IONIAN MARINE MAMMALS
The SCS supports the Tethys Foundation
for the protection of Ionian marine mammals
The Greek Seas are still remarkably rich in marine mammals compared to the rest of the Mediterranean Sea. At least 6 species of cetaceans are present throughout the year: The blue and white dolphin (Stenella coeruleoalba), the bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus), the common dolphin (Delphinus delphis), the Cuvier's whale (Ziphius cavirostris), Sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus) and Risso's dolphin (Grampus griseus). In addition, there are indications that the fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus) and the harbor porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) may also live in this area.
Unfortunately, this marine biodiversity is in constant decline because of the continuing degradation of the marine environment. The bottlenose dolphin is currently the most threatened species, because it lives in coastal areas, and therefore, is exposed more often to dangers generated by anthropogenic activities, such as fatal accidents caused by fishing boats, depletion of food resources caused by overfishing, disturbance due to maritime traffic, pollution and deterioration of the natural habitat.
For more than 20 years, the Tethys Research Institute has been active in the Inner Ionian Sea and Ambracian Gulf region. This gulf of the Ionian Sea, located in the north-west of Greece, is almost completely enclosed and has only a narrow passage as an opening towards the sea. It is home to the largest population of bottlenose dolphins in the Mediterranean Sea, which is not evidence of an optimal state of conservation or an ideal habitat. On the contrary, the viability of the bottlenose dolphin in the Gulf is at risk because of reproductive isolation, limited population size (about 150 individuals), small area of occurrence, but also because of negative impacts of anthropogenic activities, which are increasing, in this semi-enclosed and shallow habitat. In addition, the population of the common dolphin, once wide in the Ionian Sea, has also suffered a dramatic decline due to overfishing in the region.
With its Ionian Dolphin Project, our partner Tethys Research Institute actively participates in the conservation of dolphins in the Ionian Sea. To this end, the institute organizes scientific expeditions to monitor dolphin populations and collect data on the impact factors of the local ecosystem. These data then allow the implementation of effective conservation measures. The institute also makes it a point of honor to disseminate this information to the public, local authorities and fishermen.
You can get involved in this project by registering for a week of eco-volunteering in Greece directly on our partner's website.
THE MEDITERRANEAN MONK SEAL
The Mediterranean Monk Seal (Monachus monachus) was once abundant throughout the Mediterranean basin, in the Black Sea and along the North-western coast of Africa. There were more than a thousand individuals. Today, the total population just reaches about three hundred individuals. The bulk of these specimens (about 150) remains in Greece and in Turkey. The other individuals form isolated groups in Madeira, Northern Mauritania (Cap Blanc) and on the Mediterranean coasts of Morocco.
The monk seal is therefore the rarest marine mammal and is endangered according to the classification of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). This decline is mainly due to deliberate massacres by fishermen. Seals come to eat fish in their nets and become competitors to get rid of in the eye of fishermen. By venturing inside the nets to feed themselves, animals can also get trapped and strangle themselves with the links. They sometimes manage to free themselves from it but a piece of net generally remains around their neck, causing them to die a slow and painful death. Overfishing depletes food resources, causing animals to move to unattended and potentially dangerous areas (i.e. predation). The Monk Seal is also severely disturbed by growing human activity at its resting and breeding sites, forcing it to flee into caves, which have underwater entrances hard for humans to access. Finally, this animal is a victim of pollution. The concentration of pollutants in the food chain causes these pollutants to accumulate in animal tissues, leading to health problems and even death. The ingestion of floating waste confused with jellyfish (a part of the Monk Seal's diet) causes death by intestinal obstruction.
The Tethys Research Institute is an international non-profit research organization active in marine conservation through science and public awareness, with an emphasis on large marine vertebrates. Leading organization in marine conservation in Italy since 1986, Tethys has quickly put in place two major projects still in progress: the Ionian Dolphin Project in Greece and the Cetacean Sanctuary Research in Italy. Since then, the institute has managed many projects around the world.
The SCS supports the Tethys Foundation through the implementation of a sponsorship program.
Your donation will be used primarily for
the protection and surveillance
of endangered marine mammals
in the Mediterranean Sea
Images' Copyrights: © Joan Gonzalvo / Tethys Research Institute
Gonzalvo et al. (2015) Aquatic Conserv: Mar. Freshw. Ecosyst. 25: 91-106
Gonzalvo et al. (2016) Mediterranean Mar. Mammal Ecology and Conservation 1st edition :259-296.
Gonzalvo et al. (2011) Fisheries Management and Ecology 18: 25-38