This month I’ve been working in the field for my internship with Worldrise, an Italian non-profit organization which aims at promoting marine conservation projects with university students and recent graduates. I’m currently living in Golfo Aranci along the northeastern coast of Sardegna while working at the Centro Immersioni Figarolo (C.I.F.) dive shop. Having the opportunity to live and work with Italians at the dive shop has been an incredible experience, being included in the C.I.F. family, learning about their Sardinian culture, and being able to practice my Italian everyday. Apart from learning the daily routines of working at a dive shop and gaining scuba dive certificates, I’m also here to promote Il Golfo dei Delfini project.
Mariasole Bianco, Italian marine biologist and founder of Worldrise, has launched a project called Il Golfo dei Delfini. This project is designed in collaboration with the dive centers that carry out dolphin watching tours in Golfo Aranci to promote these excursions as eco-friendly tours respecting the dolphin's space and habitat.
The dolphin watching tours in this area have been running since 2007. With the growing number of operators running these excursions, there needs to be some rules and regulations in order to monitor the maximum respect for the animals’ space and safety. This is why Mariasole has sought out “Friend of the Sea,” a non-profit organization dedicated to certifying projects internationally involved in sustainable dolphin and whale watching.
The project intends to promote and value the natural resources within the area, which can provide substantial benefits to the local community. With this certificate dive operators are obliged to abide by the regulations stated in the code of conduct signed. When searching for dolphins, we turn the motor on neutral in order to not disturb their hearing, once a dolphin is seen we stay within 60 meters of the dolphin and lower the velocity to 3-5 knots, we turn the motor off in order to avoid collision and always stay parallel to the dolphin never perpendicular.
There are about 150 Bottle Nose dolphins that live in the gulf that stretches from Olbia to the island of Tavolara. These dolphins swim in groups of 2-10 members, females with their calves while the males travel solitary.
My responsibilities here are to share information with the tourists about the dolphin’s life, biology, and the threats they face. Including educating the tourists on why it’s dangerous to swim and feed dolphins. Some people may think it’s fun to feed dolphins in order to attract the animal towards the boat. In fact it’s dangerous to feed them as we carry bacteria on our hands, which is foreign to them. Dolphins live in a completely different world than we do and they don’t have the same antibodies as we do to fight off any bacteria transmitted to them. By feeding them we not only increase their risk of dying, but we also disrupt their eating habits.
As part of my research to finish my degree, along with the research of marine biologist, Cristina Fiori, completing her doctorate in Marine Science at the University of Genova, we have created a survey for tourists which identifies the indirect economic benefits this eco-friendly dolphin watching tour brings to the local community. We also include questions on the educational information they enjoyed along the tour in order to study their knowledge and perception after the having gained some awareness of this cetacean. Integrating an educational component into this excursion is fundamental if you wish to leave an impactful message with the tourists, which will hopefully encourage them to continue to seek eco-touristic activities on other vacations.
With Golfo Aranci leading the way in eco-friendly dolphin watching, other dive operators in Sardegna and Italy as well as around the world can follow suit and learn how to carry out these excursions without interfering with the animal’s life.
If you’re interested in reading the article published by La Nuova Sardegna.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: CHRISTINE IS A STUDENT IN THE PROFESSIONAL SCIENCE MASTER'S IN ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT AND SUSTAINABILITY PROGRAM AT ST. EDWARD'S UNIVERSITY. SHE CURRENTLY RESIDES IN ANGERS, FRANCE FINISHING THE SECOND YEAR OF HER DEGREE AT L'UNIVERSITÉ CATHOLIQUE DE L'OUEST. HER INTERESTS LIE IN RAISING AWARENESS ON OCEAN CONSERVATION USING MEDIA SUCH AS FILM, PHOTOGRAPHY, AND WRITING.