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