31 May 2010

Cetacean Sanctuary Research 2 (24-30 May)

The second week on board of Pelagos has gone and the best words to describe it, without being redundant and sounding "cheesy", are "WHALES, WHALES, WHALES". Despite a day and a half spent in the harbour due to strong wind, the moral was never low. Once out at sea striped dolphins were swimming with us every day, bow-riding and jumping the whole time, cheering up the crew as usual, no matters how many times you see them. Then it came a sperm whale, surfacing among big waves and strong wind that made the whole sight more spectacular. But the best had still to come. In fact, with our big excitement a fin whale was finally spotted. Then, the biggest surprise: that whale was not alone. Two, three, four, five whales gently showing up at the surface with their unique and unmistakable blow. We could not believe our eyes and contain our joy. The whales, surrounded by striped dolphins that also seemed to have fun chasing their travel companions, were blowing right next to our boat and swam along with us with their great elegance for the next two days. Last but not least, what to say about a fin whale breaching not far from the boat while getting ready for a refreshing and relaxing swim? Just speechless. At the end of this unbelievable week, tired but totally happy, there was just one last thing to do: grab a glass of wine and celebrate.

Cristina, Monica, Vittorio and Nino (CSR Team members)


We had a fantastic week with an exceptionally cheerful, helpful and knowledgeable crew, (fantastic cooks), and the most wonderful group. Well, no wonder, we were very lucky and saw an amazing number of 11 (e-l-e-v-e-n) fin whales, one sperm whale, 623 Mola mola and 12347 Velella velella. Oh, yes, and dolphins of course. In other words, it was great and lots of fun.

Sylvia (Austria)


I'm very impressed! I can' t describe my feelings. Thanks a lot to the crew, who made it possible for me! Thanks also to the wonderful group.

Brigitte (Germany)


Thanks very much for a fantastic week! The researchers were all really knowledgeable and enthusiastic, and it was a great group. We were very lucky to see so many dolphins and whales (eleven fin whales and a sperm whale) up close in the wild, and it was really interesting to see how this research project works. All in all it was a great opportunity to do something different, learn new things and meet lots of new people.

Lizzie (UK)


After seeing some of the most spectacular whale watching in Maui, I wasn't quite sure what to expect in the Ligurian Sea: as it turns out, this was sincerely the most extravagant experience in both whale and dolphin viewing, imaginable. We saw upwards of ten fin whales under various close conditions and pods of dolphins virtually too numerous to count. The boat itself is spacious enough for the 14 people we had on board and the food was great. It was a nice bonding experience; solitary time is also very possible-our journal pens are still burning as I write this! Thank you team Pelagos and the Tethys Team for making this trip possible! To my surprise there is quite a sea life in the Mediterranean which needs cared for.

Riki (Austria)


Well, I have to say this has been the best school project ever, better yet, best trip ever. All the natural beauty that surrounded us everyday was breath-taking. With the massive amounts of whale watching (and living to tell about it), experiencing dolphins in their natural habitat and witnessing wonderful sun rises and sun sets, it is impossible to compare all of this to anything I have done. So thank you to the entire crew who lead an amazing journey and made wonderful memories. I have learned so much and am ready to share my stories.

Stephanie (USA)


You never know what to expect when you approach nature. Honestly I had a lot of expectations. And indeed I've had a wonderful time. It really seemed to be a perfect film script: we started with some tuna and Velella velella which are already amazing in themselves, followed by one of the strangest animals I've ever seen - the lurching Mola mola (encounter Mola mola ;)). After this more or less exciting barefoot experience I couldn't wait to "encounter" the whales. Like before we started small: with a lot of fantasy we spotted some dolphins at the horizon line. On the following day it begun to get interesting: suddenly there were clicks produced by two sperm whales. One of them got up really close to the boat - really incredible! A friend of mine used to say that life's great memories are made of small moments. And we've had a lot of them! The most particular one was the group of fin whales swimming next to our boat. You could even hear them breathe... It's impossible to describe the impression that such a moment left, because it was something new, something I still have to understand. And this is how the story ends - the big expectations revealed new confusing mysteries to be discovered...

Valerie (Germany)


The descriptions above tell it all. A Velella velella thrilled me, so of course the whales, particularly the sperm whale encounter, delighted every particle of my being. I was also astounded by the food that came out of the smallest galley. Homemade bread, calzone, focaccia, oh my. Capt. Paolo multitasking...Captain Cook as well. Cristina and Monica kept bringing out wonders on the plate...and yes more whales, a school of dolphins bow riding as I am also sitting in the bow seat. It may not be pretty, but I treasure the photo of my feet with 3 dolphins below them. To know and love something of nature through these encounters that Tethys makes possible will hopefully lead to more people caring and working to save their precious environment. I hope your crew has many more champagne toasts to great days on the water and data collecting!

Susie (USA)

30 May 2010

Dolphins of Greece 4 (21-28 May)

What a great experience! I had never been in Greece before or on an Earthwatch expedition. Really would recommend it to anyone. I sure hope that the dolphins will be here in 10 years, and will do what I can to encourage marine conservation. I liked the small group we had of 3 volunteers and two research staff. I liked being involved in so many aspects of the research effort and the research staff really made me feel like I was contributing to the overall picture. I had trouble determining distance especially in meters, but it worked out. This experience with Earthwatch was excellent. Hope to do more expeditions in the future. Would love to take a niece or nephew on a trip. I encouraged some co-workers to try something like this so I hope that they will and that they will spread the word to conserve our wonderful marine environment.

Dolly (USA)


I think our team was most fortunate in having lovely May weather - cool in the mornings and evenings and warm at mid day. We did not have a single day without dolphins and saw almost every behaviour. It was not until our last day that I actually saw the white belly of a dolphin during surface feeding behaviour, which we were able to observe from just five meters. We spotted two Dalmatian pelicans during our runs and were able to observe one for quite a while, flying just above the surface of the water. The time with the dolphins was most precious but I really enjoyed learning to crop and match the photographs too. Joan was very generous with his time in making sure we understood all aspects of the research. He is not only a dedicated scientist and excellent teacher but a great cook! Iva was very instrumental in being sure we understood everything and were comfortable during our stay. I was especially pleased to learn that this Earthwatch project has an active outreach component, working with local people and especially school children. I look forward to sharing the materials developed for children with my Canadian grandchildren. I thought I was fairly knowledgeable about marine conservation but I really have a new fund of knowledge to share about what we as consumers and citizens need to do to save the seas and our wonderful aquatic friends. Marcia and I have survived 5 previous Earthwatch trips together but having Dolly as our coworker made this trip a delight. Thanks to all of you for a wonderful experience. Yes, even Posy was a good companion.

Nancy (USA)


I have immensely enjoyed each of the Earthwatch projects I’ve been part of and Dolphins of Greece is no exception… might even now head the list as favourite. Have learned so much more than I expected thanks to our knowledgeable, amusing (and sometimes smart aleck?) PI, Joan (and trusty sidekick, Iva). I fear I will never feel the same about eating fish again, which is undoubtedly a good thing, and I suspect some friends at home may become a bit tired of my passing along what I’ve learned. Best of all, of course, were the dolphins themselves, how kind of them to gather a large contingent to come greet us our first morning on the gulf—what a show! And then to provide another astonishing performance on our last day seemed a marvelous bonus. In between, they let us be with them, showed us something different each day and gave us practice in dealing with that lovely netpad (our hand-held computer), and remembering to be LOUD when hollering out that a dolphin was out at 4 o'clock and 30 meters, or was that 80 meters, maybe 150? How could anyone spend time with these lovely beings and not want to do whatever little bit she could to help research that might some day help them? The company was excellent and the food was yummy. I, a confirmed cat person, even thought Posi was delightful. The only complaint I could think of about this entire experience is that IT’S TOO DARNED SHORT! I am a bit bereft realizing that there will be no wind-blown ride onto the gulf in the morning, but the memories (and about a bazillion photos—thanks for being patient with me and my camera) will last a very long time. And really, Joan, when I win the lottery, I’ll be back. Be prepared.

Marcia (USA)

Ionian Dolphins 1 (23-29 May)

Thank you so much for a fantastic week everyone but particularly to Sunny Stefano and Sunny Susie. It was great to see how excited you are about seeing dolphins even though you have seen them many times before and how passionate you are about these beautiful creatures and your research. It was really thrilling to see the dolphins and they are so amazing. I can't pick a favourite moment but seeing a dolphin clearly under the water gliding past the boat was something I will always remember. I hope the data is really useful. It was also brilliant to hear about your research, I have learned so much and I really enjoyed looking at the photos and trying to make a match. The time has gone so quickly that tells you how much I have enjoyed it. Galaxidi is beautiful, the water is such a gorgeous colour and we had lots of laughs here. Snorkelling with the fish was a great end to the week. I will continue to try to live as green a lifestyle as I can to do my bit for dolphins and the planet as part of everyday life, not just for holidays! Thanks a million Susie, Stefano, the other volunteers, Tethys!

Jilly (Scotland)


I am basically an armchair enthusiast when it comes to marine life - I love it but not enough to do much about it. I came to Galaxidi partly because of that latent interest and mainly because I couldn't stand the thought of another holiday on my own in the UK. I got more than I bargained for. I learned a lot about dolphins, enough I hope to inspire me to shop more responsibly for fish - to avoid farmed fish and anything that is not environmentally sound in terms of the sea. I developed huge respect for the work of Tethys, particularly the care taken to use the data in a scientifically valid way. I also very much enjoyed swimming in the Gulf and watching all the fish in their natural habitat. I shall never feel the same about dolphinia or aquaria again. Galaxidi is a beautiful place, both physically and as a community. My only regret is that I didn't have more time to explore the area. As for our hosts Stefano and Susie, what can I say? They are charming and supportive and have the greatest integrity towards their work. Thanks and best wishes.

Kate (UK)


It has been a life long dream of mine to actually expierience dolphins in their natural habitat - and coming here was the fulfillment of that dream. It is a week that I will remember for the rest of my life. Realising that dolphin can be remembered by their markings and the nicknames we have given them whilst being here, there are a few very special ones that will always remain close to my heart. Capturing the data with regard to the dolphins has given me great insight into what is required for the preservation and I shall continue to pass all this information on to others. Not only has it been great at sea but the Team was a great bunch of people and I have made new friends all of whom contributed to this expierience with loads of laughter. Many thanks to Tethys for allowing me this experience and a huge thank you to Stefano and Susie... I had a great time. So you will have to put up with me for another week!

Chris (South Africa; now living in the UK)

29 May 2010

Cetacean Cultures and Cetacean Rights

by Hal Whitehead (Dalhousie University, Canada)

ABSTRACT from "Cetacean Rights: Fostering a Moral and Legal Change Conference", Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies, University of Helsinki Finland, 21-22 May 2010

Culture is a vital constituent of the modern human, in some respects “the” vital constituent, and is often presented as the defining difference between humans and other animals. It can then be argued that species which also have advanced cultures should be included with humans in an extended moral community. A key element here is “advanced”. By many definitions of culture (such as “socially-learned group-specific information or behaviour shared by members of a group”), many species have it. But only in a very few non-human species has culture become a major determinant of many forms of behaviour. Evidence is growing that for at least some cetacean species, culture is both sophisticated and important. When this happens, processes which are important, but rare or absent in the standard genetically-evolved species, begin to operate: cultural group selection, conformism, cultural ethnicity with symbolic markers, and so on. These processes change the nature of society, individual roles within societies, as well as the ecology of the species. There is strong selection within such species to use this culture effectively. Perhaps this “culturaldrive” is a principal or contributing cause as to why cetaceans, humans and a few other species have evolved self-awareness, large brains, and astute intelligences. Thus there are good reasons to give highly cultural species special considerations. They are “more like us” not only because of the culture itself, but also because the advanced culture is at least a marker, and perhaps a cause, of other attributes that we think of as particularly human.

Cetaceans have rights

On May 21st and 22nd, the University of Helsinki (Finland) hosted a conference titled “Cetacean rights: conference on fostering moral and legal change”.

The conference - enriched by the presence of cetacean experts such as Hal Whitehead and Lori Marino - ended up with the ‘Declaration of rights for cetaceans: whales and dolphins” where it is stated:

Based on the principle of the equal treatment of all persons;

Recognizing that scientific research gives us deeper insights into the complexities of cetacean minds, societies and cultures;

Noting that the progressive development of international law manifests a growing sense of entitlement by cetaceans;

We affirm that all cetaceans as persons have the right to life, liberty and wellbeing. 

We believe that:

  1. Every individual cetacean has the right to life.
  2. No cetacean should be held in captivity or servitude; be subject to cruel treatment; or be removed from their natural environment.
  3. All cetaceans have the right to freedom of movement and residence within their natural environment.
  4. No cetacean is the property of any State, corporation, human group or individual.
  5. Cetaceans have the right to the protection of their natural environment.
  6. Cetaceans have the right not to be subject to the disruption of their cultures.
  7. The rights, freedoms and norms set forth in this Declaration should be protected under international and domestic law.
  8. Cetaceans are entitled to an international order in which these rights, freedoms and norms can be fully realized.
  9. No State, corporation, human group or individual should engage in any activity that undermines these rights, freedoms and norms.
  10. Nothing in this Declaration shall prevent a State from enacting stricter provisions for the protection of cetacean rights.

Sign the 'Cetacean Rights Declaration' and join a global call to have rights formally declared for cetaceans.

For more information:

28 May 2010

L’ultima mattanza

“Ci sono abitudini che possono stravolgere gli equilibri del pianeta, e per correggerle a volte basta essere informati perchè almeno quando si va al ristorante o a fare la spesa ciascuno può esercitare un enorme potere, quello di scegliere” così Milena Gabanelli - autrice e conduttrice del programma televisivo Report - ha introdotto la recente inchiesta ‘L’ultima Mattanza’ andata in onda domenica scorsa.

La storia del tonno in scatola e del tonno rosso del Mediterraneo, quasi in estinzione a causa dei giapponesi e della "moda" del sushi, sono il paradigma per capire quanto sia stupido l'uomo nel gestire le risorse del pianeta...

Autrice dell’inchiesta è Sabrina Giannini, nota per il suo impegno nella sensibilizzazione del pubblico riguardo al sovrasfruttamento delle risorse ittiche e alla pesca illegale con reti derivanti del Mediterraneo; un impegno riconosciuto a livello internazionale e per cui le è stato conferito il premio ‘Cetacean Conservation Star’.

Guarda ‘L’ultima mattanza’.

Da non perdere!


Foto tratta dal sito di Report

Per maggiori informazioni:
‘Mare Nostrum’
‘Mare Nostrum’: aggiornamento

27 May 2010

Cetacei a Bari

Il seminario sui cetacei del Mediterraneo tenutosi ieri presso il campus universitario di Bari è stato un vero successo e ha visto la partecipazione di circa 80 studenti e di alcuni docenti.

Roberto Carlucci dell'Università di Bari ha inquadrato il problema e sollevato alcune domande che gli studenti potrebbero e dovrebbero porsi riguardo ai cetacei. Ha anche invitato tutti a lasciare un recapito, in quanto 20 studenti verranno sorteggiati per due uscite in mare con un'imbarcazione a vela di 14 metri, che partirà da Taranto alla ricerca dei cetacei che vivono nel Golfo.

E' poi intervenuto Salvatore Dimatteo dell'Università di Taranto, che ha mostrato i dati sui cetacei raccolti nel corso di campagne di ricerca nel Golfo di Taranto. Questi dati, per quanto preliminari, indicano un'abbondanza di animali - in particolare stenelle striate e grampi - che giustifica ulteriori studi.

Ha chiuso la giornata Giovanni Bearzi dell'Istituto Tethys, che ha parlato a lungo del lavoro svolto da Tethys negli ultimi 25 anni, e ha spiegato alcuni dei metodi di ricerca usati e il loro utilizzo a fini di conservazione.

Dopo due ore di presentazioni, gli studenti sembravano tutt'altro che annoiati e hanno fatto un gran numero di domande attinenti e acute. E' una soddisfazione e un piacere parlare davanti a un pubblico di questo tipo.

A seminario concluso, i relatori e altri biologi che operano in Puglia si sono goduti un aperitivo e hanno suggellato un rapporto che ci si augura porti a collaborazioni future.

Mille grazie a LINK Bari per l'ottima organizzazione!

26 May 2010

Bambini e balene

"Corri, corri dobbiamo andare a liberare il capodoglio che è rimasto intrappolato nella rete derivante" - "Sì, solo un momento che finisco di aiutare la balenottera Alice a catturare i gamberetti invece dei sacchetti di plastica". Frasi di questo tipo hanno echeggiato di continuo lungo la passeggiata mare di Sanremo, dove lo scorso fine settimana oltre cento bambini si sono impegnati in giochi a squadre finalizzati a salvare le balene del Santuario Pelagos. Giochi inusuali, ideati dalla collaboratrice dell'Istituto Tethys Francesca Zardin per sensibilizzare i bambini ai problemi e ai pericoli che incombono sui cetacei del Santuario Pelagos.

Una conferenza al teatro Ariston, lezioni a classi elementari e medie e altri due eventi ludico-didattici, denominati "Colora la balena" e "Balena in fabula", insieme ai giochi a squadre, sono state le attività che Tethys ha organizzato per il Comune di Sanremo nell'ambito della manifestazione "Notti bianche - Pigna d'aMare", a cui hanno partecipato centinaia di persone tra grandi e piccini.

E mentre i bambini giocavano e coloravano sulla passeggiata sopra Portosole, che da oltre vent'anni ospita le nostre imbarcazione da ricerca, lo staff Tethys impegnato nella ricerca in mare segnalava l'avvistamento di una balenottera comune vicino alla costa e l'incontro emozionante con Matt, un capodoglio che abbiamo fotografato ben 11 volte dal 2000 a oggi.

Quando tutto è terminato, domenica sera, sull'asfalto grigio sono rimasti il disegno di una grande balenottera e la scritta "Salviamo le balene". Una sorta di muta evocazione dei tanti bambini che hanno colorato, giocato e lottato per loro.

E noi grandi? Noi cosa faremo per salvare le balene del Mediterraneo?

Sabina Airoldi

25 May 2010

23 May 2010

Cetacean Sanctuary Research 1 (17-23 May)

The CSR field season has finally started. Despite one day spent in the harbour because of the strong wind, in our first week we totalled almost 49 hr of survey effort and 474 km of navigation. Of 18 sightings, most included striped dolphins, one a couple of sperm whales and finally, to our surprise, a fin whale spotted in relatively shallow waters just in front of the harbour of Sanremo. The start of this 2010 season could not have been better.

Cristina, Monica, Vittorio and Nino (CSR Team members)


I joined the CSR project with big expectations and I have to say they've all been met. We had the pleasure to be accompanied with playful striped dolphins every day, we saw sperm whales and even a fin whale right before docking the last day. I have seen two new cetacean species and learned a lot of new things about tracking with the hydrophone and research techniques. The crew and the participants have been wonderful companions of this amazing week in the Pelagos Sanctuary.

Ana (Slovenia)


The Tethys CRS project has been one of the best experiences of my life. I could have never found a better way to learn, and be close to cetaceans in their natural environment. Every day there was something new and wonderful to see or experience... not to mention the great times I had just getting to know the staff and crew. I will never forget the past week, and I thank everyone on board for the amazing memories they've given me.

Megan (Canada)


Thank you for this great opportunity to be part of your research and conservation project. I have been on whale and dolphin watching cruises before, but the experience on your boat is very different. I had only very basic knowledge of cetaceans before and learned a lot from you. I admire your dedication to your work, your patience with the participants and your good sense of humour. Your contribution to cetacean conservation is very important and I wish you all the best.

Margit (Australia)


It's been a combination of the literary adventure of Moby Dick and the cinematic romance of The Big Blue. The voyage has been all and much more than I expected. I learned a great deal during the week thanks to both the research staff and the Captain of the M/Y Pelagos . I saw whales for the first time and to see groups of 50 and more dolphins at one time was totally awesome. To be able share all of this with my grand daughter Megan was truly the icing on the cake.

Frank (Canada)


Well this week is just the first of two for my school project and it has been absolutely amazing. Since I was young I always wanted to do this sort of work, and now I get a taste of what it's like. Thinking about the fact that I never saw a whale, this trip put an end to that fact with two sperm whales and a glimps of a fin whale. And seeing about 60 dolphins blew my mind. I really hope to do this sort of work in the future.

Stephanie (USA)

20 May 2010

Mario Adorf acts to protect whales

In June, the International Whaling Commission will evaluate a proposal that will lift the ban on commercial whaling for the next ten years. Members of the European Union are struggling to find a common position concerning a practice that is strictly prohibited within EU waters.

To wake decision makers from their current state of inactivity and call on the wider public to act against whaling, WDCS The Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society has recently launched a 90 sec video featuring a remarkable Mario Adorf.

The video urges the public to sign an e-protest and e-petition, which is automatically delivered to various governments.

Watch the video and sign the petition at www.whales.org.

18 May 2010

1000 Facebook fans !

The Facebook page of Tethys has reached ONE THOUSAND fans.

Grazie 1000!

Tethys Facebook page

Photo by Frank Boenigk

17 May 2010

Dolphins not to be blamed

A new paper by Tethys authors has recently been published in Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems

Biomass removal by dolphins and fisheries in a Mediterranean Sea coastal area: do dolphins have an ecological impact on fisheries?

The study evaluates the biomass removed by of dolphins and the fishing fleet on a coastal ecosystem in the Ionian Sea. They found that the total biomass consumed annually by local dolphin populations – 15 short-beaked common dolphins and 42 common bottlenose dolphins – was 15.5 and 89.8 tonnes, respectively. The total biomass removed by the local fishing fleet (307 fishing boats) was 3469.2 tonnes, i.e. about 33 times greater than that removed by dolphins.

In other words, dolphins remove 2.9% of the total biomass and fisheries 97.1%.

The message is clear: dolphins in Mediterranean coastal waters are too often blamed for competing with fisheries and deemed responsible for reduced catches, but reality can be different when measured.


Figure (click to enlarge): Total biomass removed by dolphins and fisheries, as calculated by Bearzi et al. 2010; dolphins remove 2.9% of the total biomass, fisheries 97.1%.

Bearzi G., Agazzi S., Gonzalvo J., Bonizzoni S., Costa M., Petroselli A. 2010. Biomass removal by dolphins and fisheries in a Mediterranean Sea coastal area: do dolphins have an ecological impact on fisheries? Aquatic Conservation. DOI: 10.1002/aqc.1123


1) Dolphins are often claimed to compete with fisheries, including through removal of substantial biomass. To calculate the biomass removed by fisheries and the degree of resource overlap with dolphins in a coastal area of Greece, estimates of dolphin abundance based on photographic capture–recapture were combined with an assessment of fishing effort and catch.

2) The estimated total biomass consumed annually by local dolphin populations – 15 short-beaked common dolphins and 42 common bottlenose dolphins – was 15.5 and 89.8 tonnes, respectively. The total biomass removed by the local fishing fleet (307 fishing boats) was 3469.2 tonnes, i.e. about 33 times greater than that removed by dolphins.

3) Dolphins removed 2.9% of the total biomass, fisheries 97.1%. Nine purse seiners (representing only 3% of the active fishing fleet) were responsible for 31.9% of biomass removal. Similarity of biomass composition between dolphins and fisheries was expressed by a Pianka index of 0.46 for common dolphins and 0.66 for bottlenose dolphins.

4) Overlap differed according to fishing gear. Common dolphin overlap was higher with purse seiners (0.82), and lower with beach seiners (0.31), bottom trawlers (0.11) and trammel boats (0.06). There was virtually no overlap with longliners (0.02). Bottlenose dolphin overlap was higher with trammel boats (0.89) and bottom trawlers (0.75), and lower with longliners (0.38), purse seiners (0.24) and beach seiners (0.18). There was minimal overlap (0.12) between the two dolphin species.

5) This study suggests that ecological interactions between dolphins and fisheries in this coastal area have minor effects on fisheries. Conversely, prey depletion resulting from overfishing can negatively affect dolphins. Fisheries management measures consistent with national and EU legislation are proposed to ensure sustainability and to protect marine biodiversity.

A post by Carolyn Kraft

15 May 2010

Seminario sui cetacei a Bari

Mercoledì 26 maggio alle ore 16.00 presso il campus universitario di Bari (via Orabona 4) si terrà un seminario sui cetacei del Mediterraneo, con particolare riguardo alle osservazioni nel Golfo di Taranto.

Interverranno Salvatore Dimatteo e Roberto Carlucci dell'Università di Bari, e Giovanni Bearzi dell'Istituto Tethys.

Per maggiori informazioni fare click sulla locandina.

14 May 2010

I have loved dolphins since I was ten

I have loved dolphins since I was ten. To participate in the Dolphins of Greece expedition as a research assistant is a dream come true for me. When I arrived to Vonitsa a month ago I was anxious to face the challenge. During my first sighting I was so nervous! A couple of days later I was the first to spot the dolphins and progressively, I started to feel more comfortable with the data collection and with the application of the different research protocols. I suddenly felt that I was enjoying it very much. I will always remember that moment when I felt that ‘yes, this is what I really want to do’. Since then, I have spent many amazing moments with the dolphins of the Amvrakikos Gulf.

I have also enjoyed sharing this experience with our volunteers. I met many interesting people who, as I do, believe in the principle that as individuals we can do a lot for the environment and for the conservation of nature. I am eager to get back home and share my experiences with family and friends.

I am full of enthusiasm and I am looking forwards to come back in June and do my best to help with the work carried out by Tethys. Joan has taught me a lot. However, there are so many things still to be learnt!

Anikó Szegedi (Panni)
Research assistant from Hungary

13 May 2010

First gray whale in the Mediterranean Sea

A few days ago an adult gray whale (Eschrichtius robustus) has been spotted off Israel. Researchers from IMMRAC (Israel Marine Mammal Research and Assistance Center) photo-identified the animal and recorded behavioural data. They followed her for about two hours from Herzliya Marina (close to Tel Aviv) to Jaffa, where she was last spotted heading south.

Robert Brownell, a famous cetacean expert, said this is "The most amazing sighting in the history of whales". The sighting is indeed intriguing: first observation in Mediterranean waters and, because the animal must have come from the Atlantic Ocean where the species is believed to have been extinct for about 300 years, first time in Atlantic waters after so many years.

The grey whale might have travelled from the Pacific Ocean, the only area where the species is found, to the North Atlantic. Experts are now discussing which could be the most reasonable route: through the Panama Channel, the Northwest Passage or around Cape Horn?

Silvia Bonizzoni

Photo: the flukes of the gray whale, by Aviad Schenin / IMMRAC

For more information:

12 May 2010

Dolphins of Greece 3 (5-12 May)

This week leaves me feeling privileged, humbled and challenged.

I consider myself privileged to have been introduced to the Amvrakikos Gulf and to the dolphins by somebody who knows them so well and who is dedicating his life and energy to monitoring them and working for the preservation and restoration of their environment. Thank you, Joan. I also feel extremely privileged to have been able to participate in meaningful and rigorous research and to have been able to contribute, albeit on the most simple of tasks, with Joan and Panni as they start another season of intense work.

Much of the time when we saw dolphins, I could not speak – I was completely overcome by these beautiful, healthy, magnificent animals. My feelings were a mixture of overwhelming awe, respect, marvel and total calmness, which was not what I expected. Watching the dolphins in their environment without our presence affecting them - to observe them feeding, socialising {sometimes intimately!}, travelling, communicating – was incredible – one runs out of superlatives, but I felt totally humbled and totally blessed. I love all aspects of this place, the sky, how the mountains change from hour to hour and day to day, the islands, the water, the dolphins, the flocks of solitary {!!} pelicans, the bats flitting around at dusk – just the peace, and the knowledge that the dolphins are still out there and, hopefully, with the work of Tethys and dedicated men and women, like Joan and Panni, will thrive here for many decades.

Thank you Joan and Panni for sharing your space for the week, and of course, thank you to Posi for providing some canine company, evening acoustics and much amusement!! Joan, Panni and my dear co-volunteer, Nina, are very special people and this has been a very happy week – for the things I have seen and been part of, the company and friendships formed and being part of something bigger, and hopefully longer-lasting than myself. I’m really happy that Nina and I are continuing our Grecian ‘odissey’, which means we can continue to talk about this amazing week and I think both of us will leave a bit of ourselves here anyway…

Karen Musk (UK)


“Splashes on the horizon,

Tails in the air.

Peace, with dolphins breathing.”

This has been my first volunteering experience in conservation, and it has been so much more than I ever expected it to be. This is something I have wanted to do for years and in finally plucking up the courage to go for it, I leave with far more than some pretty photos, a sun tan and a tick in a box! I leave with an appreciation of the delicate interplay between individuals within a highly social community, between a species and their environment, and between mankind’s economic agendas and the impact of these on fragile ecosystems. I also take with me new friendships: Karen, Joan and Panni, this team has felt more like a funny little family than anything else! I very much look forward to these friendships developing.

Life at the Vonitsa research station on this expedition has struck the perfect balance between practical fieldwork and project support, educational and relevant discussions, free time, delicious meals and warm conversation around the dinner table (with just the right amount of micky-taking)! Joan, you have created a lovely home for us here – thank you for sharing this space and your time with us so openly. Bear-like in the mornings (heehee), you foster a warm and positive atmosphere within the team by simply being yourself: we have laughed so much (about things that I dare not elaborate on here..!) and talked about so many things. Your enthusiasm, commitment and knowledge of this field is as broad as it is infectious – I defy anyone to not take away a more responsible attitude to the treatment of marine life, nor a deep interest in the life of cetaceans (or a taste for the capuccino freddo!!)! Panni, you are such a warm, open and caring girl – thank you for setting the scene for the lovely atmosphere that has developed over the week. You have been so good in training us with the palmtop and with processing the photos to be able to identify individuals – it seems you’ve been doing this for years, you are a very good and patient teacher. Your enthusiasm for learning new things and taking this forward into your career is commendable and I wish you all the best for your future endeavours (and I mean it about getting in touch if you need help with applications etc!). Posi – thank you for your unswerving enthusiasm (for food and walks) and for providing such material for laughter..! (although I don’t thank you Joan for using this material just when I’d always taken a mouthful of food! Cheeky!)

Our days on board ‘The Baby’ have been exquisite: we have been so lucky with our sightings, seeing such a range of behaviours demonstrated and by so many individuals. The allocation and organisation of training, responsibilities and activities within the team out on the boat have been impecable: proof of the long term experience the project managers have. All procedures are well practiced and organised in a safe, inclusive (and fun!) manner. I feel like I have significantly broadened my knowledge of research techniques for this type of work, and I plan to take these forward in my own career now. And Joan, I am sorry about getting so excited about the sightings that I end up all over the boat, especially with my head in the frame... oops!!

The last two sightings have been, well, too rich for these few words to fully illustrate. Being in the middle of the beautifully smooth Amvrakikos Gulf waters, surrounded by dolphins: we have witnessed intimate social behaviour, the affection between familiar individuals; we have watched dolphins use their bodies to corral fish to the surface to feed, seen mothers with their young so close by; we have seen playful breaching in breath-taking displays. We have come to recognise individuals, and have seen how these are like old friends to our captain! And all the while it has felt a privilege to be there, to be accepted by these facinating creatures – and especially at times to be the subject of playful curiosity!

Today, when Joan switched the boat engine off and we were alone with the sounds of the Gulf, we had a time that I will never forget. Hearing nothing but the breath of our group of resting dolphins, the ripple of the water as they surfaced and the gentle lap of the waters against the hull of the boat, I realised that I was in their world, and that I was there only because they allowed it. It was an honour.

Nina (UK)

11 May 2010

Il tuo 5 per mille a Tethys

Da quest’anno puoi devolvere il 5 per mille all’Istituto Tethys e sostenere le sue attività di ricerca e conservazione.

Non ti costerà nulla farlo, in quanto non è un'imposta aggiuntiva ma un importo che lo Stato, invece di incassare, destina a enti senza fini di lucro.

Il 5 per mille può essere devoluto all’Istituto Tethys da tutti i cittadini che presentano la propria dichiarazione dei redditi attraverso il CUD, il modello 730 e il modello Unico per le Persone Fisiche.

All'interno dei singoli modelli, nella sezione relativa al "Sostegno del volontariato e delle altre organizzazioni non lucrative di utilità sociale", si trova uno spazio dedicato al 5 per mille, dove potrai apporre la tua firma e inserire il codice fiscale dell’Istituto Tethys:


La tua firma ci aiuterà a studiare e a proteggere le balene e i delfini del Mediterraneo!


Per maggiori informazioni: http://www.tethys.org/5X1000.htm

10 May 2010

Grazie a SOS Lambrate

L'Istituto Tethys desidera ringraziare l’associazione SOS Lambrate per aver tenuto un mini corso di primo soccorso organizzato ad hoc per il personale Tethys. Un grazie speciale per averci dedicato un’intera giornata (di domenica!) e per averci ospitato presso la vostra sede. Grazie anche a Stefano Agazzi di Tethys, promotore e organizzatore del corso.


09 May 2010

An unforgettable 'Dalmatian' experience

This morning, after following a group of bottlenose dolphins for about an hour and a half we encountered a large group of Dalmatian pelicans Pelecanus crispus. In total, we estimated 24 individuals. Slowly approaching them with our research boat they allowed us to observe them from just a few meters away.

Dalmatian pelicans are large and elegant waterbirds which wingspan can easily reach about 3 m. In the past they were widely distributed throughout Europe and Asia. During the last century, however, their population dropped drastically and occurrence in Europe is now limited. The species is classified as Vulnerable in the IUCN Red List.

The islets in the lagoons Tsoukalio and Logarou in the northern Amvrakikos Gulf is one of the few European sites where they are regularly nesting.

Today we enjoyed the largest congregation of these magnificent animals registered since we started working in the Gulf, i.e. since 2001. Watching their majestic wings spreading right in front of us for takeoff left us all wide-eyed and speechless. Unforgettable!

Joan Gonzalvo

08 May 2010

Save Biodiversity: target missed

It was 2002 when 191 nations made the promise to slow down the rate of biodiversity loss around the globe by 2010.

Now, in 2010, a recent article published on the journal Science shows that all these nations did not honour their commitment.

31 specific indicators were used, including birds numbers, fish stocks, coral reefs, rainforest, state of wild animal populations, and genetic diversity.

The conclusion was simple and depressing, thought not totally unexpected: “… biodiversity is still being lost as fast as ever, and we have made little headway in reducing the pressures on species, habitats and ecosystems," commented Stuart Butchart first author of the study. His colleague Matthew Walpole added “All the evidence indicates that governments have failed to deliver on their commitments, and we have failed to meet the 2010 target”.


The article:
S.H.M. Butchart, M. Walpole, B. Collen, A. van Strien, J.P.W. Scharlemann, R.E.A. Almond, J.E.M. Baillie, B. Bomhard, C. Brown, J. Bruno, K.E. Carpenter, G.M. Carr, J. Chanson, A.M. Chenery, J. Csirke, N.C. Davidson, F. Dentener, M. Foster, A. Galli, J.N. Galloway, P. Genovesi, R.D. Gregory, M. Hockings, V. Kapos, J.-F. Lamarque, F. Leverington, J. Loh, M.A. McGeoch, L. McRae, A. Minasyan, M. Hernández Morcillo, T.E.E. Oldfield, D. Pauly, S. Quader, C. Revenga, J.R. Sauer, B. Skolnik, D. Spear, D. Stanwell-Smith, S.N. Stuart, A. Symes, M. Tierney, T.D. Tyrrell, J.-C. Vié, R. Watson. 2010.
Global Biodiversity: Indicators of Recent Declines.
Science DOI: 10.1126/science.1187512
Abstract -- In 2002, world leaders committed through the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) to achieve a significant reduction in the rate of biodiversity loss by 2010. We compiled 31 indicators to report on progress toward this target. Most indicators of the state of biodiversity (covering species’ population trends, extinction risk, habitat extent/condition, and community composition) showed declines, with no significant recent reductions in rate, whereas indicators of pressures on biodiversity (including resource consumption, invasive alien species, nitrogen pollution, overexploitation, and climate change impacts) showed increases. Despite some local successes and increasing responses (including extent and biodiversity coverage of protected areas, sustainable forest management, policy responses to invasive alien species, and biodiversity-related aid), the rate of biodiversity loss does not appear to be slowing.

For more information:

06 May 2010

Caccia alle foche

Ogni anno, alla fine dell'inverno, si apre sui ghiacci atlantici del Canada la caccia alle foche. Si tratta oggi di uno dei più imponenti massacri sistematici di mammiferi selvatici: la quota annuale consentita dal governo canadese si aggira sui 300.000 esemplari di foche di Groenlandia - in inglese harp seals per il disegno sul mantello dell'adulto che assomiglia a un'arpa. L'oggetto della caccia sono i piccoli, cuccioletti di 2-9 settimane, per il loro pelo bianco e soffice. Sono scene crudissime quelle che ci arrivano dalla banchisa canadese, immortalate da gruppi animalisti per denunciarne la nefandezza e sollevare la pubblica opinione globale; riuscendoci in gran parte, visto che di recente il Parlamento europeo ha votato il bando dell'importazione di pelli di foca, e così facendo ne ha eliminato il principale mercato.

Il governo canadese difende con veemenza i cacciatori di foche, sostenendo che l'attività non è crudele, che è condotta in maniera sostenibile, e che è correttamente regolata. La difesa fa acqua da tutte le parti. In primo luogo per l'inequivocabile crudeltà delle operazioni, con i cacciatori che semi-stordiscono i cuccioli a bastonate per rammassarne il più possibile, e poi spesso iniziano a scorticarli quando sono ancora vivi per fare più in fretta. Il secondo mito facilmente sfatabile è quello della sostenibilità. Uno studio indipendente condotto alcuni anni fa avverte che con l'attuale sistema di quote concesse dal governo la popolazione rischia un declino del 50-70% nei prossimi 15 anni. Tutto ciò senza tener conto del riscaldamento globale, che sta riducendo a vista d'occhio la superficie ghiacciata della zona, habitat obbligatorio per le foche nei loro primi mesi di vita. Quest'anno le condizioni della banchisa - le peggiori negli ultimi 41, da quando è iniziato il monitoraggio sistematico - sono particolarmente disastrose per i cuccioli di foca, che a quest'età non possono entrare in acqua e in assenza di ghiaccio sono confinati entro limitate superfici costiere. Infine, sostenere che la caccia è ben regolata sconfina nel ridicolo se è vero che i controlli sono effettuati da un massimo di una dozzina di agenti su alcune migliaia di cacciatori sparpagliati su un territorio vastissimo; di tale inefficienza è prova il fatto che la quota viene ecceduta quasi sempre, e senza alcuna conseguenza legale.

Dunque un prodotto voluttuario, per nulla insostituibile come la pelliccia di foca viene commercializzato mediante pratiche inaccettabilmente crudeli e quasi sicuramente insostenibili. Non dovrebbe far meraviglia che il governo debba fare di continuo ricorso ad argomentazioni non veritiere per difendere l'occupazione nell'elettorato di quelle zone. Più meraviglia desta invece la posizione di testate solitamente autorevoli come l'Economist che difendono la pratica della caccia alle foche accusando gli europei di ipocrisia. Qui in Europa tuoniamo contro la strage delle piccole foche - sentenzia il settimanale britannico - mentre facciamo finta di non vedere i 30 milioni di visoni e volpi di allevamento sacrificati da noi ogni anno, anch'essi per la loro pelliccia, e il milione tra bovini, suini e ovini che ogni giorno, facendo ingresso senza ritorno in un mattatoio europeo terrorizzati, malmenati e maneggiati con incompetenza, fanno spesso una fine che non è priva di sofferenza, come la legge invece vorrebbe. Verissimo. Tuttavia, se la gestione ordinaria di molti mattatoi europei è uno sconcio, la soluzione giusta non è quella di passar sopra tanto sulle travi nei nostri occhi quanto sulle pagliuzze in quelli dei fratelli canadesi. Se macellare senza sofferenza si può, facciamo in modo che ciò avvenga, e lasciamo alle foche (e perché no, anche a visoni e volpi) la loro pelliccia, di cui possiamo fare benissimo a meno.

Giuseppe Notarbartolo di Sciara

Articolo tratto da Rivista della Natura 3/2010

04 May 2010

What does 'overfishing' mean?

In case 'overfishing' was still an obscure concept, a recent study makes it clearer.

The study is focused on the dramatic fish stock decline (cod, haddock, ling, halibut etc.) occurred in British Isles waters across 118 years, 1889-2007.

Researchers analysed landings per unit power and found that the availability of bottom-living fish for the fleet fell by 94%.

Modern high-tech fishing fleets of today require 17 times more effort to catch the same amount of fish as compared with the late 1800s.

According to Callum Roberts, one of the authors of this study, "This research shows that the state of UK bottom fisheries, and by implication European fisheries since the fishing grounds are shared, is far worse than we had thought."

With these findings, researchers underlined the need for urgent action to eliminate overexploitation of European fisheries and rebuild fish stocks to much higher levels of abundance than those that exist today.


Figure: Landings of bottom-living fish per unit of fishing power of large British trawlers from England, Wales and Scotland. Closed circles show landings per unit of fishing power into England and Wales, open circles show those into Scotland (from Thurstan et al. 2010).

The article:
Thurstan R.H., Brockington S., Roberts C.M. 2010. The effects of 118 years of industrial fishing on UK bottom trawl fisheries. Nature Communications 1, Article #:15 - doi:10.1038/ncomms1013
Abstract -- In 2009, the European Commission estimated that 88% of monitored marine fish stocks were overfished, on the basis of data that go back 20 to 40 years and depending on the species investigated. However, commercial sea fishing goes back centuries, calling into question the validity of management conclusions drawn from recent data. We compiled statistics of annual demersal fish landings from bottom trawl catches landing in England and Wales dating back to 1889, using previously neglected UK Government data. We then corrected the figures for increases in fishing power over time and a recent shift in the proportion of fish landed abroad to estimate the change in landings per unit of fishing power (LPUP), a measure of the commercial productivity of fisheries. LPUP reduced by 94%—17-fold—over the past 118 years. This implies an extraordinary decline in the availability of bottom-living fish and a profound reorganization of seabed ecosystems since the nineteenth century industrialization of fishing.

For more information:

03 May 2010

Dolphins of Greece 2 (26 April - 3 May)

In these eight days you have given me so much to thank you for. Thank you for the eagerness with which you shared information about not only dolphins, but the state of the oceans as a whole. Thank you for your openness and clear interest in the questions and views of others and of course thank you for the chance to come so close to dolphins in the wild, this meant more to me then I can express with words. But most of all thank you for not pushing me off the boat for insubordination!

Genevieve (USA)


This experience was so educational and informative! What a wonderful opportunity to visit a veritable paradise, meet interestig people, learn, and do good work. I kept voluminous notes on all the documentaries and presentations Joan shared with us. I am not sure how I will use them to help spread the word about how we must all work to save our precious animals and environment, but with his approval I will find a way. A vegetarian and animal rights defender for decades, this experience not only deepened my resolve to continue to influence others whenever possible and appropriate, but it also heightened my sense of urgency about informing and educating the public and our policy makers. Returning to an intense learning environment for eight days after many years of a mentally unchallenging lifestyle was just the right jolt I needed to begin exercising my brain cells more often. Even the library of paperbacks and hardcover books here offered both leisure time pleasure and more learning opportunities. An overall good experience!

Joan and Ely (USA)

01 May 2010

Ketos 2.1: ultimo appuntamento

Dopo il grande successo del 24 e 25 aprile, Ketos 2.1 invita tutti a partecipare all’ultimo incontro su “Il Santuario delle Balene”, il 2 maggio presso l’Acquario Civico di Milano.

Un percorso di balenine colorate dai bambini aprirà la via verso il piano inferiore dell’Acquario, dove diverse attività coinvolgeranno il pubblico di ogni età.

L’iniziativa “Colora la Balena” metterà a disposizione disegni di capodoglio e megattera, stampati su carta di canapa con marchio Ecolabel, che chiunque potrà colorare e abbellire con pastelli a cera e matite ecologiche gentilmente donati da Raggio Verde di Parma. Le opere andranno a costituire, insieme a quelle del week-end scorso, un coloratissimo mosaico che abbellirà le pareti dell’acquario e testimonierà l’impegno e la volontà di proteggere le balene del Mediterraneo.

Si continuerà con la lettura del libro ‘Come una Balena’ di Nicoletta Vallorani, e i bimbi potranno appassionarsi alle avventure della piccola megattera Alice e del viaggio che le farà incontrare Moby Dick e Achab.

I ricercatori dell’Istituto Tethys condivideranno con i presenti le loro esperienze sul campo, e il tutto sarà impreziosito da immagini e racconti sulla ricerca in mare svolta da Tethys. Per tutti gli interessati è possibile accedere a una postazione interattiva e ascoltare i suoni prodotti dalle otto specie di cetacei che vivono nel Santuario Pelagos.

In una sala verranno proiettati video, documentari e cartoni animati da tutto il mondo, con i cetacei per protagonisti, e un ricercatore di Tethys sarà a disposizione per rispondere alle domande del pubblico.

Un appuntamento da non perdere!

Francesca Zardin

KETOS 2.1 e l'Istituto Tethys vi aspettano domenica 2 maggio dalle 10:00 alle 13:00 e dalle 14:00 alle 17:30.

Foto: ragazzi che disegnano e colorano balene durante l'incontro della scorsa settimana

Per maggiori informazioni: http://ketosproject.wordpress.com/
Gruppo Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=312905937381&ref=ts

'Balenarte' e 'Whales go to Hollywood'

Sabato 24 aprile presso l’Acquario Civico di Milano si è tenuta la conferenza 'Balenarte' incentrata sul ruolo delle balene nell’arte, e 'Whales go to Hollywood: quando le balene vanno al cinema'.

L’evento, organizzato nell’ambito di Ketos 2.1, è stato realizzato dall’Istituto Tethys e dall’Acquario Civico di Milano.

Francesca Zardin ha condotto le interviste ai numerosi ospiti che per tutta la giornata hanno intrattenuto il pubblico di grandi e piccini. Mauro Colla ha mostrato una panoramica dei lavori dei grandi fotografi naturalistici, improntati sui cetacei, un mix di tecnica e capacità di cogliere momenti spettacolari. Maddalena Jahoda, dedita da sempre alla ricerca e alla divulgazione scientifica, ha preso spunto dal suo libro 'Le mie balene' per discutere su come la comunicazione tra mondo della ricerca e grande pubblico sia spesso poco efficace e incespichi in errori e in 'cetostupidate'. Francesca, Mauro e Maddalena sono tutti collaboratori dell'Istituto Tethys.

È intervenuta anche la scrittrice Nicoletta Vallorani, autrice del libro ‘Come una balena’, che ha affascinato tutti con la storia di Alice, un cucciolo di megattera che ha perso la sua mamma e che per ritrovarla si avventura in un lungo viaggio in compagnia del delfino Ciro.

Si è finalmente scoperto com’è nata la mostra Whaleless, ospitata dall’Acquario Civico. Il tutto è iniziato da un’appassionante idea di Giovanni Cervi (ideatore di Ketos 2.0 e curatore della mostra): salvare le balene lanciando un forte messaggio attraverso l’arte. L’idea ha contagiato decine di artisti di tutto il mondo, tra cui Squp, che utilizza la fotografia digitale per fondere corpi umani con immagini della natura e generare nuove forme di vita.

All’evento ha partecipato anche Eugenio Manghi, noto documentarista e fotografo naturalista, che ha mostrato un'anteprima del suo prossimo documentario 'Mediterraneo bollente', una denuncia sui drammatici cambiamenti climatici in atto nel nostro mare. Per stemperare la sconfortante realtà dei fatti illustrati da Manghi, sono stati proiettati spezzoni di film, cartoni animati e pubblicità che spesso usano l’ironia e la bellezza delle balene per veicolare l’idea di libertà che danno.

Il pomeriggio è stato seguito con entusiasmo da un pubblico curioso che speriamo sia tornato a casa arricchito da questa esperienza.

Francesca Zardin

Foto: 'Fish Woman', un'opera dell'artista Squp presentato alla mostra Whaleless
Per maggiori informazioni: http://ketosproject.wordpress.com/