The seventh volume in the series Ethology and Behavioral Ecology of Marine Mammals describes aspects of the often-complex relationship between humans and marine mammals. From a primaeval condition of occasional predators, during the last century humans have become a major factor negatively affecting the status of most marine mammals through over-hunting, habitat encroachment and environmental degradation. This has led to the extirpation of many marine mammal populations and even to the extinction of species. However, in parallel to this destructive drive, since antiquity, humanity has been influenced by a strong fascination for marine mammals, which contributes today to an increased human appreciation of the natural world admixed with widespread concern for its degrading condition. The special status occupied by marine mammals in human imagination and affection stands in stark contrast with the current predicament of many populations still threatened by the doings of Homo sapiens: a condition emblematic of the relationship of humanity with nature, and key to understanding where humanity is heading.
Dr Giuseppe Notarbartolo di Sciara is a marine conservation ecologist who has contributed for over 40 years to the advancement of knowledge of the natural history, ecology, behaviour and taxonomy of marine mammals and cartilaginous fishes. He obtained a PhD at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography (University of California, San Diego) in 1985 with a thesis on the taxonomy and ecology of manta rays (of which he described a new species, Mobula munkiana). Later, he progressively moved from science to conservation. Started (1986) the Italian national cetacean stranding network, which he coordinated until 1990. In 1986 he also funded the Tethys Research Institute, which he chaired and directed until 1997 and again from 2010 to 2016. In 1991 he spearheaded the creation of the world’s first high-seas marine protected area, the Pelagos Sanctuary for Mediterranean Marine Mammals, established in 1999 by a treaty amongst Italy, France and Monaco. By appointment by the President of Italy, he was the President of ICRAM, the Central Institute for Applied Marine Research (1996-2003), a governmental body providing scientific support to Italy’s marine conservation policy. He has served from 1999-2004 as the Italian Commissioner at the International Whaling Commission, and from 2002-2010 as Chair of the Scientific Committee of ACCOBAMS. He has taught science and policy of the conservation of marine biodiversity at the University Statale of Milan from 2007 to 2016. Currently: CoP-appointed Scientific Councillor for aquatic mammals at the Convention on Migratory Species (since 2014); Co-chair, IUCN Joint SSC/WCPA Task Force on Marine Mammal Protected Areas (since 2013); Deputy Chair, IUCN Species Survival Commission - Cetacean Specialist Group (since 1991); Member, IUCN Species Survival Commission - Shark Specialist Group (since 1993); Member of the Scientific Steering Committee of GOBI, the Global Ocean Biodiversity Initiative (since 2013); Member of the Board of the Society for Marine Mammalogy (since 2012). He has authored over 220 scientific works and several books.
Dr Bernd Würsig has degrees from Ohio State University (BS, 1971) and Stony Brook University (PhD, 1978); spent 3 years as an NIH/NSF postdoctoral fellow at the University of California at Santa Cruz (1978-1981), and 9 years going through the professor ranks at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories (1981-1989). He came to Texas A&M University as a professor of marine biology in the summer of 1989. He is now Regents and University Distinguished Professor (Emeritus since Nov. 2016). He has taught courses in Marine Bird and Mammal Biology, Marine Vertebrates, Bio-Statistics, Behavioral Ecology of Cetaceans, and Study Abroad courses in Mexico, Greece, and New Zealand. Würsig has published 185 peer review papers, chapters, and seven books; and has been a senior advisor to 70 graduate students and 14 movies on nature interpretation. He was nominated for an Academy Award for an IMAX movie on dolphins. He, his students, and postdocs have studied marine mammal and sea bird foraging, sexual, and social ecology on all continents, with present work on social strategies of dusky dolphins in New Zealand and Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins in Hong Kong. Recent books are Encyclopedia of Marine Mammals, Ed. 3 (Senior Editor, 2018), and The Dusky Dolphin: Master Acrobats off Different Shores (with Melany Würsig, 2010), both Academic Press/Elsevier. He and Melany enjoy their gardens in New Zealand, the Arizona desert, and coastal south Texas, three marvellously-different biomes.