A story featuring the work of three researchers who study coastal dolphins in western Greece. The video highlights the importance of personal commitment to protect endangered marine mammal populations.

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13 min 24 sec
Language: Italian, English subtitles; year: 2004

 

Technical information

Filmed in western Greece between 2001 and 2003 with a Canon XM1 digital camcorder equipped with a Sennheiser K6 mic powering module / ME66 supercardioid mic module. Edited in 2004 using FinalCut Pro on a Macintosh computer. Fine-scale editing added in 2007.

 

Acknowledgements

DolphinPeople was funded in part by a Pew Marine Conservation Fellowship awarded to Giovanni Bearzi. OceanCare sponsored the filming equipment. Tethys Research Institute and WDCS The Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society offered additonal support. Final Cut Pro—the video editing software—was sponsored by Apple.

Special thanks to Stefano Agazzi and Joan Gonzalvo for their patience and unconditional availability during the filming sessions. Thanks to Mauro Bastianini, Chris and Genevieve Johnson of earthOCEAN, Cristiana Miglio, Giuseppe Notarbartolo di Sciara, Elena Politi, Anke Rau and Charles Saylan for their various contributions to this project.

 

Transcript

Narrator
At the first lights of dawn, after a quick breakfast, Silvia, Joan and Stefano get ready for the survey with the inflatable. Another working day with the dolphins is waiting for them.

At this early time it is quite cold, but sea conditions are ideal.

Silvia and Joan scan the sea surface in search of fins, while Stefano records on tape the route, and any change in the sea state.

Stefano Agazzi
7:15 AM position 38°39'22 N 20°54'61 E, sea state zero, positive

Joan Gonzalvo
I chose to work with dolphins not only because of the dolphins, but for the feeling I get when I am in a place like this. Going out to sea, working with people who share the same interest and passion…

The first time I found myself in such a situation I saw it clearly, this was what I wanted to do.

— Bottlenose dolphins sighted, seven individuals we start photo-identification from frame number one.

Narrator
The behaviour of these bottlenose dolphins is carefully recorded during long-lasting observations. Each individual is identified through photographs of its dorsal fin. In this way, the researchers obtain information on dolphin movements and activities, as well as on potential factors that may be threatening the animals.

Stefano Agazzi
I'm conducting a study on the foraging ecology of common dolphins in Greece. My job consists of collecting and analyzing the scales lost by fish when dolphins feed near the surface. By matching these scales with scales taken from fish of known species, I discovered that about 50% of dolphin prey is composed of sardines, and about 50% of anchovies. Sardines and anchovies that in this area are exposed to intensive fishing activities.

I think the importance of a work like this, based on the analysis of fish scales to investigate dolphin feeding habits, does not consist in its rather boring technicalities. By putting together tiny puzzle pieces we can get a better understanding of the problem. We observed that the dolphins feed on fish that is being largely exploited by man. This may explain why dolphins are disappearing from this area, there is increasingly little prey available to these animals.

Joan Gonzalvo
Something that makes me sad is when I first came to study dolphins here in Greece, there were lots of them. You had a feeling that this place was a paradise for dolphins. Now when we go out to sea we don't have the certainty that dolphins will be found, and when we finally see them it is something really special.

Narrator
These common dolphins, as their name suggests, used to be abundant in the Mediterranean. Today only a few isolated groups remain, and their future is uncertain.

Silvia Bonizzoni
I'm an Environmental Sciences student and I would like to do a thesis on dolphins. I chose to study dolphins because in the future I'd like to do a job that gives me the possibility of staying in contact with nature most of the time. But mostly, I'd like to do a job that gives me a feeling of doing something useful to contribute - however little - to the conservation of dolphins and the marine environment.

Narrator
The reasons that determined the decline of common dolphins are not fully understood, but they seem to be largely related to environmental degradation caused by human activities. The contribution of dedicated researchers is essential to identify solutions for the protection of these magnificent animals.

Silvia Bonizzoni
Studying dolphins makes me feel like a special person. I feel very lucky to do something I've always dreamt about. I'm here in such a wonderful place, I wake up early in the morning, work until late, get home at night and may be overly tired, but I feel satisfied for everything I did.

Stefano Agazzi
To me, it is very important to be working in a team. A group of people with stories that may be different, but sharing the same motivation. With these people I have developed a relationship that goes beyond one of simple colleagues. We have managed to know each other well, and by doing something good for the animals we care about, we get even closer to one another.

Joan Gonzalvo
The moment I prefer is when I go out to sea at dawn... flat sea... and you never know what will happen on that day. You go on for hours looking for dolphins with that tension you feel on board everyone silent, searching with much concentration, everyone still, until a sighting occurs. Then everyone knows for sure what needs to be done. And there are some moments, some seconds when I get a kick because of a combination of events, maybe things you have never seen before... And really in that moment all the effort you put into this work makes sense.

Silvia Bonizzoni
When I'm at sea the first strong emotion I feel is when after many hours spent searching for dolphins, finally I see their fins far away. From that moment a series of special emotions arise while I stay with the animals. These include identifying every single animal. It isn't just a dolphin, it is that individual, we have a name for her. You can shoot not just a photo, but the right photo, the one that allows you to run the data analysis during the winter.

Joan Gonzalvo
For me, and I think for those who do this job, studying the dolphins is a commitment. This does not only include following the dolphins and going to sea with the inflatable. We also collect a lot of data, and these data are analyzed to understand how the dolphins behave, and what problems they have. From there we can propose some actions, maybe we can draft a Management Plan. Ideally, a place like this where there are people working and studying dolphins becomes a protected area. This would represent a very important step for us, something that makes a difference.

Narrator
Joan, Silvia and Stefano hope that their findings and their personal commitment will contribute to the protection of Mediterranean biodiversity. They wish that the dolphins, as well as the turtles, the seals and all other marine animals will live peacefully in these waters for many years to come.

Joan Gonzalvo
Being here studying dolphins is something that makes me feel good, because I think that we are doing something useful. This characterizes people working with dolphins, we share the same enthusiasm and the same wish to promote a change. You can feel that things are not going well. We want to understand the problems faced by the dolphins and do something to change this situation. This is something that must be done.

(Narrator: Giovanni Bearzi)