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Carmelo Fanizza interview

Ionian Dolphin Conservation

Carmelo Fanizza, President Ionian Dolphin Conservation

I am Carmelo Fanizza, founder and president of Ionian Dolphin Conservation.

Our working group was founded in 2011 and is primarily concerned with the study, protection and conservation of cetaceans here in the Gulf of Taranto.

It started as a membership project in the Taranto area and has developed and evolved into a genuine community project.

The Ionian Dolphin community project

A community project that has made, during the past decade, a very significant social impact on this area.

They come to be involved in our research and awareness programmes, all the schools, of all types and levels, including university level, not only from the local region, but also nationally and internationally.

They come to visit us and participate in our Marine Biology Camps from the United States, Canada and Australia.

Additionally, we are in close contact with the courts regarding the performance of community service work, for the rehabilitation and social reintegration of at-risk individuals.

Thus an important social function for this community project.

The Gulf of Taranto as a natural habitat for cetaceans

The city of Taranto is linked by an almost inseparable bond with dolphins and cetaceans, It is enough to consider that the city’s logo is a dolphin on whose back is Taras, who around 4000 years ago founded the city of Taranto.

A link not only from a mythological point of view, but a connection that is also very important from the point of view of the environment.

The Gulf of Taranto in the northern Ionian Sea is one of the deepest areas in the whole of the Mediterranean, being over five thousand metres deep.

In the Gulf of Taranto, these depths are reduced to around 2,000m and these deep canyons, characterised by the Taranto Valley, by the canyon of Taranto, provide the ideal habitat for various species of cetaceans.

In these waters, in fact, it is possible to spot the bottlenose dolphin, the classic bottle-nosed dolphin, which are coastal animals…

Tursiops truncatus or the more numerous stenella, the striped dolphin, with family groups made up of 400 or more individuals.

In recent years, the impressive programme of scientific research carried out by our working group has also sighted sperm whales with ever-increasing frequency, the largest predator currently living on earth and which today represents the new symbol of the City of the Sea, Taranto the capital of the sea.

It is not difficult to spot these splendid animals on Saturdays and Sundays, perhaps when the children are out sailing in the Mare Grande harbour.

So their conservation definitely requires a strong communication campaign: every year we welcome over ten thousand people on board our boats.

The link with Greece through sperm whales

Taranto, capital and cradle of Magna Graecia, seems not to have broken its connections with that land.

Recent scientific discoveries allow us to say that sperm whales, which are now present in our waters, are in, and frequently pass through the waters of Greece.

So it appears that there is indeed a corridor connecting our waters, the waters of the Gulf of Taranto with those of the Hellenic trench.

Dolphins, and cetaceans in general, are extraordinary animals, characterised by an evolutionary journey of over 50 million years, so they are in truth really perfect machines.

On board our boats when we describe and explain how a dolphin rests it is certainly one of the most interesting topics.

Consider that they have the cability to split the lobes of their brain and rest with half their body – and subsequently half their brain – at a time while performing activities.

And this is due to the fact that they are animals that cannot fully sleep because they would be vulnerable to attack by predators,

additionally, they are characterised by a form of voluntary respiration as opposed to that in humans, which is involuntary,

therefore it’s impossible for them to fall fully asleep while they are in the water.

Ketos, Euro-Mediterranean Centre for the Sea and Cetaceans

The idea of combining scientific research with tourism and awareness-raising activities stems from a deep passion for the sea,

and in an almost unconscious manner, let’s say, all the paths of this project are connected with each other.

At the time, I had finished my studies at the Faculty of Mariculture Sciences here in Taranto at the Palazzo Amati, at the location that ten years later would become the core of our project, then crossing to Ketos, the Euro-Mediterranean Centre for the Sea and Cetaceans.

We are now at Ketos in the historic premises of Palazzo Amati in the old city of Taranto, a project funded by the Foundation With The South that sees the involvement of various local organisations.

Multimedia workrooms, ecology and genetics laboratories, an extraordinary multimedia centre, classrooms and educational trails on the cetofauna of the Gulf of Taranto, a laboratory for genetic chemistry and ecology, an extraordinary multidisciplinary journey that ends with a virtual diving experience in our Ketos room.


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