28 June 2008

Kalamos, 16-28 June 2008

I came here to Episkopi without any expectations of whom I will meet. Now after this week I can only say: it was a great week, with wonderful people and unforgettable impressions. I had the opportunity to be part of a team with a lot of passion for dolphin research and conservation. I saw a group of 13 common dolphins, I saw the crazy bottlenose dolphins jumping right next to the boat and I was introduced how to take the data. I woke up with the sunrise over the sea and I had dinner while learning my first words in Greek. Marina, Marcel and Shiva: THANKS A LOT FOR THIS GREAT TIME!!! For the future I wish you a lot of success for your work. I will never forget these great days with you! A big hug

Viola, Germany

27 June 2008

Out of the blue

It’s 7:15 in the morning and we are crossing the channel between the island of Kalamos and the mainland. With the colorful sunrise never failing to amaze us with its beauty, we take the volunteers to the bus station at Mytikas. It has been an incredible week of sightings and after the volunteers leave for Athens, we meet with our friend Adonis for a Greek coffee near the sea.

We are all sitting in the cafeteria drinking and chatting a mix of English, Italian, Greek and Spanish when suddenly Marina spots a dorsal fin, right in front of us. Bottlenose dolphins in the Mytikas channel! Wow! Go or not go? It is our rest time before a hard day working on boat reparations. But we see a calf in the group and we decide to take the boat and try to identify the mother.

The sea is perfect and in five minutes we approach the group. We don’t have any research equipment on board but we immediately realize that LARA has come back. The calf in the group is her new baby!

LARA is one of the most resident bottlenose dolphins and she has been seen in the waters of Kalamos since 1994. She gave birth to three babies during this time. We are happy to see that her fourth calf was born, after the bad experience with her latest offspring, ZOI.

ZOI was born in the summer of 2004 but its rostrum got entangled in fishing gear and this caused major lesions as the calf grew up. ZOI did not survive to adult age.

Today’s encounter with LARA and her new baby is good news. Life has managed to surface again out of the blue waters of Kalamos.

Marina Costa, Shiva Javdan, Marcel Clusa

25 June 2008

Still 13 common dolphins around Kalamos - let's not see them disappear!

Yesterday, June 24th, a group of 12 common dolphins was sighted by the Tethys team (Marina, Marcel, Shiva and one volunteer) south of the island of Lefkada, within the 'Kalamos' study area.

The group included 9 adults, 1 juvenile and 2 calves. All these animals had been previously catalogued and are known to the research team. The group included both females (Nigel, Lins and Simon) and males (Elisa, Aetos and 93023), plus three other adults of unknown gender.

The juvenile was the third son of Lins, and the two calves were the fourth and the second sons of Nigel and Simon, respectively.

The group was followed for about two hours and all the animals could be photo-identified based on 213 digital photographs.

This is the third sighting of common dolphins in June 2008. The first sighting was of a lone individual (Fiocco). The second was of Nigel with her son.

Observations conducted so far in the context of ongoing monitoring show that there are still at least 13 common dolphins around Kalamos. This is very good news considering the dramatic decline observed over the past decade.

Last year, only 15 common dolphins were estimated to have survived around Kalamos (ten years ago there were 150 animals). Being able of documenting the persistence of at least a small common dolphin unit is important as this shows that recovery would still be possible if timely action is taken. Management measures to facilitate recovery have been defined into detail and proposed to the relevant authorities. We hope that such measures will be taken soon and that this relict community - one of the last living in the central Mediterranean - can be rescued.

Should managers and Governments fail to do so, they will cast a shadow over their commitments to protect endangered cetacean populations.

Giovanni Bearzi

For more information:
Common dolphins around Kalamos, Greece

22 June 2008

Pingers and dolphins

A new study about pinger efficiency has been recently published.

“Pingers as deterrents of bottlenose dolphins interacting with trammel nets” was written by three experts from GRUMM, the group for the study and conservation of marine mammals at the University of Barcelona (Spain): Manel Gazo, Joan Gonzalvo and Alex Aguilar.

The study focuses on the effectiveness of pingers in discouraging common bottlenose dolphins from approaching trammel nets in Majorca, Balearic Islands, an area where dolphin depredation is significant. The authors evaluate dolphin damage to the nets and economic loss by fishermen.

The interesting conclusion is that though pingers did not stop dolphins from approaching the fishing nets, the nets equipped with functional pingers received less damage than nets with non-functional devices or without pingers. Authors also discovered that pingers did not appear to have any effect on fishery target species but may cause unwanted environmental impacts, which are also reviewed in the article.

Since 2006 Joan Gonzalvo works with Tethys as Principal investigator in the research project conducted in the Amvrakikos Gulf, Greece.

Silvia Bonizzoni

Photo from Gazo et al. 2008

For more information:
Gazo M., Gonzalvo J., Aguilar A. 2008. Pingers as deterrents of bottlenose dolphins interacting with trammel nets. Fisheries Research 92:70-75.

20 June 2008

Only in June

At Kalamos, it can only happen in June.

Only then can you wake up in the morning of a beautiful sunny day, with a magnificent view of the islands. But there is a little wind, all it takes to make spotting dolphins difficult at sea.

It can only happen in June that the sea conditions change within minutes, leaving us to abandon our transect and escape to an ad libitum route, which means that we continue navigating outside the survey tracks. We direct our path towards the sheltered south of Lefkada and finally we find some flat sea surface. For an hour we navigate on a perfect sea, concentrating on dolphin search. Unfortunately we can find no dolphins and after patrolling the entire area, we decide to head back.

It only happens in June that we cross paths with an English yacht; a large and beautiful sailing boat with uniformed crew and captain. And there is something strange. The visitors on the boat are all standing up, dressed in their funny coloured hats. The crew all situated at the stern and the captain hands not on the rudder. They sighted something!

We stop our boat immediately and begin scanning the sea surface, our hearts racing faster with each passing second. Within two minutes there is the shout we were all waiting to hear: OUT! One fin. No... two fins!

It can only happen in June that the strange behaviour of a beautiful yacht allows us to find one of the rarest dolphin species in the central Mediterranean - two magnificent common dolphins. And not just any two common dolphins, but NIGEL and her son! We all shout and give each other a big hug! What a wonderful encounter!

We had met NIGEL last year in September. She was with three other adults, as well as her own newborn. Mortality is really high in the first year of life (even 50%). The former resident and previously abundant common dolphin community living around Kalamos has shown a continuous decline in the recent years, most likely due to the intensive exploitation of local fish stocks. So this encounter is really important because NIGEL-SON4, the fourth son of NIGEL, is still alive and apparently in good conditions (see the video) after one year.

This gives us new hope that it’s not too late for changing our destructive behaviour and making the Mediterranean a better place to live, for all species.

Marina Costa, Shiva Javdan and Marcel Clusa

16 June 2008

Kalamos, 8-14 June

First of all, many thanks to my friend who showed me the article in a weekly newspaper called “Sonntagsblitz” because that was the begin of this wonderful week. Second, thanks to the team here in Episkopi in this week we where five Marina Shiva, Una, Marcel and me and the time I could spend in this team was definitely great!!! We have done and seen many things in this week so I can not tell which of the unbelievable moments was the best. All I can say that I am full of impressions and I am absolutely sure that I will come back again to Kalamos and the Tethys project. The last week was one of the best experiences of my life thanks to all an in future I will stay “positive” as well ;-)

Carola, Germany


This is going to be short and sweet, like my stay here in Kalamos. Quite simply I had a fantastic time, without exaggeration one of the best weeks of my life! I loved every minute, learned a lot and had a good laugh. I love the atmosphere here and of course going out every day looking for dolphins. I love the passion these people have for their work (not something I have found in food technology). Marina is a wonderful teacher & I think Marcel and Shiva are following in her footsteps. Many thanks to Marina, Shiva & Marcel for making my (much too short ) time here so enjoyable and being such good company. My only regret is that I cannot stay longer. But I will definitely be back!

Una, Ireland

15 June 2008

Turtles in trouble

The Marine Conservation Society together with the Travel Foundation and design company Juniperblue have recently produced an entertaining and educational cartoon called Turtles in Trouble.

The 8 minutes long animation is for everybody planning holidays in the Mediterranean, but it includes valuable advice relevant to all destinations where marine turtles may lay eggs.

The video effectively shows how simple changes in our behaviour while on holidays can make a big difference. As the video points out: “Turtles are in danger of extinction, and extinction is forever. But doing your bit, you can give this spectacular animals the chance to survive for generations to come”.

Silvia Bonizzoni

To watch the video: Turtles in Trouble

13 June 2008

Kalamos, June 8th, 2008

Today marks the completion of the first week of the 2008 season.

Although it started off with an incredible sighting of Fiocco, the rest of the week was less yielding. On Tuesday evening, while watching the beautiful sunset, we observed a group of dolphins midway between Kalamos and Lefkada. The sunset sighting got us pumped for the next few days of navigation, but sadly we were left with no results to feed our hunger until an exciting Thursday night.

On our way back from sightseeing in the village of Kalamos, we received a phone call from the manager of Episkopi that dolphins had been spotted on the channel between Mytikas and Episkopi. With our new found adrenaline, we raced back to the base in hopes of catching a glimpse of the dolphins before they left. Climbing out of the car and into the neighbour’s lawn, we battled wild plants (with a varying spike magnitude) and numerous spider webs (some of which we were unable to avoid :S). On top of the roof, we all intently looked at the channel for any sign of surface activity. To our luck, Marcel spotted two dolphins! And with that confirmation we were running back through the lawn and driving to the boat. Once out on the water, with the deceiving waves, we found the dolphin pair close to the Mytikas coast and we were thrilled that our jungle trek had been awarded.

The following day, Friday, also brought some exciting events to our plate. After four hours of navigation, we spotted three bottlenose dolphins at the Mytikas fish farm. The dolphins alternated between the fish farms and then coming to our boat to investigate. The relatively calm water allowed us to exchange looks with the curious animals as they passed under our boat. With approximately two hours of data collection, we had completely forgotten the week difficult weather and seemingly endless navigation. But that is the life of a researcher!

On Saturday, we sadly said goodbye to our first volunteers of the season and spent the rest of the day dealing with various errands, including a quick stop to Amvrakikos. In the evening, we made our way across the channel to Episokopi with our loads of groceries and admiring the beautiful sunset. Mesmerized by the picturesque sky, Marcel went to take a picture but accidentally hit his head on the boat and like a signal to cetaceans, Marina immediately spotted Spiti! We did not believe her at first, but soon it was clear that Spiti was passing by with two other dolphins. Quite a day!

With the house reaching perfection, and the dolphins welcoming us to their remarkable world, this season is looking to be an exciting and eventful one!

Shiva Javdan

12 June 2008

Loss of large predatory sharks from the Mediterranean Sea

Several species of sharks in the Med have almost disappeared, their numbers 97% below what they were 200 years ago.

This is the scary figure that emerges from a new research (Loss of large predatory sharks in the Mediterranean), founded in part by the Lenfest Ocean Program, just published on Conservation Biology.

Fishing (both direct and by catch), coastal degradation and lack of management, coupled with the life history of sharks (who grow slowly, mature late and produce few young) caused this massive loss.

Blue, thresher, mako, porbeagle and hammerhead sharks have almost totally vanished in catch records from all sorts of different sources (tuna traps records, coast guard, fishing market, recreational fishing tournaments data) over the years, the authors found.

The consequences on the ecosystem of losing these key players is still poorly understood, as populations of other fish and invertebrates shift in unpredictable ways. But the extent of this collapse "may hold serious implications for the entire marine ecosystem, greatly affecting food webs throughout this region,” said the lead author of the study, Francesco Ferretti, a doctoral student in marine biology at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia.

Better management of shark fisheries is clearly needed to invert this trend.

Eleonora De Sabata

For more information:
- The press release
- The Lenfest Report "Shark Declines in the Mediterranean sea: a summary of a new scientific analysis"
- Ferretti et al. 2008. Loss of large predatory sharks from the Mediterranean Sea. Conservation Biology.

10 June 2008

Kalamos, 1-7 June 2008

If I were a good writer I would type some original, unique and fabulous lines that would impress whoever open this guestbook but, anyway, they would express exactly the same: thanks a lot for a magic week!

I should also write something a bit more “serious”, so here I go: I have participated as a volunteer in the IDP at Kalamos in the 1st week of June 2008. This field trip has been funded by the University of Ulster at Coleraine where I am doing a MRes project about cetacean habitat modelling. In this way, to be here during this week has been very instructive and helpful to better understand how cetacean data must be collected and stored.

Furthermore, this experience would not be the same without Marina, Marcel and Shiva who have kept Olivier and me alive on the boat. Honestly, congratulations guys because you are great and you are doing a fantastic job! (Although, I do not completely agree with your pasta diet :-P).
All the best.

Minia, Spain


This is my second time here in the Kalamos base, and I am still fascinated by the amazing atmosphere of this place. There is always a surprise around the corner: on the sea we saw Fiocco, the first common dolphin of the season (see post) and a couple of days later 3 young bottlenose dolphins swimming under the boat. It was fun to meet Marina again.

I thank Marcel and Adonis for teaching me a couple of useful Greek words to survive in a tavern. I thank Minia and Shiva for sharing their enthusiasm. If only I had tons of vacation days this summer, I would have spent some in Kalamos for sure.

I wish a long life to the IDP.

Olivier, France

05 June 2008

Kalamos: third day of the season

June 4th, 2008: the third day of the 2008 season brought us the hot sun, the beautiful Ionian Islands and the ever changing wind.

Starting off east past Mytikas and Kalamos village, everyone kept their eyes peeled on the seemingly endless water for something to make its entrance into our world. We all hoped to see 'Fiocco' again, the common dolphin that gave a timid hello to us back on the first day (see post).

We followed along the waypoints of transect B until we saw something breach the water to our north. Leaving the transect we jetted to the potential area. Searching all around for another jump, we sadly did not spot an action again. Returning to the original transect we continued towards several fish farms along the Echinades coast.

Fish farms attract other fish around their premises when they are fed and increments of food sink outside the nets. Dolphins have learned that fish are often found around the farms and thus will often visit them. Unfortunately during this instant no dolphins were found around the fish farms, and thus we moved towards the neighbouring islands for protection from the deteriorating state of the sea. Taking a short break off a rocky coast, which included a chilly swim and some boat maintenance, we soon found the wind to change direction again.

Deciding that the sea state was not convenient for finishing the B-transect, we made our way through the Kalamos and Kastos channel. Passing Kalamos village, there was another jumping event to the west of the boat; but, once again it turned out to be a single instance. Before returning to Episkopi, we took a look at the Mytikas fish farms but they did not provide us with any dolphin sightings either.

We are looking forward to better weather and hopefully more common dolphin visits!

Shiva Javdan

03 June 2008

Lone common dolphin near Kalamos

First day out at sea, first day of field research in Kalamos and first sighting of the season...

At 8 AM we are ready on the boat. "Transect A clockwise" is the survey we pick up randomly. The sea conditions just ideal. After 50 minutes of navigation: OUT!

A solitary fin appears 500 m from our boat and we (Marina, Marcel, Shiva and two volunteers: Olivier and Minia) are thrilled. As we approach the dolphin we have a strange feeling. It is small and dark, fast and swimming elegantly.

Everybody is thinking about what dolphin species it may be, but nobody wants to say a word before being sure... But yes - it is a small fin with a white patch! It is a short-beaked common dolphin!

This individual is a well known male nicknamed ‘Fiocco’, who has been visiting the Kalamos area since 1994, but has been absent over the last two years.

Wow! The first sighting of the season and we meet a common dolphin, now quite rare in this area (and elsewhere). We are literally frozen by the unexpected sighting, and it takes a while before we get fully organized for the data collection.

We look at him in silence, enjoying every seconds of this lucky and emotional event. Then we get back to the research: photo-identification and behavioural data collection.

It may sound ingenuous, but Fiocco gave us the innocent hope of seeing again all the 150 common dolphins that used to thrive in these waters, not too long ago.

Marina Costa, Marcel Clusa and Shiva Javdan

More information about the common dolphins situation around Kalamos