31 May 2013

Baby sea turtle in Greece

Juvenile loggerhead sea turtle Caretta caretta enjoying the first warmish sun of the year.

(Photo by G. Bearzi, Northern Evoikos Gulf, March 2011)

28 May 2013

The Story of Change

"Can shopping save the world? THE STORY OF CHANGE urges viewers to put down their credit cards and start exercising their citizen muscles to build a more sustainable, just and fulfilling world."

Have you ever watched the first and most famous chapter of the Annie Leonard's saga, "The Story of Stuff"? HERE it is.

Fishing buoy and plastic bag

(Photo by G. Bearzi, Northern Evoikos Gulf, Greece, April 2011)

27 May 2013

26 May 2013

Dolphin Biology People: Andrea

Andrea Sacchi has always chosen Galaxidi, Greece, as a place to hide away, recharge his batteries and recover from his demanding job as a radiologist in Varese, Italy. When he heard that there was a team studying dolphins, he asked Chrisoula whether she could arrange a meeting with us.

Silvia and I immediately liked his knowledgeable, truthful and exquisite style, and we soon became friends. Since then, Andrea has been an active supporter of our project, as well as a donor and an occasional field assistant – participating in research in the Northern Evoikos Gulf and in the Gulf of Corinth.

A lover of Greece since he was a teenager, Andrea combines his medical profession with a strong interest in nature conservation, often expressing concern for the habitat degradation he has been witnessing during his lifetime. That, however, does not make him a gloomy type. On the contrary, Andrea truly enjoys nature walks, wildlife... and good food such as that shown in the photo (Greek specialties prepared at the "Balcony of Heaven" – a traditional tavern in Atalanti).

25 May 2013

How to draw a dolphin in motion

This page, intended for children (as well as playful adults), illustrates how to draw a walking dolphin in 8 simple steps.

Click HERE to see how it works.

How cool is your walking dolphin? Try to draw one using this online drawing board, and then share the result with your friends (Menu > Post > Share on FB).

24 May 2013

Dolphin research in unusual places

When we say we are studying dolphins in Greece, most people depict us in a Santorini kind of landscape, where we would enjoy ever-sunny skies and transparent waters.

The image above portrays a somewhat different reality. It shows Silvia in the Northern Evoikos Gulf, where we spent most of the time following bottlenose dolphins in the Bay of Larymna, near this appalling ferronickel smelting plant (the largest in Europe). The air was often unbreathable due to industrial smokes, and the water kind of black. However, bottlenose dolphins regularly came to feed in this area because of its high density of fish farms (see Silvia's poster HERE).

A photo ebook of our work in the Northern Evoikos Gulf can be viewed HERE.

(Photo by G. Bearzi, October 2010) 

23 May 2013

Young bottlenose dolphin near Galaxidi

This young bottlenose dolphin is a member of a small group that regularly comes to feed in the proximity of fish farms near Galaxidi.

Bottlenose dolphins appear to be transient in the Gulf of Corinth, as documented by the article below:

Bearzi G., Bonizzoni S., Gonzalvo J. 2011. Mid-distance movements of common bottlenose dolphins in the coastal waters of Greece. Journal of Ethology 29(2):369-374.

(Photo by G. Bearzi, Bay of Itea, Gulf of Corinth, Greece, June 2012)

Artisanal fisherman in Italy - 5

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

These fishermen show a hole that was reportedly made by bottlenose dolphins in their nylon net. This kind of damage combines with the problems caused by illegal and mismanaged fishing, as well as strong winds preventing fishing with small boats during much of the year.

22 May 2013

Dolphin Biology People: Chrisoula

It was thanks to information and encouragement provided by Chrisoula Papalexi that, back in 2008, we decided to start a dolphin project in the Gulf of Corinth. Since then, Chrisoula (here portrayed with Giovanni) has become a close friend and a strong ally of our small team.

A charismatic hotel manager and skilled chef, Chrisoula has become a personality in Galaxidi. People from around the world stay at Hotel Ganimede and Hotel Miramare and enjoy her home-made breakfast (with locally sourced ingredients, Chrisoula prepares marmelades, jams, chutneys, olive paste and hummus, served with bread and pastries made by her husband Kostas). On top of managing two hotels, one bakery and one nautical shop, Chrisoula and Kostas also 'manage' their amazing and beautiful children: Evi, Athanasia and Nikos.

Dolphin on wood

On a wooden house at Galveston Island, Texas.

21 May 2013

Science and Buddhism

If scientific analysis were conclusively to demonstrate certain claims in Buddhism to be false, then we must accept the findings of science and abandon those claims.

-- XIV Dalai Lama (born 1935)

Also see Wikipedia "Buddhism and science", and

Dalai Lama XIV. 2005. The Universe in a Single Atom: The Convergence of Science and Spirituality. Morgan Road Books, New York. 224 pp.

Photo from Google Images (edited), unknown author

20 May 2013

Saving the Earth as a career?

This book will tell nothing new to the professionally grown-up. However, I wish I had a chance of reading similar advice when I was in my University years. Plenty of valuable recommendations here, and written in a simple and pleasant style.

Perhaps a bit US-centric, to the extent that one may end up wondering what pre-packaged conservation professions may be waiting for the newly graduated in – say – Italy or Greece. Hey, is there any job waiting for us at all?

Yet, the advice that can be found in this book is more generally useful and it won't harm spending the 17 Euro needed for the ebook version (or perhaps even the 26 Euro for the paperback).

Hunter M.L. Jr.,  Lindenmayer D.B., Calhoun A.J.K. 2007. Saving the Earth as a Career: Advice on Becoming a Conservation Professional. Wiley-Blackwell. 216 pp. 

E-book £13.99 / €16.99; paperback £21.50 / €25.80

Artisanal fisherman in Italy - 4

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

This fisherman shows part of a bitten cuttlefish as evidence of dolphin depredation.

Dolphin Biology People: Christos

Christos Goultidis is the landlord of the apartments we use as a field station for dolphin research in the Gulf of Corinth, Greece. Over the years, he has become a collaborator and one who truly appreciates the work done by our small team. He regularly travels to Galaxidi from his home in Athens, sometimes simply to make sure that plants keep growing in the garden (defying high summer temperatures and a rocky soil). More often, he comes to solve problems that keep popping up in our three apartments, be it a malfunctioning solar panel or a damaged door. Over time, his visits have become welcome heartwarming events.

Christos has been in the computer business since 1983, working with Ericsson in Sweden for many years (he speaks Swedish fluently), and then as a computer educator in Greece. He wrote over 20 books and guides about computers and software. Several of these are used by public education institutions and computer centres nation-wide as textbooks to achieve a computer proficiency certification.

19 May 2013

India bans dolphin shows

On May 17th the Government of India has decided "not to allow establishment of dolphinarium in the country", i.e. to ban cetacean captivity projects in a Republic counting 1,210,000,000+ inhabitants.

The rationale (available HERE) includes, among others, the following impressive statements:

Whereas cetaceans in general are highly intelligent and sensitive, and various scientists who have researched dolphin behavior have suggested that the unusually high intelligence; as compared to other animals means that dolphin should be seen as “non-human persons” and as such should have their own specific rights and is morally unacceptable to keep them captive for entertainment purpose,

Whereas cetaceans in general do not survive well in captivity. Confinement in captivity can seriously compromise the welfare and survival of all types of cetaceans by altering their behaviour and causing extreme distress.

Circular F. No. 20-1/2010-CZA(M) of 17 May 2013, "Policy on establishment of dolphinarium" (the original document can be retrieved HERE)

The decision by the Government of India had been announced short ago, as communicated by WDC.

(photo G. Bearzi) 

Jane Goodall on change

Change happens by listening and then starting a dialogue with the people who are doing something you don't believe is right.

-- Jane Goodall (born 1934)

Photo © 1964 Hugo van Lawick (edited)

Dolphin Biology People: Annalucia

Annalucia Cantafaro (here photographed with Silvia) joined us in Galaxidi for three weeks. The Gulf of Corinth was often wavy and – apart from a few bottlenose and striped dolphin sightings – Annalucia spent long days on computers, matching loads of dorsal fin images. We are grateful for all she did to help us move on with our work.

Annalucia holds a M.Sc. in Eco-Biology at 'Sapienza' University of Rome, Italy. For her thesis, she investigated habitat quality and recruitment of juvenile hake in the Tyrrhenian and Ligurian Seas. Annalucia is currently studying filmmaking with the aim of producing nature documentaries.

(Photo by G. Bearzi, May 2013)

18 May 2013

Artisanal fisherman in Italy - 3

(Photo by G. Bearzi, Marceddi, Sardinia, Italy, February 2011)

Young bottlenose dolphin stranded

This juvenile bottlenose dolphin was found stranded after a storm on the beach of Galveston Island, Texas, in March 2012. It was a cold, windy and greyish morning – the only bright colour a blood spot on the tip of the dolphin's lower jaw. Seagulls had left a few beak marks around the exposed eye. I took this desolate photo and Silvia reported the position to the local stranding network. On the following day there was no trace of the animal.

(Photo by G. Bearzi)

17 May 2013

The Colour of Artisanal Fishing

Artisanal fishermen seem to enjoy bright contrasting colours and often have an exquisite taste when it comes to painting their boats.

This SLIDE SHOW features small boats from Greece and Italy (photos G. Bearzi).

Thought world - 2

We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world.

-- Siddharta Gautama, the Buddha (563–circa 483 B.C.)

16 May 2013

Thought world - 1

The world we have created is a product of our thinking; it cannot be changed without changing our thinking.

-- Albert Einstein (1879–1955)

Our Friends the Dolphins

Our Friends the Dolphins is a FREE educational colouring booklet available in 10 languages: Arabic, English, French, German, Greek, Italian, Portuguese, Slovene, Spanish and Turkish.

You can view the booklet online (click HERE), download it as a pdf and print it out for your children. We hope they will like it!

15 May 2013

Fluffy dolphin

Silvia socializing with a fluffy dolphin.

Mammals versus insects

Animal species identified/discovered (number in black) and their estimated total number (in blue; SOURCE).

14 May 2013

Good news for jellyfish eaters?

The decrease of large fish benefits jellyfish. So jellyfish become more and more abundant. In a recent book by FAO, Ferdinando Boero argues that increased availability of jellyfish will favour medusivorous species (see art above from Boero 2013*, page 13). These would include inter alia the ocean sunfish and leatherback sea turtle, dominating the right side of the drawing.

While I do like the graphic representation, I suspect that looking at this image alone may mislead some to infer that the overall past and present abundance of marine megafauna are about the same, i.e. that only species composition or size have changed. I would rather think that the image was not designed to make a statement about relative densities.

In addition, it remains to be seen whether jellyfish-eaters that are currently exposed to multiple anthropogenic threats (such as the leatherback sea turtle Dermochelis coriacea, presently classified as Critically Endangered in the IUCN Red List) will be capable of rebounding based on prey abundance. Boero (2013) cites some evidence suggesting that they may.

In the long run, species that benefit from jellyfish abundance might include Homo sapiens... in case we develop a widespread appetite for jellyfish burgers!

As reported in the book, jellyfish already are commercially important in some markets.

* Boero F. 2013. Review of jellyfish blooms in the Mediterranean and Black Sea. Studies and Reviews. General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean. No. 92. FAO, Rome. 53 pp.

13 May 2013

Mediterranean Jelly Dance

The Mediterranean jelly Cotylorhiza tuberculata regularly blooms in the Gulf of Corinth, Greece. This jellyfish species is exceptionally beautiful.

The video below features their summer 2012 bloom. I used my guitar music as score.

Should you wish to watch the high resolution video, please click on the Vimeo icon and then on the "expand" icon (bottom right).

We are grateful to Bernd W├╝rsig / Texas A&M University at Galveston for sponsoring our small video camera and the underwater casing, and to Nina Santostasi for her help in the field.

12 May 2013

Artisanal fisherman in Italy - 2

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

This fisherman proudly shows his catch, including a European lobster Homarus gammarus.

11 May 2013

Any Case

It could have happened.

It had to happen.

It happened earlier. Later.

Closer. Farther away.

It happened, but not to you.

You survived because you were first.

You survived because you were last.

Because alone. Because the others.

Because on the left. Because on the right.

Because it was raining. Because it was sunny.

Because a shadow fell.

Luckily there was a forest.

Luckily there were no trees.

Luckily a rail, a hook, a beam, a brake,

A frame, a turn, an inch, a second.

Luckily a straw was floating on the water.

Thanks to, thus, in spite of, and yet.

What would have happened if a hand, a leg,

One step, a hair away?

So you are here? Straight from that moment still suspended?

The net’s mesh was tight, but you? through the mesh?

I can’t stop wondering at it, can’t be silent enough.


How quickly your heart is beating in me.

-- Wislawa Szymborska

(photo G. Bearzi)

10 May 2013

Dolphins near Delphi

Our dolphin research project in the Gulf of Corinth is based in the quiet historical village of Galaxidi, only a few km from the archeological site of Delphi.

After the Acropolis of Athens, Delphi is the most popular archaeological site in Greece. Built on the slopes of Mount Parnassos amidst breathtaking scenery, the town and ancient site are as awe-inspiring now as they were three thousand years ago, overlooking the Gulf of Corinth and a valley filled with olive and cypress trees. In ancient times, Delphi was considered the centre of the known world, the place where heaven and earth would meet. This was the place where man was closest to god. Delphi is known as the centre of worship for the god Apollo, son of Zeus who embodied moral discipline and spiritual clarity. Even before the area was associated with Apollo, there were other deities worshipped there, including the earth goddess Gea and the god of the sea Poseidon.

Information about our study location can be found HERE. More about Delphi HERE.

(Photo S. Bonizzoni)

09 May 2013

Dead Turtle Story

During a dolphin survey in the Gulf of Corinth we spotted a loggerhead sea turtle floating at the surface. From far away it looked like the turtle could be resting, but then we saw she was hooked on a fishing longline.

Because in previous years we had managed to rescue and release a few sea turtles entangled in fishing gear, we were positive this one could be saved, too. This time, however, it was too late.

08 May 2013

Industrial dolphins - 3

A bottlenose dolphins jumps high near industrial machinery in the Galveston Ship Channel, Texas, October 2011 (photo G. Bearzi)

07 May 2013

Industrial dolphins - 2

Four bottlenose dolphins on the move near a sulphur deposit in the Galveston Ship Channel, Texas, January 2012 (photo G. Bearzi)

Industrial dolphins - 1

Strange as it may seem, bottlenose dolphins are abundant in the Galveston Ship Channel, Texas, where suitable prey is promptly available in a landscape of heavy industries and oil rigs.

During the nine months we spent at the Galveston base of Texas A&M University, we could see dolphins on an almost daily basis from the windows of the Ocean and Coastal Studies Builing. Locals and students were accustomed to their presence and did not pay much attention. For us, however, it was exciting and unusual to see these animals feed on flounders near a sulphur deposit, or socialize close to a tanker.

(photo G. Bearzi)

06 May 2013

Juvenile wreckfish

These juvenile wreckfish were found hiding below a small wooden log near the island of Hydra, Greece.

Wreckfish Polyprion americanus often congregate below floating objects when young, whereas adults live on the bottom and prefer to inhabit caves and shipwrecks. They can grow up to about 2 m and weigh 100 kg.

(photo G. Bearzi)

Doing something different

04 May 2013

Dolphin Biology People: Kostas

Konstantinos (Kostas) Papalexis – here portrayed with Silvia in front of his Galaxidi shop – is a friend who helps us solve the logistical problems we face on an almost daily basis.

Recently, as our usual mooring place was taken by some other guy (with whom we did not want to argue), Kostas helped us find the perfect mooring spot for our inflatable, just besides his own boat. He even dove in still-cold waters to make sure the anchoring holds.

Kostas owns the bakery situated in the main square of Galaxidi, where he delivers bread, pastries and pitas. He also runs a well-equipped nautical shop offering services to divers and sailors. Additionally, Kostas co-manages with wife Chrisoula two of the best hotels in town: Hotel Ganimede and Hotel Miramare.

Over the years, Kostas has become a key collaborator and a friend we can trust whenever we are desperately looking for help – or when we simply feel like having ouzo mezedes in good company.

03 May 2013


Just let imagination lead... reality will follow through.

-- Michael Hedges (1953–1997)

(photo G. Bearzi)

02 May 2013

On a golden sea

When possible we love staying out until late, as the Gulf of Corinth turns into copper and gold.

At dusk, striped dolphins stop socializing and show little aerial behaviour. Their groups become looser and the animals start performing longer dives, presumably in search of their prey – deepwater squid migrating vertically and getting closer to the surface as light dims.

01 May 2013

Where Chinese vessels fish

Pew Charitable Trusts: China foreign fishing is largely unreported

Nature: Detective work uncovers under-reported overfishing

Original article:
Pauly D., et al. 2013. China's distant-water fisheries in the 21st century. Fish and Fisheries doi:10.1111/faf.1203

For those who are interested in the global and regional implications, there are a number of documentaries reporting the consequences of overfishing by foreign fleets along the coasts of Africa (and elsewhere). These include The End of the Line, The Damned of the Sea and the more recent Planet Ocean.