Caprera canyon cetacean project

The project is an all year round research on pelagic cetacean species occurring in the central Tyrrhenian Sea. It was launched in 2010 by the DIPNET-University of Sassari with the partnership of the Orso Diving company and continues with the support of the National Park of La Maddalena Archipelago, the partnership of SEA ME and in collaboration with several research organizations (e.g. Oceanomare Delphis Onlus). It is the first scientific survey dedicated to the study of dolphins and whales in the Caprera Canyon and surrounding areas, offshore the north-eastern coast of Sardinia (Italy).

The study area is highly productive and thought to be a hot spot for marine life, potentially very important for cetaceans and other Mediterranean marine predators. We conduct boat-based research with the primary objective of investigating the distribution and habitat use, demographic parameters, abundance, social dynamics, movements and seasonal trends of the occurring six of the eight pelagic cetacean species inhabiting the western Mediterranean Sea.

A fin whale resurfaces offshore Sardinia


These are: the fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus), the sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus), the Cuvier’s beaked whale (Ziphius cavirostris), the Risso’s dolphin (Grampus griseus), the short beaked common dolphin (Delphinus delphis) and the striped dolphin, (Stenella coeruleoalba). Furthermore, we collect opportunistic information on other marine species sighted during the surveys, such as loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta), mobula ray (Mobula mobular), blue shark (Prionace glauca) and rare seabirds, such as the storm petrel (Hydrobates pelagicus).
Surveys are particularly focused on the Cuvier’s beaked whale, a cryptic and elusive cetacean species. This species is extremely sensitive to noise disturbance, especially mid-frequency sonar signals and vessel noise. The area is affected by intense commercial shipping and exploited by deep-sea fisheries (trawlers and pelagic long lines).

A male Cuvier’s beaked whale logging before a dive