17 October 2008

Bottlenose dolphins in the Mediterranean

Tethys president Giovanni Bearzi, together with colleagues Caterina Maria Fortuna and Randall R. Reeves, have just published a review paper on bottlenose dolphins in the Mediterranean Sea.

Bearzi G., Fortuna C.M., Reeves R.R. 2008. Ecology and conservation of common bottlenose dolphins Tursiops truncatus in the Mediterranean Sea. Mammal Review. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2907.2008.00133.x


Ecology and conservation of common bottlenose dolphins Tursiops truncatus in the Mediterranean Sea

Giovanni Bearzi, Caterina Maria Fortuna and Randall R. Reeves

Copyright © 2008 Mammal Society/Blackwell Publishing


1. Bottlenose dolphins Tursiops truncatus are amongst the best-known cetaceans. In the Mediterranean Sea, however, modern field studies of cetaceans did not start until the late 1980s. Bottlenose dolphins have been studied only in relatively small portions of the basin, and wide areas remain largely unexplored.

2. This paper reviews the ecology, behaviour, interactions with fisheries and conservation status of Mediterranean bottlenose dolphins, and identifies threats likely to have affected them in historical and recent times.

3. Whilst intentional killing was probably the most important cause of mortality until the 1960s, important ongoing threats include incidental mortality in fishing gear and the reduced availability of key prey caused by overfishing and environmental degradation throughout the region. Additional potential or likely threats include the toxic effects of xenobiotic chemicals, epizootic outbreaks, direct disturbance from boating and shipping, noise, and the consequences of climate change.

4. The flexible social organization and opportunistic diet and behaviour of bottlenose dolphins may allow them to withstand at least some of the effects of overfishing and habitat degradation. However, dolphin abundance is thought to have declined considerably in the region and management measures are needed to prevent further decline.

5. Management strategies that could benefit bottlenose dolphins, such as sustainable fishing, curbing marine pollution and protecting biodiversity, are already embedded in legislation and treaties. Compliance with those existing commitments and obligations should be given high priority.

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