Mediterranean Whale and Dolphin Conservation

Since 1991, a long-term project in the field dedicated to cetaceans' conservation in the Mediterranean.

The waters off the Island of Ischia offer a unique opportunity for the study of cetaceans. Since 1991, the presence of seven different Mediterranean cetacean species has been recorded.

The study area is well known for its important pelagic biodiversity.  The region was described as a feeding ground for fin whales (Balaenoptera physalus), feeding and breeding ground for striped dolphins (Stenella coeruleoalba), Risso's dolphins (Grampus griseus), bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) and sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus). At last, the area has been listed in the IUCN Cetacean Action Plan – - as critical habitat for the endangered short beaked common dolphins (Delphinus delphis). Occasionally pilot whales (Globicephala melas) are also encountered.

Since 1997 the research focused on the area of the canyon of Cuma, a deep submarine system of canyons located north to the island. Submarine canyons play and important role in biologic events and they are often areas of high biodiversity for their oceanographic characteristics.

The presence in this relatively small area of seven different species gives to the project a unique occasion to study and compare the behavioural ecology of the different species. Main goal of the project is the conservation of the habitat used by whales and dolphins, habitat which is always more corrupted and threatened by human activities.

Suitable for


Typical day

On your arrival date, there will be no navigation and the team members will be on the boat for the welcoming. Participants are therefore invited to take advantage of the situation to get familiar with the boat and the surroundings. You will also have time to rest and relax after your long journey on one of the beaches next to the harbour. When all participants are arrived and settled, you will be given a briefing on the safety measures and life on board, detailed information about the project, the research (study area, cetacean species and their biology, etc.). You will get to know the team members and the other participants.

Participants live on board of the research vessel Jean Gab that preferably navigates under sail. During your staying days will be ALMOST entirely dedicated to the research activities and all participants will take part in the fieldwork. Every day, except for the arrival and the departure days, will be spent at sea. Survey tracks are laid out to provide a roughly even coverage of the study area, but might be adapted to prevailing weather conditions. Participants will be asked to help researchers in the collection of data and sailing activities.

Participants will rotate, together with the researchers, in watching shifts of one hour each during the whole navigation period until dolphins/whales are sighted. There are two observers on duty on every shift. Besides whales and dolphins we record also the presence of sea turtles, tunas, sword fish, manta rays, large school of fish and sea birds. The acoustic system helps in the localisation of the animals: the hydrophones detect any sound produced by cetaceans at an average distance of 3 nm and the software indicate the direction of the signal. It is then possible to approach the animals. In the evening, the boat go back to the harbour. Sometimes nights can be spent in a bay at the anchor or, for research reasons, out at sea. 

Everybody have a role to play during sightings. A good teamwork is the key for an enjoyable experience and a good data collection, such as filming dolphins with the underwater camera under the bow of the vessel, collecting behavioural data, recording sounds, filming and photographing the animals for their individual identification, and steering. A sighting can last several hours and in the meantime normal duties on board such as cooking and washing dishes have to be carried out.

Navigation will take place when the weather conditions are good. A day-off is scheduled for every turn for participants who wish to relax or explore the island. The boat will sail anyway during this day-off for those who are willing to continue the research. If anybody wants more days off, just inform the crew.

In case of unfavourable weather or harsh sea conditions, the boat stays in the harbour. This is not only for the safety of the crew and participants but also because it is not possible to conduct valuable fieldwork in rough seas. Participants may decide to stay on board assisting the researchers with data entry, preliminary analysis, computer work (e.g. photo-identification) and attending the cetology lessons held by the researchers, or they may visit the island. Normal duties have to be carried out as normal.

Cetology lessons may cover different branches such as scientific research in the Italian seas, conservation and culture in cetaceans, evolution, classification and biology, bioacoustics, behaviour, interactions with fisheries.

The atmosphere on board is serene and informal, but you have to remember that we are working in a serious research program and that times and ways of the different activities need to be organized day by day following the priorities of the project. Participants have to be aware that they are taking part to a scientific project with defined aims and purposes and not to a holiday where everything is scheduled.

Program Requirements

Minimum Age
16 years
Language Skills
You need to speak English (basic level)
Health Declaration
Criminal Background Check
Other Skills
• be in good physical conditions, comfortable in hot weather and with spending relatively long periods under the sun, be steady on your legs and comfortable on a boat;
• be able to speak enough English to communicate with other project participants and team members;
• be highly adaptable, an essential requirement for living on a boat;
• be interested in nature conservation and animal protection and have a positive attitude towards working with people from different countries.
Time Commitment
Your helping hand will be required on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 09:00 - 18:30

Do you have any questions concerning this volunteer opportunity in Italy? Volunteer World directly connects you with Oceanomare Delphis Onlus

Mediterranean Whale and Dolphin Conservation striped dolphins off Ischia data collection Jean Gab, the research vessel Risso's dolphin underwater sperm whale breaching bottlenose dolphin leaping group photo dinner onboard lecture on cetaceans photo-identification work short beaked common dolphin

Free-time activities

In Ischia, you can visit the Aragonese Castle and the old sea village of Ischia Ponte, reach the summit of Mount Epomeo through a naturalistic excursion in the woods of pine and chestnut trees, organize a trip to the near islands of Procida and Capri or relax in one of the many thermal areas. You can be our guests in the visit to the Cetacean Museum of ODO in Villa Arbusto, Lacco Ameno. In every island, there are also scuba-diving centres. The expenses related to these activities are not covered by the project fee.

When in the harbour, during free time or after the day at sea, participants can go for a swim on one of the beaches close to the harbour or “dive” in the ischian life.



What's included?
Included in the fee:
-Electricity, water and gas;
-Port fees and petrol;
-Scientific supervision and lectures on cetaceans held by the researchers;
-Certificate of Participation is available upon request;
-Insurance for the whole duration of the course, provided by the organisation.
Not included in the fee:
-Travel expenses to and from the project location;
-Food and drinks to be divided among the crew consumption. Say a few tens of Euros per head, it depends.
-Personal expenses (telephone, bar, souvenirs etc);

The project offers special fees for students under 26 years old and with certification.
Second turn or participants who have already come
If you book a second week or if you had joined the program before you will pay the discounted fee.
What's NOT included?
Visa, flights, travel insurance or vaccinations are NOT included in the program fees.

No worries, Volunteer World supports you in raising funds, checking your visa regulations and travel insurance. We also assist you in finding the cheapest flights for your journey.

Jean Gab is an oceanic oak cutter built in 1930 in Marseilles and designed by André Mauric, famous French maritime architect. Overall length: 17,70 m; Beam: 4,45 m; Draft: 2,50 m.
André Mauric planned also the French sailing vessels for the America’s Cup (France I and France II) and signed the Pen Duick IV, used by the famous French sailor Eric Tabarly in the Whitbread Cup.
Jean Gab is Mauric’s first large sailing vessel. It was built to race and cruise in all oceans. It is a fast vessel with beautiful flowing lines, stable even with rough seas with a firm heel of few degrees. The construction plans of Jean Gab are kept in the Maritime Museum in Marseilles and shown in the French carpentry schools as models of maritime functionality that match speed with stability.
This vessel is therefore meant for a fast ocean navigation and both the external and internal spaces are designed for this reason. The exterior is wide and spacious to leave place for manoeuvring, while the interior is small, comfortable and stark because planned to protect the crew from the force of the billows.
Inside there is first a wide kitchen with table and large windows. Here we cook, store food and, when raining, eat our meal. It can also be used as a little living room in the free time.
Going down in the “womb” of the boat, we reach the sleeping room for 6 participants of both sexes (2 single bunks and 2 double bunks). In August, when usually the turn is full, you may be asked to share the double berth with an other participant of the same sex. If you happen to come in a quiet turn, you will have the use of more room for yourself.
Next to the sleeping room there is a small changing room, a gent toilet and a ladies one (with cold water), a room and bathroom reserved to the skipper (with cold water) and, on the bow, the “sailor cabin” with two or three (with a child) sleeping places and independent entrance from the bow of the boat. There is a sun-powered shower onboard, but for a hot shower (free of charge) we can use toilets at the local port.
The welcoming deck of the Jean Gab is ideal during navigation. At the stern of the vessel, there is the space for the helmsman and a bench, comfortable and sheltered from the wind. This area is connected to the indoor kitchen. At the centre of the vessel, underneath the mast, there is the external “lounge” with a table. Lunches and dinners are served on the outside table, in our “private lounge” under the stars.
We remind you that life onboard of sailing vessels like Jean Gab is a choice: simple, communal and eco-compatible lifestyle conserving energy and resources. There is very little privacy even behind the curtains of the cabins. Nevertheless, the spaces are large enough and the sea and the sky will offer you unlimited horizons and each watching shift will give you the possibility to taste the peace of sailing.

Dorm Room
Internet Access
Limited access at the project site
1 week (min. stay)
2 weeks
3 weeks (max. stay)

You can volunteer at the project site in Island of Ischia/Italy between 1 weeks and 3 weeks. Please note that the above shown program fees are estimated and subject to exchange rate fluctuations. Oceanomare Delphis Onlus will tell you your final price during your application process.
Average Fees
Deposit (15%)
The deposit is simply to reserve your volunteer placement. Payments are handled by PayPal, our trusted global payment provider. If you don't have a PayPal account, you can also pay using a credit card.
Final Payment (85%)
Your final payment will be agreed with Oceanomare Delphis Onlus during the application process. Common solutions are either via bank transfer or a cash payment at the project site.

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Visa Regulations
Depending on your nationality, you have to arrange your visa for Italy. Please check the visa regulations for Italy.
Generally, volunteering abroad involves certain costs. In case you need financial support, we will assist you to fundraise your volunteer program in Italy.

What's next?

The nearest airport is Capodichino (NAP) in Napoli. We assist you to find cheap flights to Italy.
Travel Insurance
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Research vessel Jean Gab, Piazza Marina, 1, Casamicciola Terme NA, 80074 Island of Ischia, Italy