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The following sections offer a brief overview of our work:
   
  At sea
  Cetacean ecology and behaviour
  Marine mammal status, conservation and management priorities
  Fisheries research
  Other research activities

 

Ongoing project:

 

A comprehensive list of publications subdivided by Mediterranean area can be found here.

 
 
 

 
At sea
 
 
     
 
 

The seas around Greece and the Adriatic Sea have been two of our most important study areas. In the last ten years we have conducted intensive research in the Gulf of Corinth to monitor the conservation status of dolphins and other marine fauna. We carried out parallel studies in other marine areas of Greece and Italy, including the Northern and Southern Evoikos Gulf, the Argolikos Gulf, and the coastal waters off Apulia and Sardinia.

At sea, we investigate cetacean ecology, status and interactions with human activities. The overarching goal is to identify potential threats and offer scientific support to conservation and management action.

Additionally, we record data to assess the impact of artisanal and industrial fisheries, and we monitor the occurrence of marine fauna including sea turtles, swordfish and tuna.

 
 
     
 
     
 
 

When we spot dolphins, we approach and stay with them for observation sessions that normally last several hours. We assess group size and composition and record behavioural data throughout the duration of the observation.

We also take a large number of digital photos of the dolphins' dorsal fins. Individual photo-identification is used to estimate dolphin abundance, assess population trends and study movement patterns. This method relies on high-quality digital photographs, based on long-term natural marks on the animals' dorsal fins.

 
 

Survey data are used to investigate habitat use by cetaceans and other species through advanced analytical tools such as distribution modelling.

Regular monitoring contributes to the understanding of cetacean conservation status and population trends.

 
 
     
 
     
 
 
Cetacean ecology and behaviour
 

 
 

We conduct long-term studies to investigate the abundance, distribution, habitat use, movements, social organization, and feeding preferences of various cetacean populations, resulting in scientific publications that elucidate ecological patterns and behaviour.

Most research in this field has focused on common dolphins, bottlenose dolphins, striped dolphins and Risso's dolphins in the Mediterranean Sea.

For instance

Bearzi G., Reeves R.R., Notarbartolo di Sciara G., Politi E., Canadas A., Frantzis A., Mussi B. 2003. Ecology, status and conservation of short-beaked common dolphins (Delphinus delphis) in the Mediterranean Sea. Mammal Review 33(3):224-252.

Bearzi G., Fortuna C.M., Reeves R.R. 2008. Ecology and conservation of common bottlenose dolphins Tursiops truncatus in the Mediterranean Sea. Mammal Review 39(2):92-123.

Bearzi G., Bonizzoni S., Agazzi S., Gonzalvo J., Currey R.J.C. 2011. Striped dolphins and short-beaked common dolphins in the Gulf of Corinth, Greece: abundance estimates from dorsal fin photographs. Marine Mammal Science 27(3):E165–E184.

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.

Bearzi G., Reeves R.R., Remonato E., Pierantonio N., Airoldi S. 2011. Risso’s dolphin Grampus griseus in the Mediterranean Sea. Mammalian Biology 76:385–400.

Bonizzoni S., Furey N., Pirotta E., Valavanis V.D., Würsig B., Bearzi G. 2014. Fish farming and its appeal to common bottlenose dolphins: modelling habitat use in a Mediterranean embayment. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 24(5):696–711.

Bonizzoni S., Santostasi N.L., Würsig B., Bearzi G. 2014. Bottlenose dolphin abundance in the Northern Evoikos Gulf, Greece. Proceedings of the 28th Annual Conference of the European Cetacean Society. Liège, Belgium, 5–9 April 2014.

Santostasi N.L., Bonizzoni S., Bearzi G., Eddy L., Gimenez O. 2016. A robust design capture-recapture analysis of abundance, survival and temporary emigration of three odontocete species in the Gulf of Corinth, Greece. PLoS ONE 11(12): e0166650.

 
 
Marine mammal status, conservation and management priorities
 

 
 

We contributed to the identification of cetacean status and conservation priorities in several Mediterranean areas.

For instance

Bearzi G., Holcer D., Notarbartolo di Sciara G. 2004. The role of historical dolphin takes and habitat degradation in shaping the present status of northern Adriatic cetaceans. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 14:363-379.

Bearzi G., Agazzi S., Bonizzoni S., Costa M., Azzellino A. 2008. Dolphins in a bottle: abundance, residency patterns and conservation of bottlenose dolphins Tursiops truncatus in the semi-closed eutrophic Amvrakikos Gulf, Greece. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 18(2):130-146.

Piroddi C., Bearzi G., Gonzalvo Villegas J., Christensen V. 2011. From common to rare: the case of the Mediterranean common dolphin. Biological Conservation 144(10):2490-2498.

Bearzi G., Bonizzoni S., Santostasi N.L., Furey N.B., Eddy L., Valavanis V.D., Gimenez O. 2016. Dolphins in a scaled-down Mediterranean: the Gulf of Corinth's odontocetes. Pp. 297-331 in Mediterranean Marine Mammal Ecology and Conservation (G. Notarbartolo di Sciara, M. Podestà and B.E. Curry, eds). Advances in Marine Biology, Vol. 75, Academic Press, Oxford.

Santostasi N.L., Bonizzoni S., Gimenez O., Eddy L., Bearzi G. 2018. Common dolphins in the Gulf of Corinth are Critically Endangered. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems. doi: 10.1002/aqc.2963

Experience at sea helped develop the expertise necessary for the preparation of comprehensive action plans for the conservation of marine mammals.

For instance

Bearzi G., Notarbartolo di Sciara G., Reeves R.R., Canadas A., Frantzis A. 2004. Conservation Plan for short-beaked common dolphins in the Mediterranean Sea. ACCOBAMS, Agreement on the Conservation of Cetaceans of the Black Sea, Mediterranean Sea and Contiguous Atlantic Area. 90 pp.

Bearzi G. 2006. Action Plan for the conservation of cetaceans in Libya. Regional Activity Centre for Specially Protected Areas (RAC/SPA), Libya’s Environment General Authority and Marine Biology Research Center. 50 pp.

Notarbartolo di Sciara G., Bearzi G. 2010. National Strategy and Action Plan for the conservation of cetaceans in Greece, 2010-2015. Initiative for the Conservation of Cetaceans in Greece, Athens. 55 pp.

Bearzi G. 2017. Action Plan for Marine Mammals in Israel, 2017–2022. Israel Marine Mammal Research & Assistance Center (IMMRAC), Israel. 101 pp.

 
Fisheries research
 

 

We conduct fisheries studies to assess the impact of fishing on dolphins, as well as the impact of dolphins on fishing.

For instance

Bearzi G., Politi E., Agazzi S., Azzellino A. 2006. Prey depletion caused by overfishing and the decline of marine megafauna in eastern Ionian Sea coastal waters (central Mediterranean). Biological Conservation 127(4):373-382.

Bearzi G., Agazzi S., Gonzalvo J., Costa M., Bonizzoni S., Politi E., Piroddi C., Reeves R.R. 2008. Overfishing and the disappearance of short-beaked common dolphins from western Greece. Endangered Species Research 5:1-12.

Bearzi G., Agazzi S., Gonzalvo J., Bonizzoni S., Costa M., Petroselli A. 2010. Biomass removal by dolphins and fisheries in a Mediterranean Sea coastal area: do dolphins have an ecological impact on fisheries? Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 20(5):549-559.

Piroddi C., Bearzi G., Christensen V. 2010. Effects of local fisheries and ocean productivity on the northeastern Ionian Sea ecosystem. Ecological Modelling 221(11):1526-1544.

Bearzi G., Bonizzoni S., Gonzalvo J. 2011. Dolphins and coastal fisheries within a Marine Protected Area: mismatch between dolphin occurrence and reported depredation. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 21:261-267.

Piroddi C., Bearzi G., Christensen V. 2011. Marine open cage aquaculture in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea: a new trophic resource for bottlenose dolphins. Marine Ecology Progress Series 440:255–266.

Bonizzoni S., Bearzi G., Santostasi N.L., Furey N.B., Valavanis V.D., Würsig B. 2016. Dolphin depredation of bottom-set fishing nets in the Gulf of Corinth, Mediterranean Sea. Proceedings of the 30th Annual Conference of the European Cetacean Society, Funchal, Madeira, 14-16 March 2016.

Fisheries data complement survey data and contribute to the assessment of cetacean conservation status and to the understanding of the role played by marine mammals in aquatic ecosystems.

 
 
     
 
 

In recent years, we interviewed a total of 220 artisanal fishers operating in 80 ports scattered across three areas of Greece. Additionally, we estimated the size, kind of activity of local fishing fleets, resulting in a total of 676 fishing boats recorded and included in a database.

Similar work is done in Italy (for instance, we interviewed 100 fishers operating in the Marine Protected Area of Sinis Peninsula, Sardinia).

This information has been used in scientific publications, disseminated via presentations and media, and reported to managers and institutions in charge of marine conservation.

 
 
     
 
     
 
 
Other research activities
 

 

We conducted additional research to investigate:

1) the historical occurrence of cetaceans and abundance shifts having occurred over centuries, through the analysis of stranding and catch records, literature and photographs from the past, museum collections and ancient iconography

Bearzi G., Reeves R.R., Notarbartolo di Sciara G., Politi E., Canadas A., Frantzis A., Mussi B. 2003. Ecology, status and conservation of short-beaked common dolphins (Delphinus delphis) in the Mediterranean Sea. Mammal Review 33(3):224-252.

Bearzi G., Holcer D., Notarbartolo di Sciara G. 2004. The role of historical dolphin takes and habitat degradation in shaping the present status of northern Adriatic cetaceans. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 14:363-379.

Bearzi G., Pierantonio N., Affronte M., Holcer D., Maio N., Notarbartolo di Sciara G. 2011. Overview of sperm whale Physeter macrocephalus mortality events in the Adriatic Sea, 1555–2009. Mammal Review 41(4):276–293.

Pierantonio N., Bearzi G. 2012. Review of fin whale mortality events (1728–2011) in the Adriatic Sea, with a description of a previously unreported killing. Marine Biodiversity Records 5, e109 (6 pages) doi:10.1017/S1755267212000930

2) shifting perceptions of cetaceans (from sea monsters to awe-inspiring sentient beings), e.g. through interviews

Bearzi G., Pierantonio N., Bonizzoni S., Notarbartolo di Sciara G., Demma M. 2010. Perception of a cetacean mass stranding in Italy: the emergence of compassion. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 20:644-654.

Bonizzoni S., Bearzi G., Würsig B. 2014. Shifting perceptions towards Mediterranean whales and dolphins: from monsters to icons. Workshop "Marine Mammals as Indicators of Historical Changes", 28th Annual Conference of the European Cetacean Society. Liège, Belgium, 5–9 April 2014.

3) marine conservation issues and some ethical aspects of marine research

Bearzi G. 2000. First report of a common dolphin (Delphinus delphis) death following penetration of a biopsy dart. Journal of Cetacean Research and Management 2(3):217-221.

Bearzi G. 2007. Marine conservation on paper. Conservation Biology 21(1):1-3.

Bearzi G. 2009. When swordfish conservation biologists eat swordfish. Conservation Biology 23(1):1-2.

Bearzi G., Gimenez O. 2018. Searching for meaning in marine mammal shared data. Ethics in Science and Environmental Politics 18:9-13.

4) cetacean behavioural responses to dead conspecifics

Bearzi G., Eddy L., Piwetz S., Reggente M.A.L., Cozzi B. 2017. Cetacean behavior toward the dead and dying. Encyclopedia of Animal Cognition and Behavior (J. Vonk and T.K. Shackelford, eds.). Springer International Publishing. DOI 1007/978-3-319-47829-6_2023-1.

Bearzi G., Reggente M.A.L. 2017. Epimeletic behavior. Pp. 337-338 in Encyclopedia of Marine Mammals, 3rd edition (B. Würsig, J. G. M. Thewissen and K. Kovacs, eds.). Elsevier/Academic Press, Amsterdam and San Diego.

Bearzi G., Kerem D., Furey N.B., Pitman R.L., Rendell L., Reeves R.R. 2018. Whale and dolphin behavioural responses to dead conspecifics. Zoology 128:1-15.

 
Ongoing project
 
 

Dolphins of Veneto relies on the expertise of marine biologists who have been studying Adriatic Sea cetaceans over the past thirty years.