logo by Massimo Demma

In 1985 I have spearheaded the organisation of a national cetacean and turtle stranding network in Italy. During that year I was the scientific organiser of the “First Italian Conference on Cetaceans”, hosted in Riccione by a local aquarium, Adriatic Sea World (no longer existing), with the participation of most of the people involved in cetacean science in Italy at the time. At that meeting, based on a proposal that I had prepared in cooperation with colleagues from the Natural History Museum of Milan, the decision was adopted of founding the “Centro Studi Cetacei” (CSC) within the Italian Society of Natural Sciences.

I served as coordinator of CSC from 1985 to 1990, and am now honorary member of that organisation. Results from the national stranding network, maintained by CSC, were published annually on the Proceedings of the Italian Society of Natural Sciences until 2006, and have provided an unprecedented amount of information on cetacean and turtle strandings and mortality in Italy, and revealed the devastating effects that the use of driftnets for swordfish had on Mediterranean dolphins and whales. The entire dataset of cetacean strandings is now hosted by the Banca Dati Spiaggiamenti maintained by CIBRA with funding from the Ministry of the environment, and can be consulted online.

Today, an official stranding network at the national level is being envisaged by the Italian Ministry of the environment in cooperation with the Ministry of health – an effort I have been involved in as a consultant – which will supposedly supersede the work, now faltering in many parts of the Italian coastline, which was volunteered for almost three decades by the NGO community.