Ischia Dolphin Project

 The waters of the Archipelagos Pontino and Campano offer a unique opportunity for the study of cetaceans. Since 1991 the presence of seven different Mediterranean cetacean species was here recorded. The study area is well known for its important pelagic biodiversity.

The region was described as a feeding ground for fin whales (Balaenoptera physalus), feeding and breeding ground for striped dolphins (Stenella coeruleoalba), Risso's dolphins (Grampus griseus), bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) and sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus). At last, the area has been listed in the IUCN Cetacean Action Plan as a critical habitat for the endangered short-beaked common dolphins (Delphinus delphis). Occasionally pilot whales (Globicephala melas) are also recorded.

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 Since 1997 the research focused on the area of the canyon of Cuma, a deep submarine system of canyons located north of the island Of Ischia.

Submarine canyons play an important role in biologic events and they are often areas of high biodiversity for their oceanographic characteristics. The presence in this relatively small area of seven different species gives the project a unique occasion to study and compare the behavioural ecology of the different species. The main goal of the project is the conservation of the habitat used by whales and dolphins, a habitat always corrupted and threatened by human activities

Through the years the study produced a relevant amount of data contributing to the establishment of the marine protected areas. In 2008 ODO has managed to include the critical habitat for common dolphins in the Marine Protected Area of the Ischia, Procida and Vivara Islands, which became a specially protected area dedicated to cetaceans.

In October 2016, during the first IMMA Regional Workshop for the Mediterranean organized by the IUCN Marine Mammal Protected Areas Task Force Oceanomare Delphis nominated the waters of Ischia and Ventotene and the Campanian and Pontino archipelagos as Important Marine Mammals Areas (IMMAs).
After one year, in October 2017 both areas were officially recognized as IMMAs.


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"Cetaceans' sightings in the study area, 2002-2017 period. Archipelagos Pontino Campano and waters of Ischia and Ventotene IMMAs. IUCN-MMPATF (2017) The IUCN Global Dataset of Important Marine Mammal Areas (IUCN-IMMA). December 2017. Made available under agreement on terms of use by the IUCN Joint SSC/WCPA Marine Mammal Protected Areas Task Force and made available at"


Data is collected following an interdisciplinary approach and applying different methods in order to describe the different aspects of cetaceans’ life. The aims of the project can be summarised as follows:ischia canyons

  • estimate the degree of residency of cetaceans around Ischia;
  • estimate populations size and trend;
  • examine the social structure of the different populations;
  • examine habitat use and distribution;
  • estimate the impact of both fishery operations and vessel traffic;
  • describe the acoustic repertoire of the different species.


Beyond these merely scientific goals, the Ischia Dolphin Project aims to improve the management of cetacean species by:

  • promoting a series of educational activities to spread information and raise awareness among the public about the threats and problems of cetaceans and their environment;
  • publishing/sharing the results of the research to/with the local and the international authorities, as well as to the scientific community and the environmentalist organizations;
  • the protection and conservation of the area.

Any economic support to the project comes exclusively from participants at the summer courses, private sponsors, and foundations. Thanks to the participation of many volunteers who choose to spend their holidays collaborating on the project, it has been possible to go on in our effort until today. 

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On board we offer lectures on cetology: research on cetaceans in the Italian seas, key areas for the study of whales and dolphins in the Mediterranean, conservation and preservation, evolution and adaptation to the marine environment, classification, insight into the cetaceans of the Mediterranean sea and in particular the studied species, bioacoustics, social behavior and interaction with fisheries.

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The practical lessons consist of the activity of sighting, which occurs during navigation. During the sighting, every volunteer plays a specific task (measure time of apnea, count the number of individuals, photo identification of dorsal fins), for which he was trained before, aimed at the detection data. The system of continuous listening and recording the vocalizations of cetaceans allows the volunteer to gain confidence with the system of hydrophones (underwater microphones), learning to distinguish the sounds of the sea floor and the various vocalizations of cetaceans.

Maritime Sail: interested volunteers can learn maneuvers act to the vessel navigation such as how to adjust the sails, steer and familiarize with sheets, halyards, compass, and point of sails ... they can also be useful during docking maneuvers.

Boat: Jean Gab, historical boat, built in 1930 on the Grossi shipyard in Marseilles, designs by André Mauric, famous French architect who also designed France I and II of the Baron Bic (America's Cup), Pen Duick VI (Whitbread, Eric Tabarly), Kritter VII, Calypso and Alcyone (Jacques Cousteau). Cutter of 17.70 meters in oak, equipped with underwater cameras and microphones.