Marine Mammals & Sea Turtles

Conservation & Monitoring

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Overview

Marine mammal research and conservation has been a key area of focus for Archipelagos Institute since its establishment. Work in this field aims to fill important knowledge gaps on the population distribution of marine mammals, whilst also recording and understanding the key factors that impact the survival of these populations, of rare and endangered species. Key factors that we assess include fisheries interactions, depletion of prey stocks, shipping traffic as well as pollution (plastic, chemical and noise pollution). The close cooperation with the local communities and authorities in all phases of this research and conservation is a key asset contributing to their protection.

The North-Eastern Mediterranean hosts some of the most important remaining marine mammal and sea turtle populations in the Mediterranean Sea. These include 4 species of dolphins (bottlenose, common, striped and Risso’s dolphin), 2 species of whales (sperm whales and Cuvier’s beaked whales), the highly endangered Mediterranean monk seal, as well as two species of sea turtle (loggerheadand, green turtle). Despite the international and national legislation  on these species, there is a clear lack of effective conservation actions, causing further threats. Archipelagos’ research and conservation work on marine mammals of the NE Mediterranean with a focus on the Aegean Sea aims to improve the implementation of conservation actions in order to lasting reduction to the threats impacting these charismatic species

Partners

The Agreement on the Conservation of Cetaceans of the Black Sea, Mediterranean Sea and contiguous Atlantic area
The Coordinating Unit for the Mediterranean Action Plan Secretariat to the Barcelona Convention and its Protocols

 

MARINE MAMMAL STRANDING RECORDING FORM

(description, geographic coordinates)

Observation made by:
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MARINE MAMMAL SIGHTING FORM

(description, geographic coordinates)

(sea state, cloud cover (%), presence of boats)

(behavior, etc.)

Observation made by:
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MARINE MAMMAL STRANDING RECORDING FORM

(description, geographic coordinates)

Observation made by:
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MARINE MAMMAL SIGHTING FORM

(description, geographic coordinates)

(sea state, cloud cover (%), presence of boats)

(behavior, etc.)

Observation made by:
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MARINE MAMMAL STRANDING RECORDING FORM

(description, geographic coordinates)

Observation made by:
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MARINE MAMMAL SIGHTING FORM

(description, geographic coordinates)

(sea state, cloud cover (%), presence of boats)

(behavior, etc.)

Observation made by:
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SEA TURTLE STRANDING RECORDING FORM

(description, geographic coordinates)

Observation made by:
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SEA TURTLE SIGHTING RECORDING FORM

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Observation made by:
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Research & Conservation Actions

Cetacean distribution studies on boat-based surveys

Knowledge on abundance, trends and distribution of cetacean population is needed to increase marine conservation efforts, ecosystem models and spatial planning. Boat-based surveys, conducted along pre-designed transects with dedicated observers, are used to assess the cetacean occurrence and density over our study area area.

Bioacoustics monitoring and recording of the communication of cetacean species

Bioacoustics study is essential to understand the different functions of cetacean  communication combined with the influence of anthropogenic activities.

The study is carried out using a Hydrophone Array System and PAMGuard Software to detect the presence of cetaceans and to study their vocalizations. At the same time anthropogenic noise pollution is assessed in order to investigate possible effects of marine traffic and other forms of underwater noise pollution on cetacean behaviour and habitat selection.

Behavioural study on marine mammals

The analysis of specific ethograms based on the data collection during boat-based surveys is conducted parallel to other research to better assess the ecology of marine mammals. Statistical analysis and the use of innovative software such as BORIS are helping us to identify and quantify the influence of human activities on the life of marine mammals and to map their habitats (the sites they use for feeding, resting, nursery,, etc.).

Movement pattern, residency pattern and social structure through mark recapture photo-identification techniques

The research enables a census of the presence of a population in a specific area, while also helps in creating a Photo-ID catalogue for each year.The Capture-Mark-Recapture is considered a useful tool for making abundance estimates. During the boat-based survey, dedicated observers are taking picture of specific anatomical parts of the dolphins sighted in order to capture identificationmarks such as patch on the dorsal fin, notch, scars, etc.

Assessing fishstock biomass to estimate prey availability

Archipelagos’ marine mammal research team is currently working to develop a protocol for the estimation of cetacean prey availability, combining data of marine mammal abundance and distribution with data originating from a fishstock biomass scanner.

Analysis of the environmental factors influence on the distribution and abundance of Cetaceans

 

Ferry - boat fixed-transect monitoring of Cetaceans

 

Aegean Marine Life Sanctuary

The Aegean Marine Life Sanctuary currently under creation on the island of Lipsi, aims to provide for the first time in the world rehabilitation in a natural environment to dolphins rescued from captivity. It will also provide expert veterinary medical care to stranded marine species such as dolphins, seals and sea turtles, using the highest standard of animal welfare. 

It will also serve as a research and educational facility, that allows study without human disturbance to the animals, while also providing professional training in marine animal welfare, as well as practising conservation and fieldwork.

The Aegean Marine Life Sanctuary aims to serve as a innovative prototype model for the development of future sanctuaries.

To read more about it, click HERE

Monitoring the Mediterranean Monk Seals

As the Eastern Aegean region is considered a key habitat for the Mediterranean Monk Seal, Archipelagos is carrying out research on this important endangered species. The research is conducting by citizen science awareness and information campaigns, habitat suitability and identification as well as land survey to monitoring the behaviour of spotted individuals. Their interactions with fishing communities, as well as other threats,is monitored in order to develop and enforce realistic conservation and urgently needed schemes.

Archipelagos Stranding Response Network

Over the last decade, the Archipelagos Stranding Response Network has been developed with the cooperation of local communities in the Aegean Islands. It helps providing first aid and rescuing of stranded and, entangled animals as well as data sampling during necropsy on dead animals. The strandings are assessed by qualified staff able to provide guidance also from distance to people reporting the events.

Microplastic/Macroplastic: marine litter monitoring and assessment 

The microplastic research conducted by Archipelagos Team is focused on the quantification and categorisation of microplastic in the marine environment. To get a better picture of this global issue, marine animals from different level of the food chain are analysed starting from invertebrates up to megafauna (dolphins, seals, sea turtles found stranded).Furthermore, a parallel microplastic analysis focuses on the measurement of its concentration in both sea column and freshwater, as well as its effect on marine fauna and human's health.

 

The macroplastic research consists of a daily and seasonal beach clean ups around Samos island as well as other Aegean islands.Moreover, during the boat-based and ferry fixed-transect survey a floating marine litter monitoring is conducted. This research can give us the chance to assess the origin of the plastic pollution identifying the seasonal trends and distribution of human litter. In this way, we can be able to realise targeted awareness campaigns to involve locals and tourists adopting conservation strategies to mitigate the problem.

 

Eco-navigation: a citizen-science platform for sailors and sea enthusiasts to report their observations 

Eco-navigation is a a citizen-science platform that addresses to sailors, divers, fishermen and sea enthusiasts and in general people who love the sea. It aims to encourage them to report their interesting observations while at sea such as the observations of marine mammals (dolphins, whales, seals), sea turtles, sharks, invasive species and jellyfish blooms, but also pollution incidents (plastic debris, oil spill, etc.) or other unusual or interesting sightings. The information they gather is made available to expert scientsts throughout Europe, strengthening in this way the cooperation between active citizens and scientists for the conservation of our seas but also for covering the large knowledge gaps that still exist in relation to marine life. 

 

Citizen science and School education and awareness projects

The Archipelagos’ team is active in various parts of the Aegean region, involving and engaging the island communities in its research and conservation efforts.  A wide variety of media material is produced to raise awareness, including leaflets, posters, booklets, children’s fairy tales, educational games and DVDs. Various events to raise awareness, such as workshops and conferences, also take place in island schools and communities throughout the year. For Archipelagos, this important investment is the key to long-term protection of the Greek seas and the entire Eastern Mediterranean.

 

 

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