Ricardo Sagarminaga van BuitenMarine Biologist and Co-Founder of Alnitak

Anyone can be a guardian of the sea.


Research expeditions in the Spanish Mediterranean

Join the crew of the 1910 research ship Toftevaag and embark on a marine expedition destined to monitoring the Western Mediterranean’s iconic species such as dolphins and turtles, as well as learn as much as possible first-hand about the threats that they face like ghost fishing and plastic pollution.

This is a truly immersive experience: you will live and work on board the ship for eleven days, often spending entire days at sea, sailing over important marine areas such as seamounts or canyons which are prime feeding habitats for species such as sperm whales or loggerhead turtles.

The marine species studied by Alnitak are legally protected by EU legislation as well as numerous other multilateral agreements, but there are major knowledge gaps plus a need to monitor management strategies. Even Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are only pieces of paper unless effective measures are in place, and these measures are constantly revised and improvements are proposed based on data that teams such as Alnitak collect.

In 2023, our expeditions encompass the Alborán Sea (possibly stopping in some Moroccan ports) and the Balearic Islands, passing through crucial areas such as the Cabrera Archipelago National Park, Whale Migration Corridor SPAMI (Specially Protected Area of Mediterranean Importance) and NATURA2000 (EU designated) network areas that are key to western Mediterranean species and ecosystems.

Our projects on board range from our MEDTOP – Animal Oceanographers program which aims at using telemetry to learn about sea turtle ecology and surveying other top pelagic species, to MED GHOST FADs which will collect data to create models of dangerous ghost gear «production sites» as well as where there may be a higher concentration of them in the open sea. Having this knowledge both on pelagic species and their threats will allow us to inform policy makers and reach out to stakeholders to try to find real-life solutions on a large scale.

Alnitak’s successful citizen science program has seen over 4000 volunteers, scientists and collaborators from 102 nations come on board the ship and be a part of the quest for marine conservation that began in 1989. In 2023, you can add your contribution to this ongoing mission.

Endeavour for the protection of dolphins, whales and sea turtles

OceanCare endeavours to improve the management and conservation status of dolphins, whales and sea turtles in the Mediterranean and therefore cooperates with Spanish partner organisation Alnitak’s programs.

This 2023, OceanCare and Alnitak are looking for volunteer research assistants who wish to participate in research and conservation while embarking on an unforgettable voyage.

Dates and cost participation

Living and conducting research aboard a dedicated research vessel, with three meals a day included, you will also be explained all sailing manoeuvres. We also welcome those who have never experienced life at Sea. Expect some very early starts – this isn’t a pleasure cruise!

Course language: English as a first language, Spanish as a second.

Programme info & booking


Photo: Alnitak