Dolphin conservation in Greece

“Six day data collection project where volunteers will work alongside scientists, researchers and dolphins whilst living in a field station overlooking the Gulf of Ambracia.”

Highlights

Field station accommodation | research training | conservation, safety and orientation presentation | research boat | data collection | downloading research data | cooking and cleaning rota | daily dinner and discussion | lights out at 11pm |

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Responsible tourism

Responsible tourism: Dolphin conservation in Greece

Environment

Dolphins inhabiting the coastal waters of Greece are facing significant threats. Some dolphin populations must deal with increasing human encroachment, while others have disappeared altogether from portions of their former range. At the Ionian Dolphin Project we work to ensure the long-term viability of two dolphin species living in two coastal areas of western Greece: the Gulf of Ambracia and the Inner Ionian Sea archipelago.

These two dolphin species are:
- Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus), the most abundant coastal cetacean species in the Mediterranean Sea, have been negatively affected in numerous ways by human activities. Until the 1960s, they were one of the main targets of culling campaigns, resulting in thousands of animals killed. In recent times, incidental mortality in fishing gear, prey depletion caused by overfishing, habitat degradation, boat traffic, noise and health effects caused by pollution are important threats. Mediterranean bottlenose dolphins have been proposed for classification as Vulnerable in a recent Red List assessment by IUCN.

- Short-beaked common dolphins (Delphinus delphis), once one of the most abundant cetacean species in the Mediterranean Sea, have declined throughout the region since the 1960s. In 2003 their Mediterranean population was classified as Endangered in the IUCN Red List. In 2006 they have been included in Appendix I and II of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species (Bonn Convention – CMS). The causes of their decline include prey depletion by overfishing and incidental mortality in fishing gear.

The Ionian Dolphin Project aims to understand, through long-term monitoring, how the local dolphin communities interact with their environment and how human activities—particularly fisheries and pollution—may affect its conservation status. By deploying state-of-the-art techniques, the project contributes tools to 1) inform management action, 2) promote marine conservation in Greece, and 3) support conservation efforts in the wider Mediterranean region.

Community

The Ionian Dolphin Project does not only focus on scientific research on dolphins. For years we have been developing numerous educational and public awareness initiatives to promote marine conservation among the local communities. Capacity building and education activities including lectures and direct involvement in field work and data analysis have benefited a large number of students, researchers and volunteers from around the world. A total of about 1,200 volunteers from 40+ nations, encompassing the five continents, participated in these field courses.

For the last few years we organized “Dolphin Day” events and numerous lectures in local schools. Presentations were given annually since 1997 to inform the local community about the work done by the IDP and raise awareness about dolphins and marine conservation. A total of 3,500+ individuals (age: 4-80 years) attended public presentations given by our personnel between 2004 and 2013. In August 2013 we went a step further by organizing a special event in the seafront of the village of Vonitsa; THE NATURE OF AMVRAKIKOS. The celebration was a great success; it took off around 7pm and went on until close to midnight and a number of new initiatives were organized, including the participation of local cultural associations and fishermen. Detail can be found at http://ioniandolphinproject.org/2013/08/14/great-success-of-the-nature-of-amvrakikos-celebration/

Since April 2012 the Ionian Dolphin Project has a brand new web site with basic information about the project activities, as well as the latest news in our blog. With this new initiative the IDP aims to increase the interest about the conservation of cetaceans of the Ionian Sea, by encouraging residents, charter/flotillas sailing vacation operators and visitors to the area to report their sightings of cetaceans, through a user-friendly on-line form (www.ioniandolphinproject.org).

Nowadays the use of digital cameras, cell phones and other devices capable of recording easily several minutes of video, or to capture high quality digital images is widespread among boaters. Using our on-line sighting form videos and images can be sent to us to facilitate additional information and to allow us to confirm the identification of the species reported. It also includes essential information about the cetacean species found in the Greek seas and identification tips.

The number of charter boats and flotilla sailing vacation companies operating around the Ionian Islands has steadily increased during the last decade. Together they pose a fleet of several hundred boats, regularly navigating the waters between the islands of Zakynthos and Corfu. The resulting activity of this large fleet not only offers a huge potential for the recording of opportunistic cetacean sightings, but also calls for the design of adequate education and awareness initiatives addressed to boat users. This increase in boat traffic and the potential disturbance it generates pose a threat to cetacean populations by causing unnecessary stress by disrupting their natural behaviors. Such threats can be minimised by applying a basic code of conduct when coming across a group of dolphins or whales. With this aim we came out with the BE DOLPHIN SMART initiative. Since the website came to life we received more than 200 reports of dolphin encounters in the area and the local ports and marinas have joined in to help spread the word among boaters.

1 Reviews of Dolphin conservation in Greece

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Reviewed on 13 Aug 2018 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


Being on the boat for many hours and taking the time to wait for diving dolphins and monk seals to (re)appear together with experts and other nature loving persons and no one ever gets impatient or bored!
Sharing time, home and meals with an international group

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Everything is very well explained in the online informations for participants that you should read very carefully before booking. Make sure that you'll "survive" a five or six hours boat trip in the sun with no shelter (and no toilet...)
And be aware that it is not a touristical dolphin watching trip. You don't necessarely go to the places where the most dolphins are expected but to the sectors that are on the schedule . Watching out for the animals and reporting is quite demanding (but I enjoyed it very much). Your help in the boarding house is expected as well as the daily work at the computer to identify the dolphins which was very interesting, but sometimes I would have prefered to have more spare time instead...


3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


We bought all food at local small stores.
The dolphin project seems to me to be very serious and helped already to protect the area where the dolphins live.
We spent quite al lot of time with the monk seals in order to get informations and photos that could be helpful to demand a restriction for tourist boats around the island where they live and to get money for another research project.


4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


I spent a wonderful, extremely interesting, quite exhausting and extraordinary week!

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