The web site section of the Ionian Dolphin Project has been updated to include work conducted until July 2009.
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The Ionian Dolphin Project is a long-term research and conservation programme conducted by the Tethys Research Institute in the Ionian Sea.
In 1991 the Tethys Research Institute started a study around the island of Kalamos, in the Inner Ionian Sea Archipelago (a Natura 2000 area). Initially meant to be a long-term investigation on the ecology and behaviour of common dolphins in a central Mediterranean hotspot, the study documented their sharp decline. Common dolphins declined dramatically from about 150 to 15 animals between 1995 and 2007. Actions by Tethys aim to facilitate their recovery. Bottlenose dolphins are found in the same area in relatively small numbers, but have stable trends and were studied intensively over the past decade. Ongoing monitoring allows to detect changes in population status and propose timely management measures.
In 2001 Tethys started a study in the Amvrakikos Gulf, where bottlenose dolphins are the only cetacean species encountered. This study showed that about 150 dolphins live in the Gulf. These dolphins are members of a resident community showing unique behaviour and ecology. The Gulf - which is part of a larger National Park - is also inhabited by loggerhead sea turtles Caretta caretta and has a rich bird fauna including rare species. Research carried out by Tethys is documenting how the local dolphin community interacts with its environment and how human activities - particularly fishing and pollution - may influence its conservation status.
In 2009 Tethys started a new study in the Gulf of Corinth to investigate the ecology and status of three cetacean species: bottlenose dolphins, striped dolphins and short-beaked common dolphins. Although the number of striped dolphins living in the Gulf is still unknown, concerns over their status are raised by their likely small population size, high degree of geographic isolation, reproductive closeness and limited extent of occurrence. Striped dolphins in the Gulf are often associated with a few common dolphins and inbreeding between the two species may occur. Bottlenose dolphins also live in the Gulf at low densities.
Research by Tethys is providing support to management efforts in the eastern Ionian Sea, through actions including:
- continued monitoring of dolphin groups through field research methods including boat surveys and individual photo-identification, to detect population trends, identify critical habitat, and gain further insight into ways of mitigating the present threats;
- research on factors threatening the local ecosystem, particularly with regard to the impact of fishing;
- public awareness initiatives (e.g. involvement of a large number of volunteers, “Dolphin Days” and other events organized locally, public presentations, lectures at local schools, video productions);
- contacts and meetings with the local Authorities and fishermen organisations, aimed to a) raise awareness on the need to establish measures to protect dolphins and implement the existing regulations (e.g. with regard to illegal fishing activities); and b) identify ways to compensate any losses for fishermen or promote a progressive re-conversion of their activities;
- dissemination of information in the scientific literature and provision of sound data and management proposals to international agreements and bodies concerned with the protection of marine biodiversity.