30 September 2009
This was truly the experience of a lifetime. I was the lucky winner of a drawing at my company, Petro-Diamond, for an Earthwatch expedition. I chose “The Dolphins of Greece” for a few reasons, the first was... I wanted to see Greece. I did not see myself coming to Greece on a vacation, so I wanted to take the opportunity to visit this beautiful land. The second reason was because I have always found dolphins to be interesting, more interesting than the other creatures of the sea, almost like they have a kinship with humans somehow. I have been forever changed in my appreciation for these beautiful animals. Joan and Aina were so patient with the team the first day at sea out of Vonitsa, we were a bit overwhelmed with the number of dolphins all around us. It was such a wonderful sight!! Dolphins everywhere... literally everywhere that you looked. It was difficult to stay focused on the project at hand and not be in awe of what was in front of you. Once we were back at the house, we began the cropping, grouping and matching... so many differences in a dorsal fin, who knew? Well, I know now.
I will forever view the sea differently and have a deep appreciation for sealife and especially the beautiful dolphins. The meals together were a highlight, planning and prepareing and cleaning up after them, all of it was a delight. I would like to thank Joan and Aina for the hospitality that they showed us during our stay (Posi was a great addition to the group considering I miss my dogs that are at home in Cali). Joan was truly entertaining (funny and straight-up... love that) and a good sport to host us for most of our expedition without an assistant. Also, thank you to Earthwatch for giving me the opportunity to have this experience. Lastly, thank you to my team... I truly felt that we worked well as a group in the boat and back at the house! Thank goodness that we had playing cards, and David to teach us every game known to man!!
This morning we woke up ready to make the most of our last day at sea, and after poor weather kept us moored in the house for two days prior, we were ready for it. As the boat shuttled out past the marina this morning, we headed toward the open gulf in search of dolphins, one last sighting, one last day to help with the conservation efforts of Tethys Institute and our research leader, Joan Gonzalvo. I looked down at the water beside me, to the left side of the rubber inflated boat. The clarity of the water became more opaque as we headed further out, but was still translucent enough to allow sightings of dolphins bowriding, a ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ scenario that I was lucky enough to witness on our most recent sighting. It wouldn’t occur today, but I kept my eyes peeled, in case. I also kept an eye further out, where the sea appeared as a dark teal that deepened in color as the depth of the water increased. Ahead of the bow, the dark water wrinkled just enough for small waves to sift up and back into the water again, hosting small spots of sunlight that sparkled like diamonds laid upon a velvet cloth. The sun beckoned freckles forth from the pale skin of my nose and I basked in the warmth, as I kept my eyes trained on the water. ‘Just one’, I thought, ‘we just need one sighting and the rest will follow’. Finally, Joan shouted out, ‘One o’clock! Far out!’ And the boat throttled faster toward the direction of his outstrectched hand. We continually thereafter spotted a small group, maybe between four and six dolphins. By now, we had been through the routine of spotting and counting these animals, but the sightings were just as awe-inspiring, watching sleek slate grey beasts rise and fall soundlessly out of the iron sea.
Toward the end of the day, I glanced over my shoulder at our boat’s stern – the water beyond us had taken on an icy blue appearance that seemed as flat as glass below the mountains of the region, giant monoliths that faded into the mist like shadows. I shook myself from the mesmerizing sight. Someone had spotted our guy, one single solitary dolphin traveling alone, with no telltale marks yet, but the ability to capture our hearts. I snapped several photos with my personal camera, unable to tell from the glare whether it was a good shot or not. Luckily I did end up with one good shot of the cetacean emerging from the sea – one single solitary shot - but a million memories will linger in my mind. From trying out my greetings in Greek with the locals to snapping photos of the grapes hanging off their trellises; avoiding jelly fish at the beach with purple centers that remind me of brains; traveling to Lefkada and Poros for day trips; cooking together and sharing meals; this has been a well thought out and wonderful trip. On this eighth day, I didn’t spot any sea turtles, but rumor has it, they’re around. When end of the work day was near, we witnessed a pelican to the far right by a small rust colored island covered with a dusting of nubby logan green bushes. This was a nice bonus. Finally we turned the boat south and headed back to Vonitsa, tired and mentally fatigued, but content. By now, we’d witnessed mothers and their calves, groups of dolphins feeding and leaping, often swimming so close together in small groups of two or three that from a distance they almost appeared to be the same animal. From time to time members of our team glanced at each other, exchanging smiles, watching the dolphins living peacefully and seemingly unperturbed, with no need to put on a show for us - this was the real thing. It was something only we knew.
I’ll never forget this experience, these people and the wonderful Greek people of Vonitsa. Joan, you were right – and every mishap that happened to me along the way was worth it. I’ll second the opinion of past volunteers- the videos impacted me tremendously and I’ve already begun to share the Whaletrackers links with friends and family. To Earthwatch, Tethys, and my teammates: Thanks for everything. One of my favorite responsibilities was jumping from the boat to shore with the ropes. Thanks for letting me. PS –I had the best seat in the house at the bow of the boat!
29 September 2009
In the coming issue of Nature researchers propose critical planetary boundaries that should not be transgressed.
Learn more at:
28 September 2009
As the last day of the expedition comes to an end, I am able to reflect on all the information I have learned and gathered from watching the documentaries, presentations, and dolphin sightings this past week. Although I have some previous knowledge about overfishing and dolphins, coming on the project has reminded me how naive the rest of the world actually is and the need to spread more conservation awareness. Perhaps people just need more hands on experience to realize the danger humans pose to wildlife and the need to help them. Thanks to Joan and Aina for being patient with us and for helping us learn more about dolphins while having fun with us. Maybe, one day, we will randomly meet again somewhere, whether it is the water or in another country! Organizations like Earthwatch give us a wonderful eye-opening experience and hopefully, more people will be able to join projects like this one. Thanks!
The last day has arrived and we are getting ready to depart. The Dolphins of Greece expedition has met all my expectations and more! The sightings of the dolphins were spectacular and Joan and Aina were great teachers. Their strongest aspect was showing their enthusiasm and dedication to the research and imparting their knowledge on us. What I will take out of this experience is the education. The videos had such an impact; they bring the criticality of the environmental aspects and the impact of the choices we make. Understanding the critical linkages to the environment and the future of all marine mammals and fish were eye opening. I know that my personal choices will be reinforced. I will also search out for opportunities to help others bridge that knowledge to bring about change, which will be my ultimate challenge. Thank you again for the great experience. The only thing I would change is altering my approach to my turn at cooking. Fine restaurants or doing all the dishes for the week would be great incentives and a lot more pleasurable for everyone. Thanks!
This having been my first environmental expedition and first time to Greece, there was a lot to take in and experience. Outside of the opportunity this provided to observe the unique characteristics of Greek and Spanish... sorry, “Catalan” cultures, I came away with a deeper insight and greater appreciation for the men and women that dedicate their lives to bring about environmental awareness and global change. Not to mention further fuelling my desire to remain involved in conservation endeavors, while exploring the rest of the globe.
27 September 2009
Conservation implications should guide the application of conservation genetics research
by Briar J. Howes, Richard Pither and Kent A. Prior
ABSTRACT: Genetics research can reveal important insights into the effective management of species at risk, yet research does not often translate into meaningful management outcomes. Before engaging in genetics research, conservation practitioners should carefully consider the resulting management outcomes by identifying the potential results of the proposed research, the conservation implications of the results, whether these implications call for a change in management practices, and whether such a change is possible. We provide a decision key to aid practitioners in evaluating the merit of a particular genetics research question, and we demonstrate the use of this key with 2 example research questions.
Full text in pdf format:
26 September 2009
I can honestly say that my time working with Tethys has been a truly great experience. Many thanks to Stefano and Susie for their hospitality, and the knowledge and experience that they have shared with us.We were very lucky to observe both striped and bottlenose dolphins. I felt honoured to have observed these magnificent creatures, and proud to be part of a team collecting research data. The lectures provided by Susie and Stefano have made me realise how fragile the ecosystem is and the impact of overfishing on cetaceans and the world. I shall pass this knowledge onto my friends and family and now make educated choices about only eating fish caught from sustainable sources. I hope that the data I collected for Tethys was useful and I really do hope to return again. Many thanks to Tracy and Esti who were a pleasure to live and work with, and I do hope we will keep in touch! Again, thank you to Stefano and Susie and all the Tethys staff and volunteers, it is valuable and wonderful job that you do.
Stefano and Susie are teaching me step-by-step how to survey the dolphins, record the data and learn more about their lives and the marine environment. Today, our second day at sea, we were thrilled to see 5 dolphins near the fish farm. 3 adults and 2 calves dived around for about an hour. They were hard to spot because the adults kept their distance from our boat to protect their calves. Esti has delighted us with delishes Israeli meals and a new kitten keeps us occupied during the cafe breaks. Today, we also took a long walk through town after lunch and took many, many photos of the beautiful homes and landmarks of Galaxidi. Tomorrow, I'll brave the waters for a swim!
We had a great day at sea today. We ventured a little further out of Galaxidi and spotted the elusive striped dolphins in choppy conditions. 'Out at 3!', 'Out at 11!', 'Out at 6!'...they were all around us in a group of about 15 adults. We spent about an hour gathering data, taking photos, and observing their behavior as they swam under our boat and by our side. It's quite an adrenaline rush when they're so close and playful. When we spot the dolphins that early in the morning, we know it's going to be the start of a very good day! In the afternoon, Esti, Joanne and I took a bus ride to Delphi. Unfortunately most of the site was closed due to falling rocks from the mountains above (safety hazard), but we still enjoyed the site, the town and the view of the valley below. For dinner, Stefano made his famous pizzas-both vegetarian and meat-lovers style. I'm sure we'll all sleep well tonight! Thank you for delighting us once again with such a lovely supper.
Today, the weather was good, the winds were low and we had smoother waters for seeing the dolphins. It took a little longer to find them, but Stefano decided to swing by the fish farm one more time. There, Joanne and I both spotted something dark floating on the surface of the water. We were afraid it was a dolphin carcass, but it turned out to be a large sea turtle! We tried to turn around to take a photo, but it took one look up before going down for a deep dive. We didn't see it again. One more species to add to our sightings: common dolphins, striped dolphins, jellyfish, and now sea turtles. All we need is a whale sighting to really make our day! Directly in front of the fish farm Susie spotted on dolphin circling around for food. It turned out to be a familiar friend...Nemo. Susie told us that he tends to swim alone and that this is an odd behavior for a dolphin. It is a sign that something's not quite right with Nemo, he should be interacting with his peer group. We stayed with Nemo for about an hour before heading back to the pier, but not before stopping in shallower waters for a refreshing swim. I jumped in right along with Esti and Susie. It was the perfect end to another great morning of data collection. Tonight, we celebrated our successful day with a dinner at one of the local restaurants by the pier. We all enjoyed a traditional Greek menu: souvlaki, feta, fried potatoes, beetroot salad, tzatziki, and so much more. The local business owners are so kind and accomodating. It's been a real pleasure getting to know all the familiar faces in town.
Today is my last full day of the program. It's been an amazing experience and I've learned so much about the dolphins, the fishing industry, and life in Galaxidi. This is a trip I will carry with me forever. I hope to come back some day and see the that the dolphin populations are thriving. Thank you to the entire Tethys team for making my time in Greece so enjoyable.
21 September 2009
Tethys Blog readers and Facebook fans do not like dolphins in captivity.
A total of 51 persons participated in our first poll, which simply asked "Dolphins in captivity?". The poll stayed open for ten days and then closed.
48 persons (94%) said "No, thanks." Two (3%) said "It depends." One (1%) said "Yes, please." Nobody answered "No idea."
Click on the graph to enlarge.
20 September 2009
I didn’t know what to expect when I decided to volunteer for the Dolphin Conservation Program in Galaxidi, but I can truly say the experience has been life changing. I doubt I could have received an education like this anywhere else.
From the start, Stefano and Susie made us feel at home, and from our first dinner together, I felt like I had known them for a long time. We were a small group of three volunteers, Ellie from Belgium, Levanna from Indonesia and myself. Not only did we get along well, but also we were an extremely lucky group!
On our first day, the sea was a little rough and we stayed relatively close to shore. We spotted our first dolphin near a fish farm. It was a beautiful bottlenose dolphin. It was exciting to see a dolphin up close in the wild! However, this was nothing compared to the rest of the week.
The next day, the weather cooperated and we were able to travel much further out. After quite a while on the zodiac, I was getting a little tired, but then out of nowhere, we spotted a fin! Then another fin! Then before you knew it, we were surrounded by 16-20 striped dolphins. We were so lucky because this was only Susie’s second sighting of striped dolphins here on this project, and we saw them on our second day. We monitored their behavior for quite some time and saw them jumping, socialising and percussing. I had no idea what percussive behavior was before this. Truthfully, I knew pretty much nothing about the various dolphin species. I had read some of the technical papers prior to arriving, but didn’t retain much. I find that true learning happens when you experience something first hand, especially when you have so much fun doing it! When we returned to the field office, we learned about cropping photos, photo identification and database creation. I enjoyed contributing by helping out with the cropping.
The next day, we travelled for several hours, and traversed the gulf towards the other side. As hard as we tried, we were not able to spot any dolphins. I was very happy when we stopped off for a coffee in Itea. Did I ever need a coffee that day!! I never thought it would be a workout sitting on a boat, but yes it was.
Then on Thursday, we had the best day! The water was like oil, and we made it a long way out from Galaxidi. Again we had a sighting of striped dolphins! There were even juveniles in this group. Susie asked us to count them, but it was so difficult to get an accurate number because there were so many! We got a beautiful view of them when they were riding the bow of the boat. The water was crystal clear and you could see their sleek bodies shining in the sun. Some of the photos look like they were taken underwater because the surface was so calm. It was great. Later on in the field office, we started the process of photo identification, and it appears that we found some dolphins that were not in the database. Very good news indeed!
Our jubilation that day became muted after watching the documentary ‘The End of the Line’. I had no idea that fish supplies worldwide had become so depleted. I did not know that blue fin tuna and swordfish were endangered. I did not know that at salmon fish farms, approximately 5 kg of fish are required as food for each kg of salmon produced by the farm. I have been eating a lot of fish for health reasons, and because it is one of my favourite foods, but I did not know that my actions were supporting an industry whose practices have become so unsustainable. It never occurred to me that in my lifetime, it is possible that world fish supplies will become depleted and the oceans will be forever changed. What kind of a world would that be? It would be absolutely devastating, and from that moment forward, I decided to reduce my fish consumption and to make every effort to consume fish from sustainable sources.
I have always loved the sea and have been exploring it recreationally through snorkelling and scuba diving. However, my interest in the sea now exceeds far beyond its beauty. This is only the beginning of my education as I will actively seek to learn more about conservation and to spread the word about how we can change the collision course we are on.
I had a blast enjoying everything that Galaxidi has to offer. I went swimming almost every day, enjoyed the taverns by the water, and more than anything else, I really enjoyed the company. Many thanks to my fellow volunteers and to Susie and Stefano. And of course, anyone else who comes here needs to know one thing – Stefano is always right because he is Italian!
19 September 2009
This definitely has been an eye opening experience for me, and is one of the best thing that I’ve experienced in my life. I learnt so much over the course of one week, got to know four of the nicest people (Stefano, Susie, Alyssa and Ellie). I guess that would sum up everything ;) The dolphin sightings were simply magical... I’ve never seen them up close in their natural habitat and they are the most beautiful creatures that I’ve ever seen. On the fourth day, we had the best weather for a sighting, and when Stefano told us that this kind of ‘perfect’ sightings only happened twice this season, I felt that we’ve just won a lottery! I learnt so much, not just about dolphins, but the big picture of the ocean, the overfishing, current state, etc. I will definitely pass on this awareness to as many people that I can, and hopefully can make a small but significant contribution to improve our ocean. Many thanks to Stefano, Susie, Alyssa and Ellie! Terima kasih! Sampai jumpa!
17 September 2009
A case of whales recovering, instead of declining, is so unusual these days that the article below made me smile.
Sperm whales in the Azores seem to be doing weel, and they are recovering from whaling based on recent genetic analyses.
Population genetics and social organization of the sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus) in the Azores inferred by microsatellite analyses
A. M. Pinela, S. Quérouil, S. Magalhães, M. A. Silva, R. Prieto, J. A. Matos, and R. S. Santos
Canadian Journal of Zoology 87(9): 802–813 (2009)
In the northeast Atlantic Ocean, the archipelago of the Azores is frequented by female–offspring groups of sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus L., 1758), as well as large males. The Azores apparently constitute both a feeding ground and a reproduction site. Little is known about the population and group structure of sperm whales in the area. We analysed 151 sloughed skin and biopsy samples collected from 2002 to 2004. Molecular analyses involved genetic tagging using 11 microsatellite loci and molecular sexing. Our objectives were to determine the population genetic structure, compare relatedness within and between social groups, infer kinship, and estimate the age of males at dispersal. Results suggest that individuals visiting the archipelago of the Azores belong to a single population. High genetic diversity and absence of inbreeding suggest that the population is recovering from whaling. Individuals sampled in close association are highly related, as well as those observed in the same area on the same day, suggesting that secondary social groups (i.e., the union of primary social units) are largely but not exclusively composed of relatives. Probable mother–offspring and full-sibling pairs were identified. Age of males at dispersal was estimated at 16.6 years, which was well above previous estimates for this species.
13 September 2009
We came here to see dolphins and do field work with the researchers, but the experience was far more than this. The bottlenose dolphins were extremely amazing when they were *socializing* and playing with jellyfish and with each other... and so was the turtle chasing the jellyfish... all these things just let us think that we have to protect our environment. Thanks for the delicious foods, especially the pizza and the pita, hmmmmmmmm. These 5 days were really short, even if we got up at 6.45, but we want to thank you thank you thank you Susie and Stefano for the work and the experience!
Orsi and Dòri, Hungary
This trip was really cool! On our first day we got to see dolphins and sea turtles! The dolphins were amazing to watch and I really felt good when they were swimming close to the boat! It was also fun riding in the boat even when we weren't with dolphins. I have also enjoyed the Greek experience and will definitely come to Greece again in the future. The early mornings are hard but the rewards are huge and I would like to thank Susie and Stefano for being helpful and friendly. It has been a pleasure to work with them both!
I’d never seen dolphins before in their natural habitat and I can’t quite believe that now I have! Seeing a group of them on the first day was amazing and not only that but seeing two sea turtles as well was brilliant! Thank you so much Stefano and Susie for all the lectures and information you gave us as these really helped me understand exactly why this research is important and it also made me realise what I can do to help as well. I’ve really enjoyed experiencing all of the Greek culture as well, such as the pittas. Swimming in the sea everyday has also been great as I was able to sea all the fish and sea urchins when I went snorkelling. Touching the jellyfish has also been a personal highlight! I hope I’ve been helpful with the data collection and it’s really been a pleasure to work with you!
12 September 2009
Pira is a male bottlenose dolphin who has been seen regularly around the island of Kalamos, Greece, for 15 consecutive years. He has been there since 1993 and is considered one of the most resident dolphins.
In April 2009 we spotted him in the Bay of Itea, Gulf of Corinth, where Tethys has recently started a new reserch project. To get there, Pira had travelled approximately 170 km.
After April, we did not manage to find Pira again despite extensive surveys in the central Gulf of Corinth. We started making jokes such as ‘Maybe Pira came here on holidays and now he is back in Kalamos’. Well... he was! In July and September he was seen again around Kalamos together with his old bottlenose dolphin friends. He had made a 170 km round trip along the Ionian coast of Greece.
10 September 2009
A few days ago, two V.I.D. (Very Important Dolphins) were encountered around the island Kalamos: Pira and Spiti, both bottlenose dolphins, seen together in a group of 11 individuals.
In 2006 Pira, a male, had a piece of yellow fishing net stuck in his blowhole, but by July 2009 he had managed to extrude the net from the blowhole. During the September sighting, Pira went to bowride in front of our research boat and Joan Gonzalvo took some nice photos of the blowhole, confirming that the net went away without causing any visible problem.
Spiti is the most popular dolphin among volunteers who had a chance to see this dolphins around Kalamos, thanks to his distinctive non-fin. Spiti's dorsal fin has been cut-off (possibly by a longline or a boat propeller) in 2003. Despite the dramatic amputation, Spiti recovered well and pigmentation went back to the original dark grey color.
Top photo: Pira bowriding our research boat
Bottom photo: Spiti with his missing dorsal fin
They took all the trees and put them in a tree museum
And then they charged the people a dollar and a half just to see them
Don't it always seem to go
You don't know what you've got till it's gone
They paved paradise and put up a parking lot
Hey farmer, farmer, put away that DDT now
Give me spots on my apples but leave me the birds and the bees, please
Don't it always seem to go
You don't know what you've got till it's gone
They paved paradise and put up a parking lot
-- Big Yellow Taxi (1970)
Text and music by Joni Mitchell:
or if you prefer the Counting Crows version:
09 September 2009
Everyone comes here for different reasons and with different expectations. I came on short notice, with little fanfare or personal preparation, but with the expectation that I have been given a rare opportunity to contribute to something greater than myself, and I leave hoping that I have not let anyone down. Seeing dolphins in their natural habitat, assisting with the research, learning and understanding more the impact of our seafood consumption and consumerism globally can be very eye opening, and challenging. This is the type of experience that has the potential to change your life, in little and in big ways. We were a small team, two volunteers and two researchers, I want to say that Joan and Aina were very patient with us, and worked very hard to ensure that the two of us had a memorable experience from start to finish. They both took good nature jokes made by me and my volunteer partner and laughed through many meals while maintaining the position of leader/teacher and kept us focused and on track to make our contribution to this fabulous research project.
Learning about the environmental challenges of the Amvrakikos Gulf has been an educational experience. Learning about dolphins has been not just educational, but exciting! While I am not a scientist and have limited skills, it is a good feeling to be able to contribute to scientific research in some small way and to help prepare a conservation management plan for these precious resources. Joan and Aina are very dedicated, knowledgeable, patient and kind. They made my time here a rewarding experience and had endless patience with my fumbling ways and many questions. They are both good instructors and committed biologists and understand how to motivate volunteers. Their good nature and sense of humour led to many good times together. They also enhanced our exploration of the areas tourists by giving us good suggestions of food, tavernas and local places to visit. The dolphin project can open one’s eyes in many ways and I hope many others have an experience as fulfilling as mine. Thank you Joan, Aina, Earthwatch and partner Marsha for a terrific experience.
There once was a man named Joan,
Who rose when still the dew on,
‘Cause dolphins he chased,
Round the sea in a race,
As intently his gum he chewed on.
The once was a girl named Aina,
As pretty as Princess Diana,
She worked like a slave,
Till she fell in her grave,
‘Cause dolphins to her were not a minor.
The team sails out at sunrise,
Half awake and with so blurry eyes,
On a search far and near,
For sea creatures so dear,
And we chary a hope for a prize.
The sun it beats down very hot,
The boat heaves and flops quite a lot,
We can hardly hold on,
We cringe and we moan,
But they push us until we drop.
Our captain he yells and he screams,
As we think of wine and ice cream,
“Look one to three,
And not at your knee,
You’ve missed 20 dolphins I’ve seen!”
“Sit down, stand up”, he commands,
“look here, look there, all around.
Don’t pull any stunts,
Do it all, all at once,
And don’t behave like a clown”.
Six dolphins, they jump at seven,
And six more, they dive at eleven,
Their fins have some nicks,
As if beaten by sticks,
I know we will see them in heaven.
They demand reliable data,
Like how and when did he mate her?
How long was the dive?
Their calves, four or five?
Is his fin like a flattened potato?
Our lovely assistant is cool,
She knows and obeys every rule.
She ties all the ropes
And tugs all the floats,
And ensures that we are not fools.
We drag our butts home all hot,
We yearn to escape the despot,
“Oh no, onward team!
There’s more in our scheme,
For now we must dot and crop!”
Oh Tursiops truncatus so dear,
For you we will give many years,
And sacrifice all,
To answer the call
When Joan and Aina want us near.
-- Glenda Booth
08 September 2009
This beautiful colony of Salpa maxima, a tunicate, was found in the Gulf of Corinth on a bottom approximately 800 m deep.
Click on photo to enlarge.
Photo by Zsuzsanna Pereszlényi / Tethys Research Institute
06 September 2009
... don't eat fish... don't eat fish... don't eat us... don't eat me...
A simple but effective short video made to promote Jennifer Jacquet's Guilty Planet Blog:
04 September 2009
A large fleet of illegal driftnets deploying nets up to 14 km in length continues to operate business as usual in Morocco, targeting swordfish for the European market.
According to WWF, this illegal fishing is likely to have caused the accidental deaths of as many as 20,000 dolphins and more than 100,000 sharks in the past five years alone.
Fisheries experts from WWF recently visited Morocco where they were told by driftnet fishermen that no changes in the fishing activity of this illegal fleet had occurred in the past few years – despite international prohibitions.
For more information:
Bearzi G. 2009. When swordfish conservation biologists eat swordfish. Conservation Biology 23(1):1-2. (84 Kb)
02 September 2009
The web site section of the Ionian Dolphin Project has been updated to include work conducted until July 2009.
Check it out!
The Ionian Dolphin Project is a long-term research and conservation programme conducted by the Tethys Research Institute in the Ionian Sea.
In 1991 the Tethys Research Institute started a study around the island of Kalamos, in the Inner Ionian Sea Archipelago (a Natura 2000 area). Initially meant to be a long-term investigation on the ecology and behaviour of common dolphins in a central Mediterranean hotspot, the study documented their sharp decline. Common dolphins declined dramatically from about 150 to 15 animals between 1995 and 2007. Actions by Tethys aim to facilitate their recovery. Bottlenose dolphins are found in the same area in relatively small numbers, but have stable trends and were studied intensively over the past decade. Ongoing monitoring allows to detect changes in population status and propose timely management measures.
In 2001 Tethys started a study in the Amvrakikos Gulf, where bottlenose dolphins are the only cetacean species encountered. This study showed that about 150 dolphins live in the Gulf. These dolphins are members of a resident community showing unique behaviour and ecology. The Gulf - which is part of a larger National Park - is also inhabited by loggerhead sea turtles Caretta caretta and has a rich bird fauna including rare species. Research carried out by Tethys is documenting how the local dolphin community interacts with its environment and how human activities - particularly fishing and pollution - may influence its conservation status.
In 2009 Tethys started a new study in the Gulf of Corinth to investigate the ecology and status of three cetacean species: bottlenose dolphins, striped dolphins and short-beaked common dolphins. Although the number of striped dolphins living in the Gulf is still unknown, concerns over their status are raised by their likely small population size, high degree of geographic isolation, reproductive closeness and limited extent of occurrence. Striped dolphins in the Gulf are often associated with a few common dolphins and inbreeding between the two species may occur. Bottlenose dolphins also live in the Gulf at low densities.
Research by Tethys is providing support to management efforts in the eastern Ionian Sea, through actions including:
- continued monitoring of dolphin groups through field research methods including boat surveys and individual photo-identification, to detect population trends, identify critical habitat, and gain further insight into ways of mitigating the present threats;
- research on factors threatening the local ecosystem, particularly with regard to the impact of fishing;
- public awareness initiatives (e.g. involvement of a large number of volunteers, “Dolphin Days” and other events organized locally, public presentations, lectures at local schools, video productions);
- contacts and meetings with the local Authorities and fishermen organisations, aimed to a) raise awareness on the need to establish measures to protect dolphins and implement the existing regulations (e.g. with regard to illegal fishing activities); and b) identify ways to compensate any losses for fishermen or promote a progressive re-conversion of their activities;
- dissemination of information in the scientific literature and provision of sound data and management proposals to international agreements and bodies concerned with the protection of marine biodiversity.
01 September 2009
A problem with a knee has forced me to abandon almost completely the work at sea, to the point that over the last six months spent at our field station in Galaxidi, on the northern shore of the Gulf of Corinth, I've had no chances of meeting my study subject - dolphins - at sea.
While in Greece, I have been devoting most of my time to computer work and have enjoyed very much the return of my collaborators from their daily dolphin surveys, with all their lively stories and hundreds of photos or videos to download. This made me feel quite close to the animals even if I was actually not seeing them.
After many years spent observing dolphins from boats, I can now survive not watching them every day. And yet, it is sometimes sad to look at the calm sea from the coast and not being out on the inflatable.
Today, however, conditions were ideal for a survey: no volunteers around and three of my colleagues (Stefano, Zsuzsanna ad Silvia) ready to take the sea. For a change, I decided to join them, with a commitment to remain seated.
We were blessed by an unusually calm sea. In about six hours of navigation we surveyed a large portion of the study area and found striped and common dolphins that immediatly came to bowride (see photo), although our boat was moving very slowly.
We saw lots of beautiful Cotylorhiza jellyfish, as well as tunicate colonies and individuals (I touched a transparent Salpa for the first time). We sighted a fish school jumping to avoid a predator, spotted what looked like the pectoral and caudal fins of a billfish or a shark, photographed the flight of a shearwater, and enjoyed the deep blue waters of the Gulf, over which every object or animal looked intersting and worth of our attention. We inspected some fish farms far away and recorded their position. Then, we discussed and questioned our research protocols, perhaps for the thousandth time.
Overall, it was a pleasant experience that reminded me of how incredibly lucky we are to be doing this work of dolphin researchers - whether we actually spend a lot of time with the animals or we study them through a computer monitor.
As I sit and think of how to share my experiences of the past week, I find myself a little speechless. Then reading the other entries from days and years past – I find that I am in good company feeling as if their time with the dolphins has been unforgettable! I was worried when I booked the trip ... I am not a scientist, what if I screw up their research (I think I broke that pesky handheld computer)? Who knew that my biggest problem would be trying to type an English entry from an Italian keyboard! This past week has been a marvelous experience and I believe all of the thanks belong to three people – Marina, the crazy Italian who has an unhealthy fascination about jellyfish and wanting to live under the sea (I will return to work singing that song), Susie, a wonderful research assistant who cannot sit still if you paid her (and I think you should pay her by the way :) and Marcello, an Italian with a Scottish brough (who knew that could happen) – and just a few cetaceans (look I learned a new word) that were simply amazing! And when I mean just a few, I mean a “focal group size” between 8 and 20 with adults, calves and a few newborns. I am going to go home wondering and dreaming – which is smarter, bottlenose or common, are we positive or negative – when can I stop looking at my feet now? which is cooler, boat riding or jumping (sorry – aerial behavior) dolphins? I have my answers and I hope the volunteers after me have all the opportunities I had to come to their own conclusions. I may just be back next year to confirm my answers.