Marina Militare Italiana

Università degli Studi di Pavia

Centro Interdisciplinare di Bioacustica e Ricerche Ambientali


Within the European Nature Conservation Year 1995, the Italian Navy set up a cooperative research program with Universities and other institutions to give logistic support and to apply its technologies to the study and protection of the marine environment.

The project included a research program on cetacean acoustics, mainly dealing with the two larger species in the Mediterranean Sea, the fin whale Balaenoptera physalus and the sperm whale Physeter macrocephalus, to unveil and monitor their seasonal movements and behaviour and, possibly, to assess population sizes. Target species for the first year of the project was the sperm whale; a species quite rare in the Mediterranean for which acoustic methods have proven to be relevant in revealing its presence underwater. The main goal was collecting recordings made by different Navy's platforms, such as surface vessels, submarines and sonobuoys. Particular emphasis was put into tuning protocols for data interchange and into coordinating efforts for the development of shared methodologies and instrumentation. Training activities were also made to instruct the operators to pay attention to biological sources and to coordinate their efforts in recording them while performing their institutional patrolling activities. Along with data collection by military platforms, research cruises with traditional instruments such as stationary hydrophones and towed arrays of hydrophone have been supported by the Navy. The instrumentation of the Interdisciplinary Center for Bioacoustics, which includes a towed hydrophone array made by Alenia, DAT recorders and a custom workstation for real-time sound analysis, has been modified to be used on training sailing vessels provided by the Navy and new data analysis tools were developed.

Acoustic recordings of biological sources made by the Navy in 1995 were acquired, analyzed and included in the CIBRA's Cetacean Sound Library. All recordings containing sperm whale vocalizations were used to map locations where whales were heard; a few of them were of enough quality to be useful for further acoustic analyses and gave interesting new information, including several recordings of codas.


The project demonstrated that the acquisition of biological sounds and information can be carried out side to side with the institutional patrolling activities of the Navy. The results gained so far show that "Dual Uses" of military technologies can be used to solve scientific problems, to widen our awareness about the seasonal distribution of sperm whales in the Mediterranean Sea, and to provide new valuable information to biologists.

In 1998 an agreement among the Italian Navy and the University of Pavia was signed to facilitate the development of cooperative projects and the sharing of data and methodologies.

The IT Navy was among the first institutions being concerned with the issue of underwater noise.

The experience gained in these projects was particularly valuable when the NATO Undersea Research Center based in La Spezia, Italy, set up the SOLMAR Joint Research Project.

Now the Italian Navy is one of the most important partner of the SOLMAR Project and is among the very first navies that adopt a policy to protect marine mammals against military sonars and other potentially harmful activities.


The signature of the agreement among ITNavy and CIBRA

Survey flight with ASW airplane in 1995 (photo D.M.Rossi)

Bibliographic references:

NASCETTI P., PERAZZI A., HASTRUP O., 1997. An investigation on the interactions between active sonar operations and marine mammals. European Research on Cetaceans, 10: 61-67.

PAVAN G., 1996. Cetacei nel Mediterraneo. Nuove strategie per lo studio dei mammiferi marini con la collaborazione della Marina Militare. Rivista Marittima, Roma, Anno CXXIX n. 5: 117-122.

PAVAN G., NASCETTI D., MANGHI M., PRIANO M., FOSSATI C., BORSANI J.F., 1997. Bioacoustic research on Sperm Whales in cooperation with the Italian Navy. European Research on Cetaceans, 10: 82-86.

PAVAN G., HAYWARD T., BORSANI J.F., PRIANO M., MANGHI M., FOSSATI C., 1998. Time Pattern of Sperm Whale Codas Recorded in the Mediterranean Sea 1985-1996. Proceedings of the ICA/ASA 98: 1809-1810.

G. PAVAN, T. HAYWARD, J. F. BORSANI, M. PRIANO, M. MANGHI, C. FOSSATI, J. GORDON, 2000. Time Pattern of Sperm Whale Codas Recorded in the Mediterranean Sea 1985-1996. J.Acoust.Soc.Am, 107 (6): 3487-3495.

Contact addresses:

Adm. Dino Nascetti, Italian Navy

Dr. Gianni Pavan, Centro Interdisciplinare di Bioacustica e Ricerche Ambientali, Università di Pavia

CIBRA Home Page

Page compiled by G.Pavan, 1996. Revised January, 2005.