Since 1987 Tethys has engaged in surveys of the cetacean fauna in the marine waters surrounding Italy. Initially surveys were boat-based, and provided for the first time a quantitative overview of cetacean relative abundance in the central Mediterranean. These surveys were the first to emphasize the overwhelming importance of the Ligurian Sea in terms of encounter rates. This was the first indication of the need for the establishment of a cetacean protected area in the Ligurian Sea, leading to the proposition of the Pelagos Sanctuary for Mediterranean Marine Mammals (Notarbartolo di Sciara et al. 1993) .
With the support of the Italian Ministry of the Environment and in cooperation with the International Whaling Commission (IWC) and the Institute for Environmental Protection and Research (ISPRA), Tethys has carried out, since 2009, several aerial surveys to estimate the density and abundance and to monitor the distribution of cetaceans (predominantly fin whales and striped dolphins) and of other marine mega-vertebrates (giant devil rays, Mobula mobular, and loggerhead turtles, Caretta caretta) in the seas around Italy (Notarbartolo di Sciara et al. 2015, Lauriano et al. 2011). The surveyed areas included the Ligurian Sea, the Central and Southern Tyrrhenian Sea, portions of the Seas of Corsica and Sardinia, as well as the Ionian Sea and the Gulf of Taranto (Panigada et al. 2011, Lauriano et al. 2014).
Notarbartolo di Sciara G., Venturino M.C., Zanardelli M., Bearzi G., Borsani F.J., Cavalloni B. 1993. Cetaceans in the central Mediterranean Sea: distribution and sighting frequencies. Bollettino di Zoologia (Italian Journal of Zoology) 60:131-138.
Notarbartolo di Sciara G., Lauriano G., Pierantonio N., Cañadas A., Donovan G., Panigada S. 2015. The devil we don’t know: investigating habitat and abundance of endangered giant devil rays in the North-Western Mediterranean Sea. PLOS ONE 10(11): e0141189. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0141189 Open access
Lauriano G., Panigada S., Casale P., Pierantonio N., Donovan G. 2011. Aerial survey abundance estimates of the loggerhead sea turtle Caretta caretta in the Pelagos Sanctuary, northwestern Mediterranean Sea. Marine Ecology Progress Series 437:291-302. doi: 10.3354/meps09261
Panigada S., Lauriano G., Burt L., Pierantonio N., Donovan G. 2011. Monitoring winter and summer abundance of cetaceans in the Pelagos Sanctuary (Northwestern Mediterranean Sea) through aerial surveys. PloS ONE 6(7):e22878. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0022878 Open access
Lauriano, G., Pierantonio, N., Donovan, G., Panigada, S., 2014. Abundance and distribution of Tursiops truncatus in the Western Mediterranean Sea: An assessment towards the Marine Strategy Framework Directive requirements. Marine Environmental Research, Large marine vertebrates as sentinels of GES in the European MSFD 100, 86–93. doi:10.1016/j.marenvres.2014.04.001