Whalesafe Project On Board Costa Cruises’ Ships To Raise The Awareness Of Guests To The Conservation Of Sperm Whales
The partnership is based on the determination to contribute
to efforts to sensitize people to the importance of safeguarding the marine
environment. A number of different activities are planned both on board at the Savona Palacrociere cruise
terminal, implemented thanks to the support of Costa Edutainment, which is
in charge of raising public
awareness of the Whalesafe Project.
On the ships, the project work will be aimed at capturing the attention of children. The Squok Club, which is the organized leisure center for the youngest guests on board, will be arranging fun educational activities on the subject of whales; this way, kids will be able to play and at the same time learn to recognize the different species of whales that live in the Pelagos Sanctuary, a marine protected area of approximately 90,000 km2 that was created in the Mediterranean in 2001 by virtue of an agreement between France, Italy and the Principality of Monaco. Whale sightings are common occurrences on cruises in this part of the Mediterranean. Under the guidance of shipboard personnel trained by experts from Genova Aquarium, children will learn how to recognize not only the different species but also individual whales by observing their dorsal fins, which is the same technique used by researchers from the Aquarium involved in the “Metropolitan Dolphins” project.
Guests can familiarize themselves with the Whalesafe Project and find out more
about its objectives and the means used by the project partners to protect
sperm whales, by watching a video on the
subject that will be broadcast on one of the shipboard TV channels.
Also, cruisers embarking or disembarking at the Savona Palacrociere will be able to see
a special exhibition inside the terminal
dealing with the Pelagos Whale Sanctuary. There will be explanations of the biology and evolution
of the 8 species frequently found in the area – in addition to the sperm whale
you can find the fin whale, Cuvier’s beaked whale, Risso’s dolphin, pilot
whale, common dolphin, striped dolphin and bottlenose dolphin – as well as of
the risks they are exposed to and the safeguards required to ensure their conservation. Visitors will also be given tips and suggestions
on the correct approach to whale watching in the open sea, for example how to
respect these mammals’ space and their natural habitat.
To ensure the effectiveness of this communication campaign among the general public, since August Costa Edutainment has been conducting a survey in the form of a questionnaire designed to test the opinions of cruisers departing from Savona. Initial results based on a sample of 950 passengers show that virtually everybody agrees that shipping constitutes a potential threat to the conservation of the sperm whale and people are in favor of the adoption by shipping companies of a Protocol of Conduct in order to prevent whale strikes.
It has also emerged that hardly anybody has detailed
knowledge of the Pelagos Sanctuary and the majority of respondents are not even
aware of its existence, let alone where it is located. Hence the importance of the tools for
sensitization implemented by the project.
Costa Cruises’ participation in this project is a
corollary of the Italian company’s established position in the front line of
activities to safeguard the marine environment. With specific regard to cetaceans, Costa has
already adopted best practices to prevent collisions. Ship’s Officers take part in a Whale
Protection Training Program so they can make any necessary course and speed
adjustments, and notify appropriate shoreside authorities.
The Whalesafe Project
Presented in December 2014, this is a 3-year project with
a budget of approximately €1.8 million of
which €920,000 is EU funding.
The main objective of the project is to set up a system in the area immediately outside
the Port of Savona, consisting of buoys
that can detect and track sperm whales, identify threats and prevent collisions
and other risks by issuing warning messages in real time to ships in the
The sperm whale is a protected species listed in Annex
IV of the Habitats Directive as being in need of strict protection; it is one
of 8 species of cetacean found in the area of the Pelagos Sanctuary, which comprises
virtually all of the Ligurian Sea.
The main threat to the conservation of these mammals
is represented by shipping, which can lead to collisions and noise pollution,
disturbance of their feeding activity, changes in sperm whale behavior, injuries
and – in the worst cases – death of the whale.
In addition to the interference avoidance system, a protocol of conduct will be developed to reduce the risks of disturbance and whale strikes; this will be done in cooperation with the Savona Harbor Master’s Office and the protocol will be adhered to by shipping companies operating in the vicinity. Upon reception of a warning message, the ships present in the area will be invited to follow the protocol of conduct and the Coast Guard will enforce it.
Thanks to the active involvement of all the interested
parties, it is anticipated that the project will play a vital role in efforts
to ensure protection of sperm whales and sustainable coexistence of the species
with human activities based on responsible use of the sea.