30 April 2013

Love After Love

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other's welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

-- Derek Walcott (born 1930)

(Photo by G. Bearzi, Northern Evoikos Gulf, Greece, October 2010)

28 April 2013

Artisanal fisherman in Italy - 1

MPA of Sinis Peninsula, Sardinia, Italy, February 2011 (photo S. Bonizzoni)

This fisherman shows what a bottlenose dolphin did to his gillnets to take away a cuttlefish.

27 April 2013

They paved paradise...

I wrote 'Big Yellow Taxi' on my first trip to Hawaii. I took a taxi to the hotel and when I woke up the next morning, I threw back the curtains and saw these beautiful green mountains in the distance. Then, I looked down and there was a parking lot as far as the eye could see, and it broke my heart... this blight on paradise. That's when I sat down and wrote the song.

-- Joni Mitchell (in the early 1970s)

26 April 2013

Artisanal fisherman in Greece - 8

Argolikos Gulf, Greece, June 2012 (photo S. Bonizzoni)

This fisherman complained about damage to his trammel nets caused by bottlenose dolphins and sea turtles.

Acoustic deterrent devices ("pingers") are sometimes used to scare dolphins away from the nets and prevent depredation. However, most of the interviewed fishermen reported that besides being expensive pingers only work for some time, but they soon become useless or end up attracting dolphins. In other words, sooner or later the dolphins habituate or adapt to noise and acoustic devices may turn into "dinner bells".

24 April 2013

Not everybody can be beautiful

Not everybody can be beautiful, but among dolphins an unusual rostrum is no reason to be sad. This striped dolphin with a malformed beak seemed to be doing fine, bowriding a lot, actively socializing with other group members, and jumping as shown in this photo.

(Photo by S. Bonizzoni, Gulf of Corinth, Greece)

23 April 2013

Chris Jordan: turning powerful statistics into art

Artist and photographer Chris Jordan portrays our culture through supersized images that capture almost unimaginable statistics.

Jordan's work shows the power and potential of art in telling stories that are unlikely to be thoroughly understood – or to make a difference – as long as they are only told by science journals. Science is good, but more than science is needed for reaching out to meaningfully large audiences. Such endeavour takes imagination and creativity, as well as someone able to convey the message in a passionate way.

See how passionate and creative Jordan can be in the 11-min presentation that can be watched HERE.

22 April 2013

Planet Ocean

An absolutely stunning new documentary film directed by the author of HOME, Yann Arthus-Bertrand, together with Michael Pitiot.


NGOs or schools that wish to organize a free screening of the film Planet Ocean can contact the GoodPlanet Foundation: anne.lelay@goodplanet.org

21 April 2013

Artisanal fisherman in Greece - 6

Argolikos Gulf, Greece, June 2012 (photo G. Bearzi)

This artisanal fisherman told Silvia that in the past bottlenose dolphins used to be transient, but because of fish farm development in recent years they have become more resident. Dolphins now feed around the fish farm cages most of the time, and they cause more damage to trammel nets.

While this man had a broken wrist, he had no choice but keep fishing with his small wooden boat. He blamed the marked decline of fish on industrial fishing by large purse seiners and trawlers.

20 April 2013

Artisanal fisherman in Greece - 5

Argolikos Gulf, Greece, June 2012 (photo G. Bearzi)

This fisherman, age 43, reported that fisheries catches have decreased dramatically as a consequence of overfishing. In addition, due to the Greek economic crisis, many people who formerly had another job resorted to fishing to feed their families. He called for increased monitoring and implementation of the existing laws as a solution to solve the problem of overfishing, which negatively affects him and his colleagues.

19 April 2013

Plastic beach

On a beach on Midway Atoll* (or anywhere else)

Watch the short (2:26) video HERE.

* Midway is right in the middle of the North Pacific Ocean.

18 April 2013

Daniel Pauly on shifting baselines

In this 9-min presentation, fisheries scientist Daniel Pauly tries to explain the concept of shifting baselines he first described in 1995.

With his trademark humor, Pauly describes how each time a baseline drops we call it the new "normal". By doing so, we lose sight of how rich the marine environment really used to be.

Additionally, Pauly points out that some present-day scientists are likely to dismiss anecdotal information from the past, because they don't see it as "scientific" according to their present-day standards. Memory of the past is thus progressively lost, to the point that in the end what we aim to preserve and sustain is – in Pauly's words – "miserable leftovers": the remnant icons of a profoundly depleted marine biodiversity.

Watch his presentation HERE. Please note that his name is Pauly, not Pauley (!).

17 April 2013

Coastal bottlenose dolphins can adapt to increased human impact

This recent article looks like an important contribution. It suggests that changes in the behaviour of bottlenose dolphins does not automatically or necessarily imply an impact in terms of population health or dynamics. In this study, dolphins were able to somewhat tolerate a 6-fold increase in vessel traffic, no biologically-significant response being observed as a consequence of increased disturbance.

Indeed, coastal bottlenose dolphins are known to be resilient and opportunistic. They often adapt to changes in human activities and modify their behaviour accordingly. What this study should not suggest is that these results may be extrapolated to any cetacean species, any area, or any kind of human impact.

You can read the full article HERE.

16 April 2013

Artisanal fisherman in Greece - 4

Argolikos Gulf, Greece, June 2012 (photo S. Bonizzoni)

This fisherman is showing some of the holes made by bottlenose dolphins in his trammel nets.

15 April 2013

Artisanal fisherman in Greece - 3

Argolikos Gulf, Greece, June 2012 (photo G. Bearzi)

Please note the fluffy blue shark. We think it tells a story.

13 April 2013

Dolphin biology and guitar music

My first album, "i-o", was released today.

While I was in Texas as a visiting scientist I purchased a baritone guitar with 8 strings. Its rich sound got me started and prompted experimentation with music composition. Back in Italy, I wrote more songs and strived to learn digital editing and mixing. But, wait a minute. Is a dolphin biologist ever supposed to engage in such unscientific and naive activities? Let alone one who, like me, can't sing and has no music competence? I don't know. What I do know is that as long as I was super-busy with scientific and management work my guitars collected plenty of dust. I never sung anything, not even under the shower. At some point, priorities shifted. Or maybe I ended up feeling that there was still time to try something new, defective as it may be.

HERE you can listen to the album (*).

(*) Listening is free; download of CD-quality, lossless audio files for a small fee.

Many thanks to Stefano Giungato at StoneTracks Production for his highly professional mastering.

11 April 2013

Artisanal fisherman in Greece - 1

Argolikos Gulf, Greece, June 2012 (photo G. Bearzi)

While overfishing is a known tragedy in today's oceans, there is still a kind of small-scale fishing that would deserve to be protected. In fact, artisanal fishermen in Greece (and elsewhere) are often themselves the victims of inconsiderate, misregulated and oft-illegal fishing by large commercial fleets.

10 April 2013

The art of communicating (dolphin) science

My sister and DBC collaborator Maddalena Bearzi recently talked about "The Art of Communicating Science" at the 2013 Southern California Marine Mammal Workshop. The Youtube video of her presentation can be watched HERE. Maddalena recently wrote a popular book titled "Dolphin Confidential: Confessions of a Field Biologist". That's one place where she shows she can get her message through.

On the subject of science communication and addressing the public without being soporific, you can find another interesting video HERE. It is pungently called Death by PowerPoint.

09 April 2013

Bottlenose dolphins really can jump

This is another image of a high jump. It dates back to 1988 and it was taken in the early days of a study of bottlenose dolphins around the island of Losinj (back then Yugoslavia, now Croatia).

I can't remember whether this photo was taken by me or by my colleague Benedetta Cavalloni. We both had cameras and we were shooting at unison from the inflatable. I suspect this one is hers.

Digital cameras did not exist, and it was all manual settings. One had to wait for a long time before seeing the slides printed, hoping they were good. And the slides themselves tended to fade and accumulate scratches, as shown by this image. So much simplier today!

Bottlenose dolphins can jump

Photos taken in the Northern Gulf of Evia, Greece.

Scale bars are approximated. Total body size (lower right image) based on average size of adult individuals stranded in the eastern Mediterranean. Maximum height reached during this jump may be between 4 and 5 m.

While bottlenose dolphins can jump higher, this looks like a remarkable performance.

Oceans in trouble, more than ever

Oceans are facing increasingly serious threats, from overfishing to pollution. This stunning infographic shows why oceans are important and visualizes the threats they face.

See the full image HERE.

Cruel dolphin killing method used in Taiji, Japan

The article below has been published recently.

Butterworth A., Brakes P., Vailc C.S., Reiss D. 2013. A veterinary and behavioral analysis of dolphin killing methods currently used in the “drive hunt” in Taiji, Japan. Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science 16(2):184-204.

ABSTRACT — Annually in Japanese waters, small cetaceans are killed in “drive hunts” with quotas set by the government of Japan. The Taiji Fishing Cooperative in Japan has published the details of a new killing method that involves cutting (transecting) the spinal cord and purports to reduce time to death. The method involves the repeated insertion of a metal rod followed by the plugging of the wound to prevent blood loss into the water. To date, a paucity of data exists regarding these methods utilized in the drive hunts. Our veterinary and behavioral analysis of video documentation of this method indicates that it does not immediately lead to death and that the time to death data provided in the description of the method, based on termination of breathing and movement, is not supported by the available video data. The method employed causes damage to the vertebral blood vessels and the vascular rete from insertion of the rod that will lead to significant hemorrhage, but this alone would not produce a rapid death in a large mammal of this type. The method induces paraplegia (paralysis of the body) and death through trauma and gradual blood loss. This killing method does not conform to the recognized requirement for “immediate insensibility” and would not be tolerated or permitted in any regulated slaughterhouse process in the developed world.
A pdf of this article can be downloaded HERE.

You may also want to read this ARTICLE appeared in The New York Times.

08 April 2013

Entangled nature

Sometimes we succeed disentangling animals found trapped in ghost fishing gear, or with pieces of longline protruding from their beaks and mouths. With sea turtles it is often possible to act and quickly release the animal. With dolphins, it is way more difficult.

This bottlenose dolphin was seen in the Northern Evoikos Gulf in 2011, dragging a 3m-long rope that was wrapped around his caudal peduncle. The animal even came to bowride, but one could tell that he was swimming with some difficulty.

Silvia and I tried hard to catch the rope with our boat hook, but that proved impossible. The sea soon became wavy, frustrating our efforts to release the animal. We soon lost sight of the whole group, and that individual was never seen again.

Close-up photos showed that rope friction had started to cut through the tissues. In the long run, such process may result in amputation of the fluke, or death of the animal because of the difficulty of swimming and foraging.

07 April 2013

Encounters Among Waves

An interactive digital booklet with animations and videos, featuring some of the amazing animals we see when we are out at sea.

Mostly Mediterranean stories (Greece, Italy), with a bit of... Texas.

The booklet is a Flash file and it can be downloaded HERE.

06 April 2013

Marine finfish aquaculture and its "fishy" appeal to bottlenose dolphins

Bottlenose dolphins in the Mediterranean are increasingly attracted by marine finfish aquaculture facilities. Increased availability of prey near fish farms may help the dolphins survive in areas that have been intensively overfished. However, foraging near fish farms may expose the animals to pollution and anthropogenic noise.