20 December 2012

Il Ministero e le balenottere

Molti stanno seguendo gli spostamenti delle balenottere del Santuario Pelagos ormai da diverso tempo. Com'è noto, i loro percorsi, ricostruibili grazie a un trasmettitore satellitare, sono disponibili sul sito di Tethys e vengono aggiornate settimanalmente. Si sposteranno a sud verso eventuali zone di riproduzione, in maniera simile alle cospecifiche degli oceani, o tenderanno invece a restare nella zona del Santuario?
In attesa di scoprirlo, chi vuole saperne di più può consultare il sito del Ministero dell'Ambiente, che ha permesso la realizzazione dell'ambizioso progetto di ricerca.



18 December 2012

Noise under the sea





“What quiet, what silence, what peace!” Prof. Pierre Aronnax exclaimed in Jules Verne’s “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea" when Captain Nemo took the submarine down to a depth of 150 feet. That was 1870; today things have dramatically changed and the ocean depths have become a noisy place because of military sonar blasts, air guns used in oil and gas exploration, and the intense traffic of commercial ships. The rising clamor is particularly dangerous to whales, which depend on their acute hearing to communicate and to locate food.
A new project by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration seeks to document human-made noises in the ocean and transform the results into the world’s first large sound map. The project’s goal is to better understand the cacophony’s nature and its impact on sea mammals as a way to build the case for reductions.

Read more


Ventimila rumori sotto i mari
"Che pace, che silenzio" esclama il professor Aronnax nelle "Ventimila leghe sotto i mari" di Jules Verne quando il capitano Nemo porta il sottomarino a 45 metri sotto la superficie. Era il 1870; oggi le cose sono drammaticamente cambiate e gli abissi sono posti estremamanete rumorosi. Tra le cause, i sonar militari, le prospezioni sismiche per la ricerca di greggio e di gas, l'intenso traffico commerciale. E questo fracasso crescente è particolarmente pericoloso per i cetacei, che dai suoni dipendono per comunicare e per trovare cibo.
Un nuovo progetto della NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) vuole documentare il rumore di origine umana negli oceani con la stesura della prima grande mappa globale del suono. L'obiettivo è di conoscere meglio la natura di questa cacofonia e il relativo impatto sui mammiferi marini come primo passo verso una sua riduzione.

Fin whales in the Adriatic

The fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus) is the largest cetacean species regularly inhabiting the Mediterranean Sea. Despite that, information on its presence, abundance and distribution in some areas of the basin are still missing or scant. A new paper, authored by  Tethys researcher Nino Pierantonio, has been published on this subject.
The Adriatic Sea is one of those areas. The presence of fin whales in the region dates back to centuries ago, but our knowledge on its historical and present abundance and distribution are limited. As recently reported, long-term validated stranding records faithfully reflect the number of species and their relative abundance found in live surveys within a certain area. Whit this idea in mind, this new review paper may represent a valuable mean of gathering information on the species past occurrence, to investigate spatial and temporal correlates of stranding events and, potentially, to evaluate the effects that current threats have on the population. 

Nino Pierantonio and Giovanni Bearzi (2012). Review of fin whale mortality events in the Adriatic Sea (1728–2012), with a description of a previously unreported killing. Marine Biodiversity Records, 5, e109 doi:10.1017/S1755267212000930.

Abstract This paper contributes an updated and detailed review of fin whale mortality events in the Adriatic Sea, encompassing four centuries. A total of 17 events, all referring to single animals, were validated through a content review of historical and recent information. Mortality events in the area mostly involved dead animals (N = 12; 70.6%), with 2 whales live-stranded (11.8%) and 3 killed (17.6%). Most records (70.6%) are for the last century, likely due to improved reporting. We provide a detailed description of the previously unpublished killing of an adult male fin whale which occurred in 1960 in the central-western portion of the basin.
More details


12 December 2012

Capodogli natalizi su Class TV

"Prometeo", la trasmissione di Class TV, ospita ancora una volta Tethys per parlare, questa volta, di "Una balena per Natale". Si tratta della nostra iniziativa, ripresa per il secondo anno, che permette di fare un regalo originale,  contribuiendo allo stesso tempo, con una donazione minima, alla salvaguardia dei mammiferi marini. Come esattamente, lo spiega a "Prometeo" Francesca Zardin.
Guarda il video
Per aderire, direttamente sul sito di Tethys

07 December 2012

Un Natale per le balene

Torna a grande richiesta l'originale proposta natalizia ideata da Tethys con l'intento di dare la possibilità a tutti di contribuire alla ricerca sui cetacei e alla conservazione dell'ambiente marino - e di fare un simpatico omaggio a una persona cara.
Come? Regalando un capodoglio per Natale!
Sulla pagina web di Tethys si può scegliere uno degli individui che sono stati foto-identificati durante le ricerche in estate, e far mandare a un parente o un amico un certificato personalizzato con il nome del destinatario, la foto di riconoscimento del cetaceo e le informazioni che i ricercatori hanno su di lui. La spedizione avviene via e-mail oppure per posta ordinaria; in quest'ultimo caso si può aggiungere anche un simpatico gadget con la coda di balena.
Scegliete tra sei individui; "Matt", "Fede", "Gabi", "Henry", "Luke" e "Noni". È richiesta solo una piccola donazione; un minimo di 10 euro per il materiale in elettronico, poco più per il certificato stampato e la collanina o il portachiavi con la coda.


Per maggiori informazioni e per aderire


A Whale for X'mas

"A Whale for X'mas" is back: this is definitely an unusual proposal provided by Tethys with the aim of giving anyone the opportunity to contribute to cetacean research and marine environment conservation. 
Among the individuals which have been known to researchers for years are "Matt", "Fede", "Gabi", "Henry", "Luke" e "Noni"; choose one of those individuals, make a donation starting from a minimum of 10 euros, and the certificate will be sent by email (or by snail mail if you prefer a printed one). In the latter case the beneficiary can also get a nice necklace or a keychain with a whale tail.
You can also request the certificate and the necklace/keychain for yourself. 
In any case, with this gesture you will truly contribute to the safeguard of the cetaceans and their environment. 

27 November 2012

Balenottere e satelliti in onda a "Prometeo"

Simone Panigada, vicepresidente di Tethys, sarà ospite domani, mercoledi 28 novembre, a Prometeo, trasmissione di divulgazione scientifica su ClassTV (canale 27 del DT), dalle 17.10 alle 17.45. Parlerà del progetto di tracking satellitare delle balenottere del Mediterraneo, in corso dal mese di settembre. 
Com'è noto, diversi individui di balenottera sono stati equipaggiati di trasmettitore satellitare per individuarne le rotte autunnali e invernali. Questi tracciati sono disponibili anche al pubblico, gratuitamente, previa registrazione al sito di Tethys; è proprio di oggi il più recente aggiornamento.
Vedi l'intervista

13 November 2012

"Reloading" a community to save the whales


Save the Whales: Reloaded’ forms new global community to protect whales and dolphins across the world’s oceans in all of the places where they most need help.  The alliance was announced following the World Whale Conference held at the end of October at the Hilton Brighton Metropole, Brighton, UK, the hotel where the original moratorium on whaling was signed in 1982.
Tethys was joined by over 75 leading environmental and animal protection groups and businesses committing to Save the Whales: Reloaded. The news was announced by whale and dolphin specialists Planet Whale which orchestrated the alliance.
Identifying key locations where whales and dolphins are currently under threat, the alliance has announced the first three sites targeted for immediate action. These are:

- the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary
Supporters will campaign against the ongoing slaughter of whales within the sanctuary by the Japanese whaling fleet, and for the creation of an Antarctic reserve network. Says Erich Hoyt, Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) Research Fellow and author of Marine Protected Areas for Whales, Dolphins and Porpoises: “We are calling on every country to make this commitment to whales and the marine ecosystem, stop all fishing there, and to give the strongest possible message for conservation in the global commons and high seas of the great Southern Ocean. This is our big chance; we can’t blow it.” 

- New Zealand’s Coastal Waters

Maui and Hector’s dolphins are the smallest and rarest marine dolphins on earth and live only in New Zealand. Over the past four decades, gillnetting and trawling have decimated them almost to the point of extinction. Save the Whales: Reloaded supporters will petition the New Zealand government to increase the ban on trawling and set nets along the coastline to extend to the species' full range. 


- Loro Parque, Tenerife.
Captured two years ago, wild orca Morgan languishes in Loro Parque, a privately owned entertainment park in the Canary Islands. Supporters will be campaigning for the release of Morgan back to the wild.

Planet Whale is also inviting the public to support Save the Whales: Reloaded and help identify the next generation of Marine Protected Areas. Visitors to last weekend’s WhaleFest 2012 event in Brighton mapped out an astonishing 1,000 areas of the oceans which they would like to see ring fenced for the protection of wild whale and dolphin communities. These maps will be combined with others drawn by people across the globe to ensure members of the public, governments, charities and other stakeholders all have a say in the future protection of the oceans.

Read more

12 November 2012

Saving the Pelagos Sanctuary by reducing AND enlarging it

Pelagos is  a 87,000 km2 large marine mammal sanctuary in the NW portion of the Mediterranean, covering an area containing critical habitat of several cetacean species. Although the Sanctuary has generated some local sense of pride, 13 years after its designation, it has never been properly managed. Should it be sent to retirement?
No, according to Giuseppe Notarbartolo di Sciara's article on OpenChannels, but its nature could be modified to better meet the current and future challenges, by reducing and enlarging it at the same time.

Read more

08 November 2012

„Blow!“ Wal-Beobachtung im Ligurischen Meer

Von einem unserer Helfer auf der "Pelagos" stammt dieser interessante Aufsatz über das Erlebnis mit Walen und Delphinen im Mittelmeer. Doch einmal auf Deutsch!

Wie ein blasses Lichtsignal schimmert die Blaswolke im sonnenglitzernden mediterranen Blau. Und so viel uns von den Walfängern alter Zeiten trennt – eines haben das Forscherteam der Pelagos und ihre freiwilligen Helfer mit ihnen doch gemeinsam: Um die Meeresriesen im kräuseligen Wellengang auszumachen, sind auch wir auf die wenigen, flüchtigen Zeichen angewiesen, die ihre Gegenwart an der Oberfläche ankündigen.
Schon bald können wir die Großwalart an der Form ihrer Blaswolke erkennen: Der in Wasserstaub gehüllte Atemstoß des Finnwals strebt senkrecht in die Höhe wie ein Fontänenstrahl. Zwei bis vier Mal tauscht der Bartenwal, mit bis zu 24 Metern das zweitgrößte Tier der Erde, die Luft in seinen riesigen Lungen aus, ehe er aus seiner schlängelnden Auf- und Abtauch-Bewegung wieder in die Tiefe schneidet. Nicht mehr als ein nassglänzender, langer schwarzer Rücken mit spitzer Finne ist sekundenlang über Wasser zu sehen, unter Wasser zeichnet sich die Masse des Wals als türkisgrüner Schatten ab
„So könnten die alten Seefahrer ihre Vorstellungen von Seeschlangen und Meeresungeheuern entwickelt haben“, erklärt Francesca. Die auf Pottwal-Forschung spezialisierte Bioakustikerin macht uns denn auch schnell mit dem Erscheinungsbild des größten aller Zahnwale vertraut: Stäubt der „Blow“ als schräg abgesetztes Büschel über die Dünung, lautet unsere aufgeregte Meldung: „Sperm whale!“, englisch für Pottwal. Sein Auftauchen hatten wir bereits erwartet, nachdem die ratternden und klackernden Echo-Klicks im Hydrophon verstummt waren. Der Pottwal hat seine Jagd nach Tintenfischen in der Tiefsee beendet und beginnt seinen wellenförmigen Aufstieg zur Oberfläche. Sichtkontakt in etwa drei Minuten erwartet.
Nun beginnt die intensive Arbeit unserer wissenschaftlichen Gastgeber, nun zeigt sich spätestens, dass wir an keiner Vergnügungs-Whalewatching-Tour teilnehmen. Der Alltag an Bord der Pelagos ist für „researchers“ wie „volunteers“ der Erforschung der Wale und Delfine im Pelagos Sanctuary zwischen der ligurischen und tyrrhenischen Küste Italiens sowie der Nordspitze Sardiniens gewidmet. Mit Feuereifer lenken die Gäste auf dem Vorderdeck und auf der Beobachtungsplattform unseren Kapitän Paolo in die richtige Annäherungsposition – „One o´ clock!“ – „Alle due!“ wird der Horizont nach dem Zeigersystem der Uhr eingeteilt. Freilich müssen wir den Motorsegler vorsichtig an den Wal heransteuern, um ihn nicht zu verschrecken. Maschinenlärm – ein verhängnisvolles und nicht so bald wegzudenkendes Problem, das in der akustischen Welt der Seesäuger nicht vorgesehen war…
Francesca oder Giulia ist mit der Kamera zum Bug geeilt. Die Bilder werden später im Computer ausgewertet und jeder Pottwal individuell an Hautmarken oder Narben an seiner Fluke bestimmt, die sich beim Wieder-Abtauchen wie eine grüßende Hand tropfend aus den Wogen reckt. Verwässert sich hinter dem Wal eine braune Brühe mit der See, versucht Biologe José, halbverdaute Futterpartikel aus dem Kot zu käschern. Sie geben Aufschluss über die Nahrung der Pottwale im nordwestlichen Mittelmeer – und darüber, wie sich deren Zusammensetzung unter den vielfältigen menschlichen Umweltbeeinträchtigungen verändert.
Auf unserer fünftägigen Reise mit der Pelagos, dem Forschungsschiff des Istituto Tethys, von 13. bis 19. August 2012, konnte ich erfahren, welche biologischen Reichtümer sich im offenen Meer sowie in den Tiefseegräben vor mondänen Touristenstädten wie Sanremo verbergen. Ein System von Aufsteigströmungen versorgt die mittleren und oberen Wasserschichten des Ligurischen Meeres mit Nährstoffen und setzt ein üppiges Plankton-Wachstum in Gang, von dem eine komplexe Lebensgemeinschaft profitiert. Neben acht regelmäßig vorkommenden Wal-Arten gehören dazu Unechte Karettschildkröten, Grüne Meeresschildkröten und Mittelmeer-Sturmtaucher, Verwandte der Albatrosse, die wir mehrmals auf den Luftströmungen zentimeterdicht oberhalb der Wellen dahin segeln sahen. Doch selbst die wenigsten Anwohner wissen, dass Wale unterschiedlicher Größe wenige Meilen von den dicht belagerten Badestränden und dröhnenden Strandbars entfernt ums Überleben kämpfen.
Es sieht nach heiler Welt aus, nach Harmonie mit der Natur, wenn Streifendelfine sich in die Bugwelle der Pelagos oder eines in der Nähe auftauchenden Finnwals hängen, in anmutigem Bogen und aquadynamischer Perfektion ihre namengebenden Muster zeigend. Lebensfreudig wirken die Pirouettensprünge Gemeiner Delfine, auch wenn sie nur Parasiten wie Walläuse an der Wasserfläche abstreifen – oder empfinden die Tiere manchmal Freude an ihrer eigenen Beweglichkeit und Schnelligkeit? Über eines kann die Akrobatik jedenfalls nicht hinweg täuschen: Die Giftstoffwerte im Fettgewebe der Mittelmeerdelfine sind zehn- bis zwölfmal höher als bei ihren Artgenossen im Atlantik. Sie bewohnen eine der dichtestbefahrenen und verschmutztesten Meeresregionen der Welt und leben von dem, was mengenweise auf den Tellern menschlicher Feinschmecker landet. Ohne durch den ewigen Tanz der Wellen blicken zu können, beschleicht mich das Gefühl, dass wir bereits in einem Zeitalter leerer Meere leben. Dass der blaue Planet zu Land wie zu Wasser längst bis über seine Grenzen belastet ist.
Nicht nur lehrreich war der Trip, sondern auch unterhaltsam, gesellig und ganz einfach schön: die leckeren selbst zubereiteten Mahlzeiten an Bord, das Feuerwerk, das am Nachthimmel über Sanremo Ferragosto einläutete, das Ankern in einer Bucht vor der französischen Küste. Mittags das Schwimmen in der warmen blauen Hochsee – tausend Meter Wasser unter uns (und keine Pottwale um uns, wie wir vorsichtshalber sichergestellt hatten). Angenehmerweise auch „no jellyfish“, wie José in den regelmäßig eingeschobenen Beobachtungsminuten feststellte, die Informationen über die zunehmende „Verquallung“ des Meeres erbringen sollen. In einer leergefischten Umwelt und veränderten Nahrungsnetzen sind diese nesselnden, aber filigranen Wunderwerke der Natur auf dem Vormarsch.
Doch haben unsere Gastgeber uns auch Tipps auf den Weg gegeben, wie jeder einzelne von dem gefährdeten Ökosystem Mittelmeer ein kleines Quentchen Belastung wegnehmen kann: biologisch abbaubare Shampoos, Duschgels, Waschlotionen und Spülmittel verwenden, wie sie selbstverständlich auch auf der Pelagos benutzt werden. Keine Tunfisch-Produkte mehr, kein Sushi und möglichst keinen Meeresfisch, zumal viele Arten die Schadstoffe über ihr Fettgewebe in den menschlichen Körper zurückbringen. Und wer eine Fähre nach Korsika nimmt, sollte Zeit für die Überfahrt mit einem langsameren Schiff mitbringen. Denn bei geringerem Tempo haben Delfine, Wale und Schildkröten noch die Möglichkeit, den Schrauben auszuweichen.

Dr. Anton Vogel

30 October 2012

Tethys at WhaleFest 2012


Thirty years after the original “Save the Whales” initiative held in Brighton in 1982, WhaleFest 2012 was certainly a success, and most definitely the place to be for all whale and dolphin professionals, enthusiasts, and cetacean-curious folk!
As the bitter cold and sharp winds whipped Brighton, unquestionably signalling the arrival of the Great British Winter, a large number of excited people made their way to the Hilton Metropole to immerse themselves into the fantastic world of cetaceans.
Among the many participating organisations was Tethys. We spent two full days talking to a buzzing crowd about our Institute and its mission to conserve cetaceans in the Mediterranean Sea through rigorous scientific research, helped by a growing number of volunteers from all over the world. Many people from all backgrounds were very interested in our message, and we even had the opportunity to participate in a careers workshop to inspire a future generation of cetacean scientists!
Transmitting our enthusiasm to an eager and vast range of people is very gratifying, but it must be said, there is nothing quite so rewarding as seeing our own spark reflected in the eyes of awed children as they listen to us and see pictures and videos captured during our field cruises...
It seems we have encouraged a large number of people to come join us next summer for our 2013 field season, and witness for themselves the little ray of sunshine and cetacean wonder we brought with us to WhaleFest.
Looking forward to seeing you onboard "Pelagos"!

Viridiana Jimenez and Elisa Remonato

More about WhaleFest

ITA   Trent'anni dopo la prima, famosa, iniziativa "Save the Whales" (Salvate le balene), che si era tenuta a Brighton nel 1982, il Whalefest è stato un indubbio successo; decisamente il posto giusto dove ritrovarsi per tutti i professionisti che hanno a che fare con balene e delfini, per gli appassionati e i curiosi del mondo dei cetacei.
Mentre il vento sferzante segnalava l'arrivo dell'inverno britannico, una gran folla si dirigeva verso l'Hilton Metropole per immergersi nel fantastico mondo dei cetacei. Tra le organizzazioni partecipanti c'era anche Tethys. Abbiamo trascorso due giornate piene  a parlare alla piccola folla davanti allo stand del nostro istituto e della sua vocazione alla conservazione dei cetacei nel Mediterraneo attraverso una rigorosa ricerca scientifica, con l'aiuto di un numero sempre crescente di volontari da tutto il mondo. Molte persone, di ogni provenienza ed estrazione, si sono dimostrate interessate al nostro messaggio, mentre noi abbiamo avuto anche l'opportunità di partecipare a un workshop dedicato alle  future generazioni di cetologi.
E' bello trasmettere il nostro entusiasmo a una vasta e attenta platea, ma bisogna dire che non c'è nulla di più gratificante che vedere la propria passione riflettersi negli occhi dei bambini che ci ascoltano rapiti e guardano foto e video delle crociere estive.
Sembra proprio che abbiamo incoraggiato un gran numero di persone a partecipare l'estate prossima alla stagione di campo 2013, per sperimentare di persona il piccolo raggio di sole e di meraviglie cetologiche che abbiamo portato al WhaleFest.
Vi aspettiamo a bordo di "Pelagos".

Viridiana Jimenez e Elisa Remonato

26 October 2012

Torna il Premio Rossana Maiorca


Anche quest'anno la famiglia di Enzo Maiorca istituisce il Premio in ricordo della figlia Rossana con il supporto di Tethys. Lo scopo è di promuovere, con giovani donne, l'avanzamento delle conoscenze e della ricerca nell’ambito della biologia marina e nella salvaguardia del mare.
Possono concorrere all’assegnazione dei Premi le studentesse che abbiano conseguito una laurea specialistica in Scienze Biologiche, Naturali o Ambientali presso un qualunque ateneo italiano, e discusso una tesi attinente all’ecosistema marino. Particolare attenzione verrà data a lavori che privilegino tematiche e metodologie ecosostenibili e che rappresentino un contributo alla conservazione.
Alla vincitrice del Premio verrà offerta la possibilità di partecipare ad una delle crociere di ricerca che l’Istituto Tethys effettua nelle acque del Santuario Pelagos nell’ambito del progetto a lungo termine Cetacean Sanctuary Research.
Il bando del concorso si può trovare sul sito del Premio Rossana Maiorca; le domande di partecipazione dovranno essere presentate entro il 15 gennaio.
Oltre a Tethys supportano il Premio:  Associazione Sportiva Ferreasub di Monza, FIPSAS,
TEMC DEOX e ZERODIVE di Milano, ASSOSUB.

23 October 2012

Riciclando le reti emerge una balena

Una balena in dimensioni naturali, realizzata in materiale riciclato, tra cui vecchie reti da pesca, tondini di ferro, pezzi di vetro, di acciaio e di resina, è l'opera che inaugura un progetto della Provincia di Grosseto chiamato "La strada del contemporaneo". Sistemato su un tratto di strada abbandonato, il cetaceo, una "recycle art" dell'artista Rodolfo Lacquaniti, rappresenta la prima delle opere che contribuiranno a ridare vita alla zona, tra le più suggestive della Maremma, in veste di laboratorio artistico.  Nel "ventre" della balena, come da tradizione letteraria, si può entrare, alla ricerca di una sosta e di silenzio, attirati anche dalla poltrona che si trova in fondo alla testa.
E se vi chiedete di che specie si tratta: le dimensioni, 20 metri di lunghezza per 3,5 di larghezza, sono molto vicine a quelle di una vera balenottera comune - anche se la forma, con la testa squadrata, ricorda piuttosto quella del capodoglio: un "incrocio"... artistico, ma comunque tutto mediterraneo.
Maddalena Jahoda
Immagini da www.bioradar.net


Leggi di più

22 October 2012

Feeding fin whales: a new paper



A new scientific paper about Mediterranean fin whales, coauthored by Tethys' vice President Simone Panigada, has been issued:

Potential feeding habitat of fin whales in the western Mediterranean Sea: an environmental niche model

Abstract: The development of synoptic tools is required to derive the potential habitat of fin whales Balaenoptera physalus on a large-scale basis in the Mediterranean Sea, as the species has a largely unknown distribution and is at high risk of ship strike. We propose a foraging habitat model for fin whales in the western Mediterranean Sea relying on species ecology for the choice of predictors. The selected environmental variables are direct predictors and resource predictors available at daily and basin scales. Feeding habitat was determined mainly from the simultaneous occurrence of large oceanic fronts of satellite-derived sea-surface chlorophyll content (chl a) and temperature (SST). A specific range of surface chl a content (0.11 to 0.39 mg m−3) and a minimum water depth (92 m) were also identified to be important regional criteria. Daily maps were calibrated and evaluated against independent sets of fin whale sightings (presence data only).Specific chl a fronts represented the main predictor of feeding environment; therefore, derived habitat is a potential, rather than effective, habitat, but is functionally linked to a proxy of its resource (chl a production of fronts). The model performs well, with 80% of the presence data <9.7 km from the predicted potential habitat. The computed monthly, seasonal and annual maps of potential feeding habitat from 2000 to 2010 correlate, for the most part, with current knowledge on fin whale ecology. Overall, fin whale potential habitat occurs frequently during summer in dynamic areas of the general circulation, and is substantially more spread over the basin in winter. However, the results also displayed high year-to-year variations (40 to 50%), which are essential to consider when assessing migration patterns and recommending protection and conservation measures.

Jean-Noël Druon, Simone Panigada, Léa David, Alexandre Gannier, Pascal Mayol, Antonella Arcangeli, Ana Cañadas, Sophie Laran, Nathalie Di Méglio, Pauline Gauffier. 2012. Potential feeding habitat of fin whales in the western Mediterranean Mar Ecol Prog Ser Vol. 464: 289–306,

Read the paper (open access)

20 October 2012

Le balenottere del Santuario seguite con i satelliti

Le balenottere mediterranee migrano in inverno come le loro cospecifiche negli oceani, o si comportano diversamente, in linea con il fatto che sono una popolazione sostanzialmente isolata, vivente in un ambiente molto diverso da quello dell'Atlantico? I ricercatori di Tethys sperano di dare una risposta al quesito quanto prima. Infatti, sono riusciti ad applicare dei trasmettitori satellitari su diverse balenottere (Balaenoptera physalus) nelle acque del Santuario Pelagos per i cetacei.
Tra gli obiettivi, fondamentali per la conservazione della popolazione, c'è anche quello di individuare i siti invernali di riproduzione, oltre a eventuali rotte migratorie, che potrebbero essere sovrapposte ai dati sul traffico marittimo, in maniera da evitare le collisioni - un problema non indifferente per questa specie in particolare.
Sette sono le balenottere equipaggiate con un trasmettitore, concepito per fornire la posizione di ogni animale  attraverso i sei satelliti orbitanti del sistema Argos. Gli itinerari dei vari individui possono essere seguiti attraverso un sito dedicato, previa registrazione gratuita. Le mappe verranno aggiornate settimanalmente.






Fin whales of the mediterranean Sanctuary tracked by satellite

Are mediterranean fin whales migrating in winter like other whales do in the oceans, or do they behave differently, given the fact that they belong to a substantially isolated population in an environment that differs to that of oceanic ones? Tethys' researchers hope to answer the question in the next few weeks.
For the first time Tethys has been able to deploy satellite transmitters on several fin whales (Balaenoptera physalus) in the Pelagos Cetacean Sanctuary.
The project aims to enable the identification of areas in need of special protection: to assess breeding grounds is an important goal for the conservation of the population. Moreover potential migratory routes may be added to maritime traffic information, because collisions with vessels represent a serious threat for fin whales in particular.
Seven individuals have been equipped with a special transmitter each, enabling them to regularly bestow their position through the Argos Satellite system, based on 6 orbiting satellites.
The whale’s itinerary may be followed on a dedicated page upon registration. The maps tracing the various movements will be updated weekly.

15 October 2012

Separated rays


A new paper on phylogeny of mobulid rays, largely based on tooth morphology, just appeared on the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society with the coauthorship of Tethys' President, Giuseppe Notarbartolo: an interesting aspect is that Manta, Mobula mobular and Mobula japanica appear separated from the remaining species of Mobula.

Here is the abstract:
The exact affinities of the fossil teeth attributed to the devilrays (mobulids) are critical for resolving the debated origin of these giant pelagic rays amongst Myliobatiformes and the timing of their evolution toward planktivory. We performed the first detailed comparative description of teeth belonging to most of the living and fossil mobulids. Based on a survey of living devilrays, three dental morphologies are newly identified as cobblestone tooth plates, comb-like teeth, and peg-like teeth. In addition, all extinct mobulid species are reviewed with comments on their dentition, fossil record, and geographical distribution. As a result, three fossil mobulid taxa are newly described from the Late Eocene of south-west Morocco (Argoubia barbei gen. et sp. nov., Oromobula dakhlaensis gen. et sp. nov., and Eoplinthicus underwoodi sp. nov.). This has permitted the first assessment of the phylogenetic positions of extinct and extant species of mobulids, using cladistic analyses and a combined data set of nondental anatomical characters from the literature and the dental characters defined here. Our new results support the monophyly of mobulids including all living and most extinct species and indicate that mobulids are closely related to rhinopterids. They also indicate that there was a recent split within Mobulidae into the three tooth morphology groups that we describe in this paper. This work provides clues to the evolutionary history of this clade since the Early Eocene, including the gradual lack in tooth interlocking toward the filter-feeding strategy, whereas the preservation of cusped teeth without feeding function in modern filter-feeder mobulids is interpreted as a tool for precopulatory purposes.

The full paper can be found on Wiley online library (only for registered users).

Adnet S., Cappetta H., Guinot G., Notarbartolo-di-Sciara G. 2012. Evolutionary history of the devilrays (Chondrichthyes: Myliobatiformes) from fossil and morphological inference. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, London 166:132-159. doi: 10.1111/j.1096-3642.2012.00844.


05 October 2012

Devastating plastic - La tragedia della plastica

Plastic materials are the most common debris in the oceans all over the world; they have horrific impacts on marine wildlife and on the whole ecosystems.  Different creatures get entangled in plastics and drown or ingest toxins. Plastics pose a threat to the health of the food chain, while oceans are silently choking on our plastic waste, as shown in this insightful video about the Marine Debris Survey, a world first study of the plastics around the coastlines.


Watch the video

La plastica ha un impatto devastante negli oceani di tutto il mondo, sia a livello di specie che di interi ecosistemi. Gli animali restano impigliati e annegano, oppure ingeriscono le tossine che vengono rilasciate. La plastica mette a rischio l'intera catena alimentare, mentre i mari soffocano silenziosamente a causa dei nostri rifiuti. Il video (in inglese) spiega tutto questo nel contesto del Marine Debris Survey, il primo studio mondiale del genere.

26 September 2012

The vaquita (+ 99 more species): the most threatened in the world


More than 8,000 scientists from the IUCN Species Survival Commission (IUCN SSC) have recently come together to identify 100 of the most threatened animals, plants and fungi on the planet. As a result a new list of the species closest to extinction was released by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The report, called "Priceless or Worthless?", has been presented at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in South Korea on September 11th.
If nothing is done to protect them, those 100 species, from 48 different countries, are first in line to disappear completely. Among them is the vaquita (Phocoena sinus); Giuseppe Notarbartolo, Tethys' President, is the author of the chapter about this most endangered cetacean living in the Gulf of California.
Species and wild habitats are often valued and prioritised according to the services they provide for people, but conservation should go beyond this. Do these species have a right to survive or do we have a right to drive them to extinction?”

Read the report

La vaquita (e altre 99 specie): le più minacciate del pianeta

Oltre 8000 ricercatori della Commissione per la sopravvivenza delle specie dell'International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN,SSC) hanno identificato le 100 specie viventi più minacciate del pianeta. Il risultato è una nuova lista pubblicata recentemente dalla Zoological Society of London (ZSL) e dalla IUCN, e presentata l'11 settembre scorso, al World Conservation Congress nella Corea del Sud.
Tra le 100 specie che saranno con ogni probabilità le prime a scomparire se nulla verrà fatto, c'è anche la vaquita, un piccolo cetaceo che vive esclusivamente nel golfo della California, la cui scheda è stata compilata dal Presidente di Tethys, Giuseppe Notarbartolo.
Spesso le specie vengono valutate sulla base del loro valore per l'uomo, ma la conservazione dovrebbe andare oltre: abbiamo il diritto di condannarle all'estinzione, o hanno, loro, il diritto di sopravvivere?
Leggi il rapporto (in inglese)

18 September 2012

CSR_18 (September 10th - 16th)

The final week of the season. As the summer draws to a close, the weather becomes more unpredictable. We were able to venture out the first day and soon found a sperm whale which we acoustically tracked and took pictures of for our photo-identification catalogue. This animal bore marks which looked like they were due to a collision with a ship. The afternoon brought striped dolphins, that rode the bow wave made by Pelagos, before heading back to Sanremo to avoid the forecasted bad weather conditions.
We were unable to leave the harbour for the next two days due to high winds and waves. The group was able to fully appreciate the ferocity of the sea from the roof of the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco. The next day, we had lectures about the cetacean species found in the Mediterranean, and using our photo-ID techniques we found a match for the sperm whale we had sighted earlier in the week. He was called ‘Cut’ presumably because of the collision mark in front of his dorsal fin.
We left the harbour early the next day and transited along the coast. The sea was alive with feeding tuna – quite a sight to see so many jumping fish from the water. At the time we were above the slope of the ocean floor, a productive area favoured by many cetaceans. However, we did not expect to see a fin whale which usually feeds on krill - which are generally found in the pelagic area, further out to sea. But, sure enough, we saw the distinctive tall vertical blow of the largest cetacean found in the Mediterranean. We followed the fin whale on a ‘zigzag’ route, commonly associated with feeding behaviour in this species.
The sighting conditions were tough, with periods of the day spent in ‘negative sighting conditions’ – when waves are breaking and it becomes increasingly difficult to see cetaceans. We spent the night in Saint Jean, sheltered from the wind.
The final day of the week proved to be our most exciting, providing a glorious end to the 2012 CSR season. The day ended with four sperm whales synchronously vocalising, surfacing within minutes of each other. We raced between animals, attempting to get photo identification pictures and photogrammetry data for each whale. While the whales were diving, we were treated to a symphony of clicks, including codas, chirrups and clangs, which are sounds usually associated with social behaviour among sperm whales. The final encounter involved a sperm whale swimming upside down under Pelagos, and then spy-hopping at the stern so that it could get a better look at us. What a way to finish the season!


Viridiana, Eva, Martina and Luke

Following link is for participants of this week's expedition, showing the ship's route, pictures of some of the sightings and of some moments of the cruise which were memorable (or even not so...)

Ai partecipanti al turno è dedicato uno spazio con il percorso effettuato durante la settimana, le foto di alcuni avvistamenti e qualche immagine dei momenti da ricordare - importanti e non

How to stop finning, simply explained - Cos'è il finning e come fermarlo, in poche parole


We have been talking a lot about shark finning. This video by Shark Alliance explains the problem very well.

watch "Finning ban made simple".

ITA Abbiamo parlato spesso della disdicevole pratica del finning degli squali. Questo video di Shark Alliance spiega la questione molto bene, in termini estremamente semplici.

Guarda il video (manca purtroppo la versione italiana. C'è in inglese, francese, tedesco, spagnolo o portoghese)

12 September 2012

Uomini e cetacei: un difficile rapporto

E' uscito pochi giorni fa in libreria un nuovo libro di Marco Affronte:
"Jack il delfino e altre storie di mare", Editrice De Vecchi, 256 pp. 11,90 €

C’è un rapporto particolare fra gli uomini e i cetacei. L’essere umano prova verso delfini e balene un’ampia gamma di sentimenti: essi preludono a interazioni e comportamenti che possono trovarsi a due estremi veramente lontanissimi tra loro. Da una parte la baleneria, le stragi di delfini in Giappone e alle Faroe, e come non ricordare la legge italiana che, fino alla fine degli anni settanta, premiava con una ricompensa un pescatore che avesse consegnato alle autorità la coda di un delfino ucciso? All’estremo opposto ci sono un amore e un interesse verso questi animali, che molto spesso superano davvero ogni logica. In tutto il mondo crescono la domanda di poter vedere e avvicinare questi animali nel loro ambiente naturale, così come iniziative e campagne per la loro salvaguardia e tutela.
Nel libro "Jack il delfino e altre storie di mare", si racconta proprio di questo particolare rapporto fra l'uomo e i delfini (ma anche le balene), attraverso 11 storie, realmente accadute.
Si va dal leggendario Pelorus Jack, che per 25 anni ha "scortato" i traghetti attraverso il pericoloso French Pass, in Nuova Zelanda, all 'indimenticabile delfino Filippo, che ha vissuto per alcuni anni nel porto di Manfredonia. C'è la storia del cucciolo di balena grigia J.J., recuperato morente sulle coste della California, nutrito e curato per un anno intero e poi restituito con successo al mare. E ci sono le tre balene grigie intrappolate nei ghiacci dell'Alaska, che scatenano una folle corsa per restituite loro la salvezza.
Non manca nemmeno la lunga saga dell'orca Keiko, più famosa come Free Willy, ormai divenuto un simbolo del tentativo dell'uomo di riscattarsi dalle sue colpe verso i cetacei costretti alla cattività.
Altre due piccole orche, Luna e Springer, rimaste sole e sperdute nelle acque della British Columbia sono protagoniste di due storie parallele, ma dal finale drammaticamente diverso.
Ci sono anche i racconti di alcuni solitary dolphins, animali selavativi che "scelgono" di lasciare il loro gruppo per vivere a contatto con l'uomo.
Il libro si chiude con un'esperienza personale dell'autore, proprio con uno di questi delfini, nelle acque del nord Adriatico.


CSR 17 (September 3rd-9th)


The seventeenth cruise of the Cetacean Sanctuary Research project got off to a slow start due to unfavourable weather and sea conditions, constraining us to stay in the harbour the first day. Nevertheless, this time was put to good use by having various lectures about the biology and ecology of cetaceans in the Mediterranean sea. After a photo-identification lecture, our participants diligently and valiantly helped us match several sperm whale flukes with the Tethys catalogue, and found out that we have two new individuals. One of them was named “Anonymous”, after a participant suggested that hackers around the world belonging to the ‘Anonymous’ group should help cetologists create a photo-identification recognition software instead of their usual hacking practices. Here goes an appeal! On a more serious note, this anecdote illustrates just how tricky and time-consuming this simple yet multipurpose research technique can be. The other sperm whale, on the other hand, was kindly named Quentin.
Once the weather cleared up, we were able to set off for three long, beautiful, and productive days out at sea. Having reached our required 200m depth range, we deployed our hydrophone array, which instantly revealed that two sperm whales were clicking away right off of Sanremo! They were very close together and clicked in unison – practically synchronously – which made the tracking process more complicated, however we managed to collect data successfully. The following day was filled with sightings of striped dolphins, our most commonly occurring species, and a sperm whale sighting out in the pelagic area. Thursday night was spent offshore, revealing a beautifully dark star-filled sky, until the moon came out and illuminated our hazy surroundings, occasionally allowing us to glimpse striped dolphin splashes. Our acoustic sampling stations recorded during the night watch revealed a teeming sea of activity taking place under Pelagos. While participants and researchers slept, cetaceans were busy feeding and communicating!
Once the sun rose, we resumed our sighting shifts and were later delighted to have two fin whale sightings. The first one was a very small individual, leading us to think it might have been a juvenile or a calf that had been separated from the mother. The second sighting was composed of two large adults that were slowly travelling at a speed of around 2 knots, and surfacing quite close together. At the end of the day we decided to moor in the quaint little bay of Villefranche su Mer, where the participants ventured ashore for a short wandering.
The final day included a close encounter with another sperm whale, for which we took the opportunity to make an underwater video – a great end to a fantastic week!

Viridiana, Eva, Martina and Luke


Following link is for participants of this week's expedition, showing the ship's route, pictures of some of the sightings and of some moments of the cruise which were memorable (or even not so...)

Ai partecipanti al turno è dedicato uno spazio con il percorso effettuato durante la settimana, le foto di alcuni avvistamenti e qualche immagine dei momenti da ricordare - importanti e non

10 September 2012

Add your voice against shark finning - Voci contro il "finning" degli squali

"After decades of abusive and unsustainable fishing of sharks globally, it is simply unthinkable that an institution such as the European Union could abstain from implementing with extreme urgency the most basic of measures such as the one which will be voted on 19 September this year. As an European citizen I would be ashamed of anything short of full acceptance of the rule of landing sharks with fins attached, given that I would greatly prefer that sharks were not fished at all." 

                                  Giuseppe Notarbartolo, Tethys' President, in support of the final effort to protect sharks in Europe promoted by Shark Alliance

September 19th, the European Parliament will vote on a proposal to amend the EU regulation that bans shark “finning” (slicing off a shark’s fins and discarding the body at sea). Prohibiting at-sea removal of shark fins, and thereby requiring that all sharks be landed with their fins naturally attached, is the simplest, most reliable means of implementing a finning ban. An increasing number of countries agree, and so do scientists and politicians, as well as thousands of people around Europe. The statements of many of them can be found on Shark Alliances dedicated website.

To help conservationists make final push to protect sharks in Europe, please add a message of support before September 19th. Thank you.


"Dopo decenni di pesca degli squali globalmente abusiva e insostenibile, è semplicemente impensabile che un'istituzione come l'Unione Europea possa non implementare con estrema urgenza una misura basilare come quella che si voterà il prossimo 19 settembre. Come cittadino europeo mi vergognerei di qualunque cosa non sia la piena accettazione della regola che gli squali debbano essere sbarcati con le pinne attaccate - fatto salvo che preferirei di gran lunga che gli squali non fossero pescati del tutto." 
                                               Giuseppe Notarbartolo, Presidente di Tethys a supporto dello sforzo finale per proteggere gli squali in Europa promosso da Shark Alliance.

Il prossimo 19 settembre, infatti, si terrà in Commissione Pesca UE il dibattito e la votazione finale sugli emendamenti proposti per la modifica del regolamento sul finning (la pratica di tagliare le pinne agli squali, abbandonando l'animale moribondo in mare). Proibire la rimozione delle pinne in mare e quindi imporre che gli squali vengano portati a terra con le pinne è il mezzo più semplice ed affidabile per mettere al bando questa crudele pratica. Un numero sempre maggiore di Paesi, scienziati e politici appoggiano l'iniziativa, e lo stesso vale per migliaia di persone in tutta Europa. Diversi commenti si trovano sulla pagina dedicata di Shark Alliance.
Per aiutare nello sforzo finale verso la protezione degli squali in Europa, aggiungete un messaggio di supporto prima del 19 settembre. Grazie!

ulteriori notizie in italiano

04 September 2012

CSR_16 (August 28th - September 2nd)

Volunteers of CSR_16 might not have been lucky with the weather but they definitely have been with sightings! In only two days they have been able to enjoy a sighting of four sperm whales swimming together and diving almost in synchrony, and many sightings of fin whales, for a total of at least 8 different individuals. They could better understand the importance of the conservation of those animals after having encountered one with the mark of a propeller on its back, and having directly observed the big number of ships and ferries that cross the whale routes every day.
CSR_16 people had the opportunity to spend a night out at sea, experiencing night shifts but especially a fin whale sunset and a fin whale sunrise.
The days spent in the harbor were delighted by fine cuisine and lots of laughing. Half of the group enjoyed the visit of the oceanographic museum of Monaco, while the other half, particularly willing to learn and take part of the research, spent one day matching sperm whales flukes and finding an already known individual and many new ones.
Despite of the unfriendly weather, CSR 16 was definitely a week worth experiencing!

Morgana, Giulia, Chiara, Luke




Following link is for participants of this week's expedition, showing the ship's route, pictures of some of the sightings and of some moments of the cruise which were memorable (or even not so...)

Ai partecipanti al turno è dedicato uno spazio con il percorso effettuato durante la settimana, le foto di alcuni avvistamenti e qualche immagine dei  momenti da ricordare - importanti e non

26 August 2012

CSR_15 (August 20th -26th)

We have been so lucky the weather conditions allowed us to go to Corsica, staying out at sea for the whole week. CSR 15 was definitely the week of superlatives – with us having lunch in the middle of a group of feeding fin whales and meeting a sperm whale that led us to a group of four socializing animals. Together, they seemed to be braver, investigating our boat intently and letting us listen to their clicks, trumpets, codas and many other curious vocalizations. We watched them breaching in the sunset, and the only reason for us to end that stunning experience was the fading daylight.
On our way back to San Remo we realised why the route we were traveling on is called the "Fin Whale Highway": even during night navigation we could listen to the breathing of those big baleen whales in the dark that surrounded us.
No doubt this has been an extraordinary week for everybody!

Morgana, Giulia, Nina & José



Following link is for participants of this week's expedition, showing the ship's route, pictures of some of the sightings and of some moments of the cruise which were memorable (or even not so...)

Ai partecipanti al turno è dedicato uno spazio con il percorso effettuato durante la settimana, le foto di alcuni avvistamenti e qualche immagine dei  momenti da ricordare - importanti e non

23 August 2012

Vote for the mediterranean monk seal! Votate per la foca monaca del Mediterraneo



The mediterranean monk seal (Monachus monachus) is on the list of endangered species, due to loss of habitat, interaction with fisheries and deliberate killings. Only few populations survive, among which the colony of Gyaros, an uninhabited greek island in the Northern Cyclades. A project aimed at ensuring the survival of the monk seal by establishing a sanctuary on the island and by managing it in collaboration with the local stakeholders, proposed by Tethys' President Giuseppe Notarbartolo di Sciara, together with WWF Greece and the dedicated greek NGO MOm,is one of the three nominees for the La Prairie award for innovation in marine protection.
The award has been established in collaboration with the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, in order to support grassroot projects aimed at resolving environmental issues: a donation of 100.000$ will go to one of the selected initiatives. The winner will be chosen by an international jury together with fans around the world via an on line voting system. 


Everyone can vote: please help the mediterranean monk seal by voting this deserving project. And if you answer the 8 questions too (on the bottom of the page, scroll down), you earn additional votes for the project. Thank you!



ITA La foca monaca del Mediterraneo (Monachus monachus) è una specie un tempo frequente nei nostri mari, ma oggi sull'orlo dell'estinzione a causa della perdita di habitat, e delle interazioni con la pesca che spesso sfociano anche in uccisioni deliberate. Oggi ne sopravvivono solo poche colonie, tra cui quella dell'isola greca disabitata di Gyaros, nelle Cicladi settentrionali. Il Presidente di Tethys Giuseppe Notarbartolo di Sciara, assieme a WWF Grecia e MOm, associazione non governativa greca), hanno presentato un progetto per un santuario sull'isola da gestire in collaborazione con le popolazioni e in armonia con gli interessi locali, ora nominato fra i tre possibili vincitori del perstigioso La Prairie award per l'innovazione nella protezione dell'ambiente marino.
Il premio, creato in collaborazione con la Fondazione Alberto II di Monaco, e dedicato a supportare progetti innovativi per la soluzione questioni ambientali, prevede una donazione di 100.000 $ al progetto considerato migliore. Il vincitore sarà decretato da una giuria internazionale, e da una votazione popolare via internet.


Chiunque quindi può votare: chi vuole sostenere la foca monaca del Mediterraneo può esprimere la preferenza per il progetto; inoltre, rispondendo anche alle 8 domande, che appaiono in fondo alla pagina (bisogna scorrere con il mouse), si ottengolo ulteriori voti. Grazie!

picture by V. Paravas/MOm

I vegetariani a Gorizia e l'insostenibilità della caccia alle balene

Cosa sappiamo oggi dei cetacei, quali sono i più minacciati nel Mediterraneo e nel mondo, e perché la caccia alle balene è insostenibile anche dal punto di vista scientifico: di questo e di altre questioni legate alla tutela del mare parlerà Maddalena Jahoda di Tethys, domenica 2 settembre prossimo, alle 16.30 a Gorizia, nell'ambito del Festival Vegetariano, giunto quest'anno la terza edizione.
La manifestazione si terrà in piazza della Vittoria, dal 31 agosto al 2 settembre e vedrà la partecipazione di nomi illustri tra cui Margherita Hack, Enzo e Patrizia Maiorca e Peter Hammarsted.
Gli interventi dedicati al mare saranno concentrati nel pomeriggio e sera di domenica.