31 October 2009

Carl Safina on science and morality

Simply noticing and recording the disturbing trends of a degraded world is a virtue of science and all those practicing it. The process reveals a lot of information about the world around us. But information alone is not enough to mobilize action on the scale required to make that world a healthier and more desirable place for our children. A set of political relationships with this, that, or the other political party is not enough. Nor are relationships in the marketplace. Nor a broad appeal to beauty. In this video clip, the writer Carl Safina speaks about the kind of relationship he believes is required.


30 October 2009

Whale watching impact on humpback whales

Weinrich M., Corbelli C. 2009. Does whale watching in Southern New England impact humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) calf production or calf survival? Biological Conservation 142: 2931–2940.

There is growing concern about the effects of wildlife tourism on biologically important parameters in target species and/or populations. We tested whether whale watch vessel exposure affected either the calving rates or calf survival to age 2 in humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) on their feeding grounds off of southern New England, where individually identified whales have been studied intensively for decades and whale watch pressure is intense. Whale watch exposure did not correlate with either the calving rate (# of calves/# of years sighted) or calf production and survival of individual females, although a breakpoint analysis showed a slight negative trend up to 1649 min (or 20 boat interactions). In some comparisons, whales with more exposure were significantly more likely to produce calves and to have those calves survive. Logistic regressions including exposure and prey variables also failed to show negative effects of exposure in predicting calf productivity or survival. A limited comparison of calves seen only in an alternate habitat without whale watching showed similar return rates to those in the exposed area. Our data include limited suggestions that some animals (i.e., females alive when whale watching started) might be more susceptible to impacts than others. However, we found no direct evidence for negative effects of whale watch exposure, and suggest that short-term disturbance may not necessarily be indicative of more meaningful detrimental effects on either individuals or populations.

28 October 2009

Illegal driftnetting still a plague in the Mediterranean Sea

OCEANA recently presented a comprehensive and convincing proof on the continued use of illegal driftnets in the Mediterranean and demanded their complete elimination.

Oceana documented 92 Italian vessels in 2008 with driftnets on board, of which 80% had already been identified in previous years.

The European Court of Justice is expected to sentence Italy for the continued use of this illegal fishing gear.

Download the Oceana report on swordfish and driftnets in the Mediterranean (13.1 Mb)

Action brought on 10 June 2008 — Commission of the European Communities vs Italian Republic

Photo credit: Oceana / Juan Cuetos

26 October 2009

Humpback whales fighting

For the first time, a BBC natural history crew has filmed male humpback whales fighting to get mating access to a female.

Watch the video at:


23 October 2009

Ionian Dolphin Project: updated report 1991-2009

The Ionian Dolphin Project, a long-term research and conservation programme conducted by Tethys in the eastern Ionian Sea, has recently completed a report of the activities done in the context of its three study areas in Greece: Gulf of Amvrakikos, Gulf of Corinth and Inner Ionian Sea Archipelago.

The online version of the report can be viewed at the link below:


(also see pages of the Menu)



the links above have been updated since the web site was modified in August 2010.

18 October 2009

More than at risk

A new paper from the University of Adelaide and the Macquarie University, Australia, suggests that conservation biologists are making a big mistake.

They are setting too low the minimum number of individuals considered needed for a species to survive in the long term. This would underestimates the risk of extinction by not fully allowing for the dangers posed by the loss of genetic diversity.

The authors point out that, often, conservation biologists "aim to maintain tens or hundreds of individuals, when thousands are actually needed".

The article found that "populations smaller than about 5000 had unacceptably high extinction rates". According to the authors, this suggests that many targets for conservation recovery are simply too small to do much good in the long run.


Image from: http://susty.com/iucn-red-list-threatened-endangered-species/

Traill L.W., Brook B.W., Frankham R.R., Bradshaw C.J.A. 2009. Pragmatic population viability targets in a rapidly changing world. Biological Conservation. DOI: 10.1016/j.biocon.2009.09.001

Abstract: To ensure both long-term persistence and evolutionary potential, the required number of individuals in a population often greatly exceeds the targets proposed by conservation management. We critically review minimum population size requirements for species based on empirical and theoretical estimates made over the past few decades. This literature collectively shows that thousands (not hundreds) of individuals are required for a population to have an acceptable probability of riding-out environmental fluctuation and catastrophic events, and ensuring the continuation of evolutionary processes. The evidence is clear, yet conservation policy does not appear to reflect these findings, with pragmatic concerns on feasibility over-riding biological risk assessment. As such, we argue that conservation biology faces a dilemma akin to those working on the physical basis of climate change, where scientific recommendations on carbon emission reductions are compromised by policy makers. There is no obvious resolution other than a more explicit acceptance of the trade-offs implied when population viability requirements are ignored. We recommend that conservation planners include demographic and genetic thresholds in their assessments, and recognise implicit triage where these are not met.

For more information:

13 October 2009

Become Cheat Neutral :-)

A smart, brilliant, fun criticsm of carbon offsetting. Worth viewing!



For more information read Jennifer Jacquet's The Guilty Language of Offsets

12 October 2009

How many planets do I need?

A simple game to calculate our ecological footprint and carbon emissions. In other words, a way of finding out out how heavy is our lifestyle impact on the planet.



Personally, I thought that I was doing quite well, but it turns out that my living standards would require about 2.2 planets... obviously there is much more that I can and should do!

Try this game, and see if you can further reduce your impact on the environment.


11 October 2009

18th century log books help scientists chart climate change

Weather logs kept by Captain James Cook and other 18th and 19th century explorers are being used by scientists to predict the change in climate.

Read more at:

10 October 2009

Dolphins of Greece, 1-9 October

I loved this experience! Joan and Zsuzsanna were awesome. They were patient and increased my understanding of dolphins and the impact of overfishing. At the end of the project I had a much better understanding of how field research in marine biology is done. I now feel I can make better consumer choices on which fish to buy that are not a burden on the environment. I can also educate my friends and family on what I learned at the Dolphins of Greece expedition about overfishing, so they too can make wiser consumer choices. Overall this trip was very informative but most of all a lot of fun. I had a great time with the other volunteers on the boat, cooking, cropping and matching dolphin photos. I leave with great memories!

Maribeth, USA


Images of Vonitsa

Bright sun,
calm, glassy seas,

a juvenile leaps!
Then, rides the bow... Wow!

Learn to shout out
“dolphin out at 2 o’clock at 50 meters”
when all you can blurt,

“my god, that’s a dolphin...right there”

The castle lit at night,

laughter at the table,

constant teasing,

a lucky dog named Poseidon.

Mary Beth, my friend
Irina, a new friend.
Susanna, so pretty,
so sweet,
but, what a taskmaster!
Joan, a flirt with his wink,
passionate, stern and authoritative
(well, he tries).

Suzanne, USA


This is my third attempt to write in this diary... now I know why I never owned one! A Greek saying comes to mind “Ta polla logia ine ftohia...” meaning that saying to much defeats the purpose... or something like that! So... from the bottom of my heart I want to thank all of you, Joan, Susie, Suzanne, Maribeth and of course Posi and the dolphins for making this week one that i will cherish for the rest of my life! Learned a lot, laughed a lot, looked a lot, bounced a lot, guessed a lot (+/-100 meters!) and of course ate A LOT! Loved it all! Thank you guys.

Irina, Greece

09 October 2009

Bird cam films interaction between albatrosses and killer whales

Tiny cameras attached to the backs of four Antarctic albatrosses have revealed a clever feeding strategy: instead of randomly scanning the open ocean for prey, some birds appear to fly alongside killer whales and scavenge for scraps left by the mammalian predators.

Read more at:

08 October 2009

Whale mating

Isabella Rossellini explores the mating habits of whales :-)


07 October 2009

New hope for monk seals at Cabo Blanco

CBD-Habitat documented a monk seal birth in the Mediterranean colony located in the Cabo Blanco peninsula (Morocco/Mauritania), as reported yesterday to the MARMAM list.

On September 22nd, a newborn pup was observed in an open beach. There are no records of such an event in decades, in which seals were persecuted leading them to abandon open beaches and use exclusively marine caves to haul out and breed.

Acording to CBD-Habitat, one of the main set of actions of the Action Plan for the recovery of Mediterranean monk seal in the Eastern Atlantic developed by the governments of Spain, Portugal, Morocco and Mauritania was to “promote the occupation of beaches as breeding and resting habitat”.

During the last 9 years, and under these guidelines established by the Action Plan, the protection of breeding caves and vicinities by CBD-Habitat project has been intense reducing to a minimum disturbances caused by goose barnacle pickers, fishermen as well as the threat of illegal setting of artisan fishing gears in the area.

After years of continuous efforts, monk seals have began to progressively re-colonize open beaches of the protected area for hauling out. The final step, the use of open beaches as breeding habitat is the event that took place in September, perhaps the beginning of a new conservation path for this colony.

The pup is a female and is in good shape condition. The birth took place in a beach located a few hundreds of meters south of one of the main breeding caves.

This fact joins the progressive recovery of the population, which in 1998 was estimated to have a size of around 100 individuals and that today is almost reaching 200. Although the situation is still critical, these last events bring hope for the future of this population and the species.

Message sent to the MARMAM list by Pablo Fernandez de Larrinoa
Programa de conservación de la foca monje en Cabo Blanco
Fundación CBD-Habitat, Madrid, Spain

Photo by CBD-Habitat

03 October 2009


Innovation comes from saying no to 1000 things to make sure we don't get on the wrong track or try to do too much.

-- Steve Jobs

02 October 2009

Gulf of Corinth: the 2009 research season ends

The Ionian Dolphin Project in the Gulf of Corinth has recently concluded its first research season, with a total of 58 dolphin sightings.

We are happy about the work done in 2009, and we would like to thank all the 66 volunteers who participated in the Delphi’s Dolphins field courses and helped us with the research.

Participants in our dolphin research programme came from 18 different countries: Australia, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, China, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Lithuania, The Netherlands, Russia, UK, and USA.

A big THANK YOU to our volunteers:
Gunda, William, Ramona, Dagmar, Hermann, Clara, Tony, Peter, Jacqueline, Luke, Aimee, Dipti, Agnes, Julia, Eddie, Hilary, Juliette, Zuzana, Emilie, Rebecca, Emilie, Neysa, Emma, Susan, Elektra, Cate, Katherine, Sara, Heather, Catherine, Delphine, Ana, Julja, Jenny, Rebecca, Russell, Hannah, Amie, Kelly, Petra, Felicity, Christian, Roberta, Nadine, Jacqueline, Julia, Grace, Odile, Alice, Gaelle, Catherine, Yvette, Anthony, Elisabetta, Paul, Helen, Jade, Dora, Orsolya, Victoria, Levanna, Ellie, Alyssa, Tracy, Joanne, and Esther (*).

The IDP staff 2009:
Silvia, Stefano,
Joan, Susie, Aina, Tilen, Giovanni

(*): in order of participation