della Pesca islandese, Einar Guofinnsson, ha dichiarato che l’Islanda smetterà di cacciare, a fini commerciali, le balene.
I motivi di questo stop sembrano essere dovuti a questioni puramente economiche. Guofinnsson afferma infatti che “l’industria della caccia baleniera deve, come ogni altra industria, obbedire al mercato” e che “se non c’è profitto, non ci sono le basi per ricominciare a uccidere le balene”.
La carne di balena, infatti, sembra riscuotere un successo modesto nei paesi famosi per le uccisioni di questi cetacei. In Islanda solo l’1,1% della popolazione mangia carne di balena una o più volte a settimana, mentre in Giappone ci sono migliaia di tonnellate di carne invenduta e riutilizzata per farne mangime per cani.
Sembrerebbe una buona notizia, ma è forse presto per festeggiare.
Per ulteriori informazioni:
Pubblicato da Istituto Tethys a 19:02
10 September 2007
Il libro Le mie balene, Ed Mursia, sui cetacei dei nostri mari, sulle ricerche, ma anche sulla storia di Tethys, verrà presentato in settembre a Milano dall'autrice, Maddalena Jahoda.
L'incontro sarà ospitato dall'Acquario, lunedi 24 settembre, ore 20.00. In alternativa, ci sarà un incontro anche sabato 22 settembre, ore 21.00 presso la Libreria Equilibri, sempre a Milano, in via Farneti 11.
Sono previste altre date, tra cui, in Veneto, Susegana (TV), domenica 16 settembre, nel castello di San Salvatore nell'ambito della manifestazione" Libri in cantina", e a Genova e La Spezia in ottobre.
Dettagli e altre date si troveranno via via su:
Pubblicato da Istituto Tethys a 19:10
08 September 2007
The Tethys Research Institute is a scientific organization that aims to document cause-effect relationships through rigorous research at sea. As scientists, we are committed to data collection and analyses that – ideally – should constitute the core of our activities. But research at sea has high costs and fundraising ends up being one of the most important and time-consuming issues, also considering that Tethys is independent from governments, from the industry and from the military.
The possibility of relying on consistent financial and other support coming from fellow NGOs releases pressure, allows long-term projects to unfold, and enables us to focus on our scientific work rather than on boring proposal- and report-writing.
Every minute spent on fundraising is a minute subtracted from the actual meaningful work we do. Therefore, it is good to have at least someone who trusts you based on the work you have done over the past 20+ years, and offers seed funding to support its continuation. To a researcher, it is frustrating to spend so much time writing proposals. Ideally, funding should be based on your reliability as a scientist and on a proven capability to produce meaningful actions and publications, out of little money.
OceanCare and WDCS - the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society – have been supporting our work for a long time. Eventually, this has developed into a relationship of friendship and mutual trust. We now work side by side to promote the protection of animals and habitats that are close to our hearts.
Tethys and its fellow NGOs team up to promote conservation actions ranging from lobbying at international meetings to public awareness and education initiatives. Tethys provides consultancy and scientific support, and NGOs including OceanCare and WDCS use this expertise to strengthen their conservation actions.
Pubblicato da Istituto Tethys a 15:13
06 September 2007
At Tethys, we have been welcoming volunteers at our field stations and on board our research boats since 1990. These people support our projects financially by participating in 7-9 day courses, and this allows us to work over long periods of time and remain independent. Their contribution is essential. In addition, volunteers engage in field data collection, help us process the data, and provide the researchers with motivation and moral support.
Most volunteers come because they want to see whales and dolphins in the wild, but many eventually realize the implications and challenges of a research project, learn about the problems faced by the animals, and eventually become supporters and advocates of conservation efforts.
Many volunteers joining our field courses see their experience as a special one. Getting close to cetaceans in their natural environment is nothing like watching them on TV. Volunteers are touched by their elegance, beauty and behavioural complexity. They realize how ‘special’ these animals are, and (sometimes) get to understand the link that ties them to their environment. They start seeing them as enormous, and yet fragile creatures exposed to a range of threats caused by human activities. They can also spend much time talking with the researchers and understand their motivations and the reasons behind their unusual choice.
I have been working in the field with hundreds of volunteers, and although there may be personal likes and dislikes, it has been an amazing and enriching human experience. Many of them have become good friends, and even colleagues.
Pubblicato da Istituto Tethys a 20:39
02 September 2007
I could name a number of management actions likely to benefit dolphins and the marine environment: Marine Protected Areas, fishery reserves (areas closed to fishing), strict enforcement of the existing laws (much of the fishing out there is illegal), and so on. But we should avoid just blaming the governments and seeing ecosystem destruction as the result of somebody else’s choices and activities.
We are responsible, too. As voters, in the first place. At the last political elections have we voted ‘with our wallet’, or have we attempted to shift the centre of gravity towards a more sensible environmental policy? Have we ever tried to reduce our own consumption rates, recycle, and make our lives a little more sustainable? Ultimately, the ongoing lack of respect towards the marine environment results from our own desires and demands. People sitting in their comfortable car and never considering taking a train instead of an airplane should consider that a link might exist between their own behaviour and air pollution, or even climate change. Those who enjoy eating swordfish and tuna at the restaurant may want to think about the implications for the marine environment.
Whilst there are practical and feasible actions that can at least stop the decline of common dolphins in some areas (at Kalamos this would include an immediate ban of the most detrimental fishing activities), I think that we should realize that damage to the marine environment is also a result of our life styles and collective habits. Changing our own behaviour and giving up something felt as desirable can be as pleasant, and even more fulfilling, than increasing our consumption rates. The reward consists in knowing that we are part of the solution, rather than part of the problem. We do not only blame others for declining biodiversity and beauty all around us. We are actually doing our best to protect the things we treasure, and we enact consistent behaviour. Our choices might even influence those of others and eventually turn into new behavioural trends.
Pubblicato da Istituto Tethys a 09:16
01 September 2007
The future for Mediterranean common dolphins is grim. They have declined greatly during the past 40 years, and their chances of recovery are shadowed by ongoing mortality in fishing gear and overfishing of their key prey.
Common dolphins need a healthy marine environment to survive, but few people in the region seem to be interested in their conservation. Development and exploitation are by far more attractive. Ever-increasing consumption rates and short-term economic benefits bear a cost, and most of the times this cost is paid by the environment.
People everywhere want to eat more fish, spend their holidays in hotels with seaside pools and parking lots, have a second or third house with sea view (where they may live for one or two weeks every year). This results in increasing pressures on the coastal marine ecosystems. Fish stocks get depleted, coastal development increases pollution and disturbance at sea, and the animals there find it difficult to survive in habitats exposed to continuous degradation.
We have been studying common dolphins in the costal waters of Greece for almost two decades, around the island of Kalamos. Initially, there was plenty of these animals and the area was almost pristine. Today, fish stocks have been depleted by overfishing and the area is being ruined by a kind of development that does not take into account the need to preserve the environment. As a result, only a few common dolphins are left, and their chances to survive are linked to an unlikely political determination of including fishery and ecosystem management actions in ongoing development plans.
This kind of things are happening everywhere in the Mediterranean, and common dolphins must bend to short-sighted economic interests. Local human communities are equally impacted, as they see their traditions and cultures being wiped out by companies building immense and ugly hotels near beautiful beaches and villages, while a few large commercial fishing boats take most of the fish away, and little is left for the artisanal fishermen (and the dolphins).
Pubblicato da Istituto Tethys a 08:07