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: