GIONHA (Governance and Integrated Observation of marine Natural Habitat)
GIONHA (Governance and Integrated Observation of marine Natural Habitat) is a maritime cross-border project regarding Italy and France and is financed by the European Community.
Aimof the project is to sensitize public awareness of the protection of marine habitats, by emphasizing their resources. Cetaceans and other protected species, such as sea turtles, are focus of the project for two main reasons: they are important environmental indicators and there is a strong need to protect them in the Mediterranean Sea.
The study area coincides with the "Pelagos Sanctuary " Marine Protected Area and covers about 90.000 km2 in the north-west part of the Mediterranean Sea, including the Tuscan, Ligurian, Corsican and north Sardinian coastal areas.
The project originates from the cooperation among the regions overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea. It involves ARPAT, Office de Environnement de la Corse, the Liguria Region, the autonomous Region of Sardinia and the Province of Livorno.
The Province of Livorno gave charge of the management and coordination of the Scientific Program to the Pelagos cooperative. The Scientific Program includes the monitoring of the species and the assessment of the human impact on coastal marine habitats.
Pelagos involved Oceanomare Delphis Onlus and the Museum of Natural History "La Specola " of Università di Firenze as collaborators in the research project.
The project proposes to expand and enhance the current knowledge by assessing:
1. status and tendency of the cetacean populations in the Tuscany region;
2. the impact of anthropic activities (professional fishery, commercial and/or recreational navigation) on the studied populations;
3. status of the marine habitat, in particular related to the integrity of the bottom and the presence of anthropic waste.
The study area stretches from the Tuscan littoral to the 200m bathymetry line, including all the islands of the Tuscan archipelago, and counts very diversified environments. It extends from the mouth of the Magra river to the promontory of Monte Argentario, covering a total area of 4506 nm 2 .
Boat-based surveys will be conducted on a sailing vessel every month from February to November 2011. Weather conditions permitting, and it will be particularly challenging over the winter months, 48 surveys are guaranteed.
The first two surveys were carried out in the waters south and north of the Island of Elba, on the 1st and 2nd of February.
Carlo Trombetti and Daniele Zuccotti of the Pelagos cooperative, Carlotta Vivaldi and Barbara Mussi of Oceanomare Delphis and Marco Borri of the Museum La Specola boarded Alba, the beautiful sailing boat of the skipper Alberto Pedrini. The crew counted also Sara and Daniele, two young volunteers and apprentice cetologists.
Despite the glacial temperature, the surveys were a success: all equipment and instrumentation were fine-tuned and dolphins were sighted. Photo-identification data on 8 bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) was successfully collected on the second day of navigation. The dolphins were feeding near the fishing net of a trawler.