30 December 2009

24 December 2009

Even small MPAs may be good for killer whales

"Protecting even small patches of water can provide conservation benefits, as long as we choose the spots wisely," said Erin Ashe, author of a recent publication on the behaviour of killer whales (in British Columbia and Washington State) and marine protected areas.

Ashe and colleagues suggested that even small protected areas, identified through feeding behaviour, can benefit highly mobile marine predators such as killer whales. They indicated this after mapping locations where killer whales were observed feeding, socializing and resting, and identifying a small area in which whales were almost three times as likely to be feeding as they were in the rest of the region.

Protecting this little area could be crucial for two reasons. First, Chinook salmon, the favourite prey of this cetacean population, has declined in the region. Second killer whales are more disturbed by boat traffic when engaged in feeding activities than when they are travelling. Researchers think that management strategies to protect feeding hotspots should give greater conservation benefits than a generic habitat protection.



Ashe E., Noren D.P., Williams R. 2009. Animal behaviour and protected areas: habitat conservation for an endangered killer whale population. Animal Conservation. DOI:10.1111/j.1469-1795.2009.00321.x

For more information:

22 December 2009

Lode al Capodoglio

Arturo Bolognari, 1957:

“Formuliamo infine l’augurio che il Capodoglio, anziché subire la sorte di dover scomparire per la caccia spietata che l’uomo gli va conducendo da secoli, possa continuare a solcare, siccome il suo istinto esige, tutti i mari del globo, per testimoniare così, con la sua immensa mole, alla quale si accoppiano forza agilità e bellezza, un’opera altamente significativa della Natura. E forse sarebbe un rendergli giustizia non considerarlo più come un mostro dei mari, ma come un essere che ha il suo pieno diritto di vivere indisturbato sulla Terra.”

Da: Bolognari A. 1957. Sulla biologia del capodoglio. Atti della Società Peloritana di Scienze Fisiche, Matematiche e Naturali 3(2):143-156.

21 December 2009

Sperm whales: final destination

Between December 10th and 11th seven sperm whales stranded and died - on the northern coast of the Gargano Peninsula (Apulia, Italy). They were all sub-adult males.

After several meetings the experts decided what to do with the dead animals, but in the meantime the carcasses are still on the beach. Each animal will be cut into parts. Carcasses will then be buried and covered with ground and lime. The decomposition process is expected to complete in one year. At the end of this period the skeletons will be recovered, treated and displayed in museums.

Numerous hypotheses were made regarding the causes of the stranding, from plastic ingestion to seismic surveys, seaquakes, etc. But the fact is: the reasons are still unknown and the experts are working hard to find out.

Silvia Bonizzoni

19 December 2009

Mediterranean Sea: an example of the oceans' destiny?

A recent review describes how the Mediterranean Sea could offer an idea of the disastrous future of the oceans.

This review of more than 100 studies on the Mediterranean’s changing ecological dynamics, describes the convergence of climate change and human impacts in waters that had been stable since the time of Aristotle.

Rising temperatures, disrupted deep-water hydrology, overfishing, shrinked food-webs, mass die-offs, diseases and pollution are some of the threats that are affecting the Mediterranean Sea. Other sea areas on Earth may not escape from this sad degradation destiny. The future doesn’t look so nice...



Lejeusne C., Chevaldonné P., Pergent-Martini C., Boudouresque C.F., Pérez T. 2009. Climate change effects on a miniature ocean: the highly diverse, highly impacted Mediterranean Sea. Trends in Ecology and Evolution. doi:10.1016/j.tree.2009.10.009

Little doubt is left that climate change is underway, strongly affecting the Earth's biodiversity. Some of the greatest challenges ahead concern the marine realm, but it is unclear to what extent changes will affect marine ecosystems. The Mediterranean Sea could give us some of the answers. Data recovered from its shores and depths have shown that sea temperatures are steadily increasing, extreme climatic events and related disease outbreaks are becoming more frequent, faunas are shifting, and invasive species are spreading. This miniature ocean can serve as a giant mesocosm of the world's oceans, with various sources of disturbances interacting synergistically and therefore providing an insight into a major unknown: how resilient are marine ecosystems, and how will their current functioning be modified?


For more information:

18 December 2009

700 Facebook fans!

Not yet a Tethys fan? Visit our Facebook page and join us!

Already a Tethys fan? Thank you :-)

Tethys's facebook page

14 December 2009

Mass stranding of sperm whales in southern Italy

An updated photo album as well as a low-resolution video of two agonising sperm whales can be viewed at:


12 December 2009

Mass stranding of sperm whales

Between Thursday 10 and Friday 11 December a pod of seven sperm whales stranded on the coast of the Gargano Peninsula (Italy), in the Adriatic Sea.

The animals, including several males of 10+ m, are scattered along a stretch of about six km of beach. Five have already died.

Scientists from the Centro Studi Cetacei, the Natural History Museum of Milan, and the Italian universities of Bari, Padua, Pavia and Siena, among others, are on site and coordinate operations and scientific analyses.

Giovanni Bearzi and Silvia Bonizzoni, who live in Apulia not too far from the stranding area, went to have a look.

See what they found:


Mega-flood filled the Mediterranean in less than two years

Around 5.6 million years ago tectonic movements and a drop in sea level cut the Mediterranean out of the worlds' oceans. For 300 million years our sea dried up almost everywhere, in what is called the Messinian salinity crisis.

The water then returned: what started like a trickle, later became an event of biblical proportions which filled the Mediterranean in under two years. At peak times, the sea level rose by up to ten meters a day - the largest known flood in Earth's history.

Daniel Garcia-Castellanos of the Jaume Almera Institute of Earth Sciences in Barcelona, Spain, and colleagues, who published their work on Nature, estimate the peak flow to have been around 1000 times higher than the present Amazon river at its highest rate.

Eleonora de Sabata
For more information:
- Catastrophic flood of the Mediterranean after the Messinian salinity crisis
- Castellano's page

11 December 2009

Lower frequency in blue whale songs

Blue whales are not singing as they were used to do. Their songs’ tonal frequency is decreasing every year by a few fractions of an hertz.

Global warming, noise pollution, changing population dynamics and new mating strategies are the possible reasons, but none of these hypotheses provide a full explanation and researchers have not yet found the real clue.


McDonald M., Hildebrand J., Mesnick S. 2009. Worldwide decline in tonal frequencies of blue whale songs. Endangered Species Research 9:13-21.


Blue whale Balaenoptera musculus songs can be divided into at least 10 types worldwide, each type retaining the same units and similar phrasing over decades, unlike humpback whale song which changes substantially from year to year. Historical acoustic recordings dating back as far as the 1960s were examined, measuring the tonal frequencies of 1000s of blue whale songs. Within a given year, individuals match the song frequency (related to ‘pitch’ in musical nomenclature) to within less than 3%. The best documented song type, that observed offshore of California, USA, now is sung at a frequency 31% lower than it was in the 1960s. Data available for 7 of the world’s 10 known song types show they are all shifting downward in frequency, though at different rates. Any behavioral, ecological, oceanographic or anthropogenic change hypothesis seeking to explain the observed shifts should account for the worldwide occurrence of a nearly linear downward shift in the tonal frequencies of blue whale song. Hypotheses examined consider sexual selection, increasing ocean noise, increasing whale body size post whaling, global warming, interference from other animal sounds and post whaling increases in abundance. None of the commonly suggested hypotheses were found to provide a full explanation; however, increasing population size post whaling provides an intriguing and testable hypothesis that recovery is altering the sexually selected tradeoff for singing males between song amplitude (the ability to be heard at a greater distance) and song frequency (the ability to produce songs of lower pitch).

10 December 2009

Tethys Seaway

Click on figure to enlarge.

STEEMAN, M.E., M.B. HEBSGAARD, R.E. FORDYCE, S.Y.W. HO, D.L. RABOSKY, R. NIELSEN, C. RAHBEK, H. GLENNER, M.V. SORENSEN, E. WILLERSLEV. 2009. Radiation of extant cetaceans driven by restructuring of the oceans. Systematic Biology 58(6):573-585.

09 December 2009

Oceans for Pathi

Oceans for Pathi is a new nature film based on revolutionary techniques that allowed enjoying the secrets of the oceans as never before.

Thanks to remote-controlled mini helicopters and hydrodynamic cameras, the film reached the goal of ‘catching’ the ocean's most intimate events. For this purpose the crew worked in 50 different locations and filmed 80 marine species, from crabs to whales.

It took four years, 500 hours of footage and £45 million to be produced but the result must be amazing!

The film will be out for general release by the end of January 2010.



Photo by Barcroft Media: an example of how some whale footage was obtained.

More information in the DailyMail article

08 December 2009

Video of the Month: December 2009

Disappearing Dolphins

by Chris and Genevieve Johnson / earthOCEAN

NEW - Short version (7 min 20 sec)


Common dolphins were once abundant throughout the Mediterranean Sea. Today, they are declining rapidly, surviving only in portions of their former range. In western Greece, the sea around the island of Kalamos is their last stronghold, or at least it used to be. So why are the dolphins disappearing?

We interview Giovanni Bearzi, the President of the Tethys Research Institute in Italy, and a Pew Fellow in Marine Conservation. Giovanni has been studying coastal dolphins in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea for two decades. What began as a study on the ecology and behavior of common dolphins around Kalamos, became a systematic record of their demise.

See the original version (18 minutes)


View complete list of Tethys Videos of the Month

View complete list of Tethys Books of the Month

07 December 2009

Book of the Month: December 2009

The Origin of Species

by Charles Darwin


Penguin Classics, London

Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species, published on 24 November 1859, is a seminal work of scientific literature, considered to be the foundation of evolutionary biology. Its full title was On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. For the sixth edition of 1872, the short title was changed to The Origin of Species. Darwin's book introduced the theory that populations evolve over the course of generations through a process of natural selection. It presented a body of evidence that the diversity of life arose by common descent through a branching pattern of evolution. Darwin included evidence that he had gathered on the Beagle expedition in the 1830s and his subsequent findings from research, correspondence, and experimentation. The book was written for non-specialist readers and attracted widespread interest upon its publication. Within two decades there was scientific agreement that evolution, with a branching pattern of common descent, had occurred, but scientists were slow to give natural selection the significance that Darwin thought appropriate. During the "eclipse of Darwinism" from the 1880s to the 1930s, various other mechanisms of evolution were given more credit. With the development of the modern evolutionary synthesis in the 1930s and 1940s, Darwin's concept of evolutionary adaptation through natural selection became central to modern evolutionary theory, now the unifying concept of the life sciences. (Adapted from Wikipedia)


View complete list of Tethys Books of the Month

View complete list of Tethys Videos of the Month

03 December 2009

Tethys workshop

On December 2nd, Tethys organised an internal workshop that had a considerable attendance (25 collaborators, including juniors and seniors).

On this occasion, the participants presented and discussed the research and conservation activities conducted since 1986, the ongoing projects in the Pelagos Sanctuary and in Greece, and the future goals and "vision" of the Institute.

Nine presentations were scheduled:

  • Synthesis of the work done by Tethys, 1986-2009 (Giovanni Bearzi)
  • An overview of Tethys field courses, 1990-2009 (Stefano Agazzi)
  • The dolphins of the Amvrakikos Gulf, Greece (Joan Gonzalvo)
  • The new research project in the Gulf of Corinth, Greece (Silvia Bonizzoni)
  • Cetacean Sanctuary Research: 20 years in the Pelagos Sanctuary (Sabina Airoldi and Simone Panigada)
  • The "Habitat" project (Arianna Azzellino)
  • Fin whale feeding areas in the western Ligurian Sea (Maddalena Jahoda)
  • Aerial and naval surveys in the Pelagos Sanctuary (Simone Panigada)
  • The Tethys project on cetacean collisions with ships (Elisa Remonato)
The workshop was a success and the president of Tethys, Giovanni Bearzi, declared: "It turned out to be a pleasant and productive event... Even for those who know Tethys well, seeing so much work presented at once has been a moving experience. I am also glad that we can rely on so many skilled collaborators, and I look forward to the next opportunity to meet and share ideas and information".

Silvia Bonizzoni

Photo: Some of the participants in the Tethys workshop held at the Milan Civic Aquarium on December 2nd, 2009 (click on photo to enlarge)

01 December 2009

EU funded tens of millions to fish for depleted tuna

The European Union has given out €34.5 million, between 2000 and 2008, to subsidise the Mediterranean tuna fishing fleets despite warnings from scientists that overfishing is pushing the species close to extinction.

Joe Borg, the European Fishery Commissioner, revealed that €23 million was given to fund the construction of new boats, including ultra-modern purse seiners that are able to land 100 tonnes in one haul. A further €10.5 million was given to modernise existing vessels, increasing their ability to track down and catch the tuna. Only €1 million was used to decommission vessels, but mainly for small-scale, local boats.

Spain received more than half of the subsidy, with French and Italian fleets the next biggest beneficiaries. Cyprus, Malta and Greece were also given money.

Scientists from ICCAT (International Council for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna) believe that the bluefin tuna stock was below 15 per cent of its pre-exploitation levels.

Read full article on the Times

Eleonora de Sabata

30 November 2009

State of the Med: the UNEP 2009 report

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Mediterranean Action Plan (MAP) and its Regional Activity Centres have released the first State of the Environment and Development report covering the Mediterranean region, which tackles key environmental issues, including climate change. The “State of the Environment and Development in the Mediterranean 2009″ was released during the 16th Meeting of the Contracting Parties to the Barcelona Convention, which took place from 3-5 November 2009, in Marrakech, Morocco.

The report is a pilot exercise, based on available sources of information and covers the 21 countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. It finds that climate change is already occurring in the region and forecasts that it will lead to, inter alia, a decline in rainfall, increased periods of droughts and rises in sea-level. The report also identifies the most vulnerable Mediterranean zones and states that climate change will also affect agriculture and fishing, the attractiveness of tourism, coastal zones and infrastructure, and public health.

Eleonora de Sabata


The Report

26 November 2009

Whale-ship collisions featured on Italian TV

On November 23rd, Tethys researcher Sabina Airoldi, director of the Cetacean Sanctuary Research project, took part in the TV programme Geo&Geo, aired on the Italian channel Rai Tre.

Sabina talked about whales and dolphins in the Mediterranean Sea, particularly in the Pelagos Sanctuary, also discussing the problem of collisions between ships and large whales.

Following Sabina's participation in this popular TV programme, the website on whale collisions managed by Tethys had several hundreds of new visitors from all over Italy in the following days. It was an important opportunity to let the general public know about the cetacean conservation initiatives conducted by Tethys.

Elisa Remonato

25 November 2009

A new FAO treaty to crack down on illegal fishing

Rome, Nov 23 2009 - A new FAO treaty to fight illegal fishing - finalised by 91 countries - is now open for signature by member states. The agreement will legally enter into force after 25 countries have ratified it.

Officially known as the Agreement of Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing, the treaty specifies minimum standards for inspection.

Under the terms of the text, foreign vessels will have to request permission in advance to dock at specially designated ports and will have to provide information on their catch. Signatories will also commit to regularly inspect fishing vessels in their ports according to a set of international standards. Port States will be obliged to prohibit entry to illegal fishing vessels.

So far the situation is not good: a research by the Pew Environment Group shows that while some vessels known to engage in IUU fishing are penalised by port authorities, many are entirely unaffected or simply manage to escape penalties by moving out of the convention area where they were listed.

Environmental groups estimate that one-fifth of all fish landed are caught illegally.

Eleonora de Sabata

photo: FAO/G.Bizzarri

For more information:
Pew Environment Group: Port State Performance
FAO press release: New treaty will leave ‘fish pirates’ without safe haven

23 November 2009

Breathing Earth

How often is a child born?
How often does someone die?
How much CO2 are we producing?


22 November 2009

Tails for whales

Tails for Whales is an IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare) project and a global campaign.

The idea is simple: take a photo of you with your hands shaping a whale tail, and add your photo to the ‘tails for whales’ community.

These photos will be used to create posters, TV ads and petitions to encourage governments everywhere to do all they can to stop whaling.

This project received support from many government members as well as some of the world’s most familiar faces... let’s join them!


For more information:

20 November 2009

The Knight

Art by Massimo Demma

Giuseppe Notarbartolo di Sciara receives knighthood in the Order of Saint-Charles

On 17 November Tethys' founder and honorary president, Giuseppe Notarbartolo di Sciara, received a knighthood in the Order of Saint-Charles by H.S.H. the Prince Albert II of Monaco, for services rendered to the Principality in his quality of Chair of the Scientific Committee of ACCOBAMS.

"I have worked for many decades for the conservation of the sea, because I believe in the need of it and I like doing it" said Giuseppe, "but never before have I had a notion that my commitment would be appreciated, or even noticed, by the highest institutions. Prince Albert has now given me the encouragement to continue for another half century".

19 November 2009

Tethys whale and dolphin courses 2010: new information now available

New information has just become available on Tethys field courses for the year 2010.

Pdf files with details on the upcoming courses are now available online. In these documents you will find extensive information to participate in the courses, from research techniques to packing advice, also including the scheduled field activities and application forms. Have a look!


18 November 2009

The end of Japanese whaling?

A review of Japanese government spending could put an end to Japanese whaling in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.

Japan's new government is looking for ways to cut useless costs and, to reach this goal, the new prime minister Yukio Hatoyama has established a spending review committee.

This committee has recently proposed massive cuts in subsidies to the Overseas Fishery Cooperation Foundation (OFCF), the largest financer of the Institute of Cetacean Research (ICR) which runs the so-called ‘whaling research programme’.

The committee recommended that the OFCF, which gives loans to the ICR, have all of its funding revoked, except monies needed for loans in 2010.

It seems that the whaling research program is not able to cover its costs, and without government subsidies it could be finally destined to an end.

The spending review committee will review funding of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Grant Aid programme during the week of November 24th.


Photo by: Australian Custom Service

For more information:
Article on Environment News Service web-site
Article on Greenpeace web-site

17 November 2009

Underwater glider to monitor cetaceans

A new toll is being used by cetologists.

Traditional acoustic devices on the ocean surface typically are not able to record whale sounds emitted at lower depths, but this two-metre-long underwater glider is equipped with a recording device to collect acoustic data, particularly by deep divers such as the beaked whales (Ziphiidae).

Oceanographers started using underwater gliders more than a decade ago to study ocean conditions and parameters, but this is the first time that an acoustic glider has been deployed to record marine mammals.

For more information:


Photo by: Applied Physics Laboratory, University of Washington

13 November 2009

The queerness of nature

Since homosexuality doesn’t result in the perpetuation of the species the much reiterated argument states it as unnatural. But, if by ‘unnatural’ they mean ‘not occurring in nature’, then I’m afraid they have been seriously misinformed. The animal world is absolutely teeming with homosexual, bisexual and transgendered creatures! Indeed, more than 450 species from all major animal groups have been reported to engage in same-sex activities, and the literature is positively filled with scandalous anecdotes. I couldn’t help but wonder, does the full-blown existence of same-sex attraction in nature imply that homosexuality is ‘natural’, and if so, what is its evolutionary significance?

Maybe the queerest of all is the hippies’ ‘make love not war’ primate, the bonobo. These dudes have no sexual inhibitions whatsoever. Aside from casual hetero sex, there is a startling degree of homo- hanky-panky and other non-reproductive sexual goings-on in the bonobo community. For example, females frequently stimulate each others’ clitorises in an act called GG- rubbing (often reaching orgasm judging by their huge ‘grins’ and the uttering of squeals), and the males leisurely indulge in activities such as penis- fencing (rubbing erect penises together as if crossing swords), rump-rumping (scrotal rubbing), and old fashioned anal penetration, hand- jobs and blow-jobs.

Admittedly, most animals are bisexual, but some individuals appear to be exclusively gay, such as the two inseparable Central Park Zoo penguins Roy and Silo, who adamantly refuse female companionship. This, however, creates an evolutionary paradox; exclusive same-sex interaction does not result in procreation, so why does it exist?

Most scientists approach this paradox by trying to pinpoint straightforward biological causes for homosexuality, such as abnormal levels of sex hormones in those brain areas responsible for sexual behaviour. However, these theories share the homophobic attitude that animal, and by extension human, same-sex attraction is in some way an ‘aberrant’ phenomenon that requires an ‘explanation’. But as John Boswell has remarked; ‘What ‘causes’
homosexuality is an issue of importance only to societies which regard gay people as bizarre or anomalous’. In many indigenous cultures homosexuality is freely expressed and is often part of a boy’s puberty rites to gain masculine strength. Dr Bruce Bagemihl, author of Biological Exuberance, argues further that the existence of homosexuality is its function; it is ‘intrinsically valuable’ because it adds to the biological diversity of nature, and the more diverse a biological system, the more vital and stable it is.

By definition there is no unnaturalness in nature, so same-sex attraction must have some Darwinian ‘value’. Maybe we are so blinded by Victorian prejudices and religious hush-hush that we find it hard to accept the queerness of nature and as a result fail to see its true evolutionary significance, whatever it might be. As J.B.S Haldane said; ‘The world is not only queerer than we suppose, it is queerer than we can

Christina Geijer

12 November 2009

When overfishing is not only a 'fish problem'

Due to overfishing of sardines and anchovies off the coast of South Africa, the population of cape gannets has dwindled, but this is not the only problem that they are facing.

On the island of Malgas, one of the only six places where gannets breed, the great white pelicans are starving too, so they are changing their feeding behaviour.

Usually one gannet parent takes care of the chicks while the other is hunting out at sea. But the lack of prey is now forcing both parents to go hunting in the same time, leaving the little vulnerable offspring alone. Pelicans are taking advantage of this situation: they attack and eat any gannet chick left unprotected by its parents and small enough to be swallowed. As a result, entire gannet colonies are increasingly in danger.


For more information and to see the BBC video:

11 November 2009

Sperm whale and giant squid rare images

One of the most mysterious moments of a sperm whale life has been caught on camera.

The amazing pictures show an adult female sperm whale carrying the remains of a 9-m giant squid in her jaws. The female was swimming a few metres under the water surface together with a calf, and experts think that these pictures may confirm that adult sperm whales use pieces of their prey to teach offsprings how to catch their own.

The photos were taken by photographer Tony Wu near Ogasawara Islands, Japan.

See the photos at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk


10 November 2009

The legacy of Cousteau

Jennifer Jacquet attempts to explain why an ocean hero seems to be falling into oblivion.

Read the article about Jacques Cousteau at:


09 November 2009

ECS 2010 Abstract submission

The 24th conference of the European Cetacean Society just opened the online abstract submission at www.europeancetaceansociety.eu

If you are interested, you will need to create a personal profile on the following website: https://www.europeancetaceansociety.eu/login.php

This will allow you to submit an abstract for the conference, apply for membership and/or register for the conference online.

The deadline for abstract submission and workshop applications is November 13th, 2009.

For more information: www.ozeaneum.de/en/ecs-2010.html

07 November 2009

Give water

The story of charity: water - The 2009 September Campaign Trailer from charity: water on Vimeo.

An amazing and convincing video prompting people to give up something useless and do something useful.

05 November 2009

Bed-time story on climate change

This video prompted some complaints. Justified? Ridicolous?
For more information:

04 November 2009

A visit to the Garbage Vortex

One of the many footprints of human behaviour on this planet.

For more information:
CNN online

03 November 2009

The Population Myth

People who claim that population growth is the big environmental issue are shifting the blame from the rich to the poor.


An nonconformist article by George Monbiot published in The Guardian. Worth reading it all.

No time? Then enjoy the short excerpt below:

While there’s a weak correlation between global warming and population growth, there’s a strong correlation between global warming and wealth. I’ve been taking a look at a few superyachts, as I’ll need somewhere to entertain Labour ministers in the style to which they’re accustomed. First I went through the plans for Royal Falcon Fleet’s RFF135, but when I discovered that it burns only 750 litres of fuel per hour I realised that it wasn’t going to impress Lord Mandelson. I might raise half an eyebrow in Brighton with the Overmarine Mangusta 105, which sucks up 850 l/hr. But the raft that’s really caught my eye is made by Wally Yachts in Monaco. The WallyPower 118 (which gives total wallies a sensation of power) consumes 3400 l/hr when travelling at 60 knots. That’s nearly one litre per second. Another way of putting it is 31 litres per kilometre.

Of course to make a real splash I’ll have to shell out on teak and mahogany fittings, carry a few jet skis and a mini-submarine, ferry my guests to the marina by private plane and helicopter, offer them bluefin tuna sushi and beluga caviar and drive the beast so fast that I mash up half the marine life of the Mediterranean. As the owner of one of these yachts I’ll do more damage to the biosphere in ten minutes than most Africans inflict in a lifetime. Now we’re burning, baby.

02 November 2009

Act on CO2

Can small actions bring big results?

Apparently, they can -- as suggested by a recent article appeared on PNAS:

Thomas Dietz, Gerald T. Gardner, Jonathan Gilligan, Paul C. Stern and Michael P. Vandenbergh. 2009. Household actions can provide a behavioral wedge to rapidly reduce U.S. carbon emissions. PNAS 106(44):18452-18456.


The following video conveys a consistent message:


31 October 2009

Carl Safina on science and morality

Simply noticing and recording the disturbing trends of a degraded world is a virtue of science and all those practicing it. The process reveals a lot of information about the world around us. But information alone is not enough to mobilize action on the scale required to make that world a healthier and more desirable place for our children. A set of political relationships with this, that, or the other political party is not enough. Nor are relationships in the marketplace. Nor a broad appeal to beauty. In this video clip, the writer Carl Safina speaks about the kind of relationship he believes is required.


30 October 2009

Whale watching impact on humpback whales

Weinrich M., Corbelli C. 2009. Does whale watching in Southern New England impact humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) calf production or calf survival? Biological Conservation 142: 2931–2940.

There is growing concern about the effects of wildlife tourism on biologically important parameters in target species and/or populations. We tested whether whale watch vessel exposure affected either the calving rates or calf survival to age 2 in humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) on their feeding grounds off of southern New England, where individually identified whales have been studied intensively for decades and whale watch pressure is intense. Whale watch exposure did not correlate with either the calving rate (# of calves/# of years sighted) or calf production and survival of individual females, although a breakpoint analysis showed a slight negative trend up to 1649 min (or 20 boat interactions). In some comparisons, whales with more exposure were significantly more likely to produce calves and to have those calves survive. Logistic regressions including exposure and prey variables also failed to show negative effects of exposure in predicting calf productivity or survival. A limited comparison of calves seen only in an alternate habitat without whale watching showed similar return rates to those in the exposed area. Our data include limited suggestions that some animals (i.e., females alive when whale watching started) might be more susceptible to impacts than others. However, we found no direct evidence for negative effects of whale watch exposure, and suggest that short-term disturbance may not necessarily be indicative of more meaningful detrimental effects on either individuals or populations.

29 October 2009

Video of the Month: November 2009

The Last Ocean

The Ross Sea – A Personal Journey

Follow John into the last pristine marine ecosystem in the world, the Ross Sea, Antarctica. A stunning emotional presentation.




View complete list of Tethys Videos of the Month

View complete list of Tethys Books of the Month

28 October 2009

Illegal driftnetting still a plague in the Mediterranean Sea

OCEANA recently presented a comprehensive and convincing proof on the continued use of illegal driftnets in the Mediterranean and demanded their complete elimination.

Oceana documented 92 Italian vessels in 2008 with driftnets on board, of which 80% had already been identified in previous years.

The European Court of Justice is expected to sentence Italy for the continued use of this illegal fishing gear.

Download the Oceana report on swordfish and driftnets in the Mediterranean (13.1 Mb)

Action brought on 10 June 2008 — Commission of the European Communities vs Italian Republic

Photo credit: Oceana / Juan Cuetos

26 October 2009

Humpback whales fighting

For the first time, a BBC natural history crew has filmed male humpback whales fighting to get mating access to a female.

Watch the video at:


25 October 2009


Cinque anni fa, il 25 ottobre 2004, ci ha lasciati Giorgio Barbaccia, Comandante di Gemini e amico di Tethys.

Lo ricordiamo sempre con grande affetto.


24 October 2009

Appello LAV contro la mattanza dei delfini a Taiji

La Lega Anti Vivisezione (LAV) ha rivolto un appello all’ambasciatore del Giappone in Italia - Hiroyasu Ando - per fermare le uccisioni di delfini che avvengono annualmente a Taiji, cittadina a sud-ovest di Tokyo. All’ambasciatore giapponese è stato inoltre chiesto di farsi portavoce presso il suo governo di quanto la popolazione italiana sia profondamente contraria a questa inutile strage.

"Riteniamo che la popolazione giapponese, se correttamente informata, disdegni assolutamente di nutrirsi di tali animali e, pertanto, non vi sia alcun motivo plausibile per continuare a permettere questo scempio" dichiara Nadia Masutti, responsabile LAV Animali Esotici, Circhi e Zoo.

La crudeltà di questa caccia è stata recentemente documentata dal film "The Cove", nel quale vengono mostrate immagini della cattura dei delfini e i metodi atroci utilizzati per ucciderli.


Photo from: http://www.saltwatercollective.com/

Per ulteriori informazioni:

22 October 2009

Ionian Dolphin Project: updated report 1991-2009

The Ionian Dolphin Project, a long-term research and conservation programme conducted by Tethys in the eastern Ionian Sea, has recently completed a report of the activities done in its three study areas in Greece: Gulf of Amvrakikos, Gulf of Corinth and Inner Ionian Sea Archipelago.

The online version of the report can be viewed at the link below:


(also see links on the Menu)



18 October 2009

More than at risk

A new paper from the University of Adelaide and the Macquarie University, Australia, suggests that conservation biologists are making a big mistake.

They are setting too low the minimum number of individuals considered needed for a species to survive in the long term. This would underestimates the risk of extinction by not fully allowing for the dangers posed by the loss of genetic diversity.

The authors point out that, often, conservation biologists "aim to maintain tens or hundreds of individuals, when thousands are actually needed".

The article found that "populations smaller than about 5000 had unacceptably high extinction rates". According to the authors, this suggests that many targets for conservation recovery are simply too small to do much good in the long run.


Image from: http://susty.com/iucn-red-list-threatened-endangered-species/

Traill L.W., Brook B.W., Frankham R.R., Bradshaw C.J.A. 2009. Pragmatic population viability targets in a rapidly changing world. Biological Conservation. DOI: 10.1016/j.biocon.2009.09.001

Abstract: To ensure both long-term persistence and evolutionary potential, the required number of individuals in a population often greatly exceeds the targets proposed by conservation management. We critically review minimum population size requirements for species based on empirical and theoretical estimates made over the past few decades. This literature collectively shows that thousands (not hundreds) of individuals are required for a population to have an acceptable probability of riding-out environmental fluctuation and catastrophic events, and ensuring the continuation of evolutionary processes. The evidence is clear, yet conservation policy does not appear to reflect these findings, with pragmatic concerns on feasibility over-riding biological risk assessment. As such, we argue that conservation biology faces a dilemma akin to those working on the physical basis of climate change, where scientific recommendations on carbon emission reductions are compromised by policy makers. There is no obvious resolution other than a more explicit acceptance of the trade-offs implied when population viability requirements are ignored. We recommend that conservation planners include demographic and genetic thresholds in their assessments, and recognise implicit triage where these are not met.

For more information:

17 October 2009

4° edizione del Premio di Laurea "Rossana Majorca"

Si è tenuta venerdì 16 a Milano, presso la sala Wittman dell'Acquario Civico, la cerimonia per la 4° edizione del Premio di Laurea "Rossana Majorca". L'iniziativa è rivolta a giovani neolaureate e prevede la premiazione della migliore tesi di laurea attinente a temi sull'ecosistema marino o di ricerca ecologica nell'ambiente marino.

Il Premio, stato istituito nel 2005 a seguito della scomparsa di Rossana Majorca, recordista mondiale nell'immersione sportiva in apnea, nonché figlia del grande Enzo, permette alla vincitrice di poter partecipare ad un campi di ricerca dell'Istituto Tethys.

La vincitrice della 4° edizione del Premio è la Dott.ssa Zelia Zaccaro, laureata in Biologia Marina presso l'Università di Pisa con una tesi dal titolo: "Struttura genetica e microevoluzione di popolazioni di razza chiodata (Raja clavata, Linneo 1758)".

Zelia ha scelto di partecipare a un campo Tethys nel Santuaro Pelagos. Durante la sua crociera, che si è svolta nell'agosto del 2009, sono stati effettuati 22 avvistamenti di stenella striata, quattro di capodoglio e uno di zifio.

Alla cerimonia per l'Istituto Tethys era presente Elisa Remonato che ha illustrato al pubblico le attività di ricerca sui cetacei del Santuario.

Enzo Majorca ha consegnato alla prima e alla seconda classificata la targa ricordo e alcuni articoli sportivi offerti dagli sponsor dell'iniziativa. Majorca ha infine dato appuntamento a tutti per l'anno prossimo con la 5° edizione del Premio in ricordo della figlia Rossana.

Mauro Colla

13 October 2009

Become Cheat Neutral :-)

A smart, brilliant, fun criticsm of carbon offsetting. Worth viewing!



For more information read Jennifer Jacquet's The Guilty Language of Offsets

12 October 2009

How many planets do I need?

A simple game to calculate our ecological footprint and carbon emissions. In other words, a way of finding out out how heavy is our lifestyle impact on the planet.



Personally, I thought that I was doing quite well, but it turns out that my living standards would require about 2.2 planets... obviously there is much more that I can and should do!

Try this game, and see if you can further reduce your impact on the environment.


11 October 2009

18th century log books help scientists chart climate change

Weather logs kept by Captain James Cook and other 18th and 19th century explorers are being used by scientists to predict the change in climate.

Read more at:

10 October 2009

Dolphins of Greece, 1-9 October

I loved this experience! Joan and Zsuzsanna were awesome. They were patient and increased my understanding of dolphins and the impact of overfishing. At the end of the project I had a much better understanding of how field research in marine biology is done. I now feel I can make better consumer choices on which fish to buy that are not a burden on the environment. I can also educate my friends and family on what I learned at the Dolphins of Greece expedition about overfishing, so they too can make wiser consumer choices. Overall this trip was very informative but most of all a lot of fun. I had a great time with the other volunteers on the boat, cooking, cropping and matching dolphin photos. I leave with great memories!

Maribeth, USA


Images of Vonitsa

Bright sun,
calm, glassy seas,

a juvenile leaps!
Then, rides the bow... Wow!

Learn to shout out
“dolphin out at 2 o’clock at 50 meters”
when all you can blurt,

“my god, that’s a dolphin...right there”

The castle lit at night,

laughter at the table,

constant teasing,

a lucky dog named Poseidon.

Mary Beth, my friend
Irina, a new friend.
Susanna, so pretty,
so sweet,
but, what a taskmaster!
Joan, a flirt with his wink,
passionate, stern and authoritative
(well, he tries).

Suzanne, USA


This is my third attempt to write in this diary... now I know why I never owned one! A Greek saying comes to mind “Ta polla logia ine ftohia...” meaning that saying to much defeats the purpose... or something like that! So... from the bottom of my heart I want to thank all of you, Joan, Susie, Suzanne, Maribeth and of course Posi and the dolphins for making this week one that i will cherish for the rest of my life! Learned a lot, laughed a lot, looked a lot, bounced a lot, guessed a lot (+/-100 meters!) and of course ate A LOT! Loved it all! Thank you guys.

Irina, Greece

09 October 2009

Bird cam films interaction between albatrosses and killer whales

Tiny cameras attached to the backs of four Antarctic albatrosses have revealed a clever feeding strategy: instead of randomly scanning the open ocean for prey, some birds appear to fly alongside killer whales and scavenge for scraps left by the mammalian predators.

Read more at:

08 October 2009

Whale mating

Isabella Rossellini explores the mating habits of whales :-)


07 October 2009

New hope for monk seals at Cabo Blanco

CBD-Habitat documented a monk seal birth in the Mediterranean colony located in the Cabo Blanco peninsula (Morocco/Mauritania), as reported yesterday to the MARMAM list.

On September 22nd, a newborn pup was observed in an open beach. There are no records of such an event in decades, in which seals were persecuted leading them to abandon open beaches and use exclusively marine caves to haul out and breed.

Acording to CBD-Habitat, one of the main set of actions of the Action Plan for the recovery of Mediterranean monk seal in the Eastern Atlantic developed by the governments of Spain, Portugal, Morocco and Mauritania was to “promote the occupation of beaches as breeding and resting habitat”.

During the last 9 years, and under these guidelines established by the Action Plan, the protection of breeding caves and vicinities by CBD-Habitat project has been intense reducing to a minimum disturbances caused by goose barnacle pickers, fishermen as well as the threat of illegal setting of artisan fishing gears in the area.

After years of continuous efforts, monk seals have began to progressively re-colonize open beaches of the protected area for hauling out. The final step, the use of open beaches as breeding habitat is the event that took place in September, perhaps the beginning of a new conservation path for this colony.

The pup is a female and is in good shape condition. The birth took place in a beach located a few hundreds of meters south of one of the main breeding caves.

This fact joins the progressive recovery of the population, which in 1998 was estimated to have a size of around 100 individuals and that today is almost reaching 200. Although the situation is still critical, these last events bring hope for the future of this population and the species.

Message sent to the MARMAM list by Pablo Fernandez de Larrinoa
Programa de conservación de la foca monje en Cabo Blanco
Fundación CBD-Habitat, Madrid, Spain

Photo by CBD-Habitat

06 October 2009

05 October 2009

Book of the Month: October 2009

Guns, Germs and Steel: the fates of human societies

by Jared M. Diamond


W.W. Norton & Co.

Jared Diamond convincingly argues that geographical and environmental factors shaped the modern world. Societies that had had a head start in food production advanced beyond the hunter-gatherer stage, and then developed religion --as well as nasty germs and potent weapons of war --and adventured on sea and land to conquer and decimate preliterate cultures. A major advance in our understanding of human societies, Guns, Germs, and Steel chronicles the way that the modern world came to be and stunningly dismantles racially based theories of human history. (Adapted from Google Books)


View complete list of Tethys Books of the Month

View complete list of Tethys Videos of the Month

04 October 2009

Whale and dolphin field courses 2009: 318 participants from 27 countries

Since 1990 Tethys has been organising whale and dolphin field courses dedicated to those who are willing to contribute to research and conservation campaigns. These courses represent a unique opportunity of observing marine mammals in their natural environment and discover the fascinating world of cetacean research. Participants of all nationalities are involved in activities conducted in the field including whale and dolphin sightings, data collection at sea with advanced methodologies and informal lectures by the Tethys staff.

In 2009, a total of 318 volunteers participated in field work and research activities by Tethys in Italy and Greece.

Volunteers came from 27 different countries:

New Zealand
The Netherlands

For more information: