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Canyon of Caprera

An offshore sanctuary in the heart of the Mediterranean

  • 3 minutes

The One Ocean Foundation has launched the “Canyon of Caprera” project, supporting the association SeaMe Sardinia Onlus (, which is engaged in multi-year research on the pelagic cetaceans present in an area of sea between 15 and 30 miles from Capo Ferro, in Sardinia’s Costa Smeralda.


The Canyon of Caprera was unknown to the scientific world and was discovered during this first long-term survey dedicated to studying cetaceans and their habitat off Sardinia. Eight years of research has revealed the existence of an area that is home to no less than seven of the eight species of cetaceans regularly found in the western Mediterranean, a short distance from the Bonifacio Strait that separates Sardinia and Corsica, the only strait within the Pelagos Sanctuary.

The common whale, sperm whale, Cuvier’s whale, grampus, common dolphin, striped dolphin, and bottlenose dolphin have all been observed and surveyed. The abundance, distribution and movement patterns of the cetaceans are studied, along with the selection and use of habitats in the Mediterranean. The results will be peer reviewed and published in international scientific literature.

Delfini a Caprera

The One Ocean Foundation and SEA ME are committed to research and intend to produce a 2020 report that will allow the Canyon of Caprera to be candidated as an important marine mammal area (IMMA), in order to support its conservation.




update – September 10, 2020


One Ocean Foundation launches a new important partnership with NATO’s Center for Marine Research and Experimentation (NATO CMRE STO) with more than 60 years of experience in underwater research and over 20 years of involvement in cetacean research.


Together, a new research project will be implemented within the perimeter of the “Canyon of Caprera” aimed at complementing the visual based cetacean survey suggested and implemented by SEA-ME Sardinia Onlus through acoustic analysis, increasing the scientific value of the research.


The new research project will support the primary objective to have the “Canyon of Caprera” area be recognized as Important Marine Mammal Area (IMMA) by demonstrating the importance of the area for foraging of deep-diving cetaceans.


Project Objectives:

  1. Describe temporal and spatial off-shore habitats usage by deep diving cetaceans (sperm and beaked whales) in connection to acoustic activity of off-shore dolphins (e.g.: striped dolphins).
  2. Educate society on importance of acoustic ecology and the need to minimize acoustic disturbance in the open ocean through education activities for the public and in schools.
  3. Develop autonomous research tools that improve the knowledge on deep-diving cetaceans behavior supporting the mitigation of the impact of anthropogenic noise on cetaceans.


Project target:

The primary target species are Sperm and Cuvier’s beaked whales and their behavior will be analyzed in context with acoustic activities and presence of other cetaceans.

Particular interest will be given to understanding whether foraging deep diving cetaceans forage independently to other animals or whether they coordinate their foraging behavior.


Research Methodology:

This project consists of the performance of acoustic surveys around the deep-sea “Canyon di Caprera” by deploying autonomous acoustic recorders to guarantee data collection in absence of human presence, hence allowing for data collection over a longer period of time and in remote areas.


Specifically, research will be carried out through smart acoustic cetacean observation by using 3D directional acoustic sensors. In addition, smart data storage will be implemented to extend the storage capability of the recorders.


Project Timeline:

The project will be carried out in three steps:

  1. Construction of deep-sea capable 3D directional acoustic cetacean recorders.
  2. Deployment of 3 deep bottom moored recorders around the “Canyon of Caprera” for about 3 months
  3. Analysis on acoustic data after retrieval of the recorders

Actual deployment is expected to take place in the period May-July 2021. Following the analysis phase, the acoustic data will be made available to the public.