The mission of the Aegean Marine Life Sanctuary is to provide a sustainable life-long marine rehabilitation and refuge sanctuary for formerly captive dolphins and injured marine mammals and turtles, while changing the international public perception towards alternative forms of tourism that focus on animal welfare.
Frequently asked questions, click below to read in your language.
The process of establishing the Sanctuary started in 2016. The Aegean Marine Life Sanctuary is situated on the Greek island of Lipsi, located in the northern Dodecanese. Vroulia Bay, on the north west of the island, was found to be a suitable due to the deep protected and sheltered area. The bay has a healthy population of seagrass (Posidonia oceanica) which acts as a feeding ground for many biodiverse marine species, creating a natural habitat for marine mammals and turtles.
Situating the sanctuary in an area with a small local population, such as the one on Lipsi, is ideal. This limits any anthropogenic impacts which could disrupt the animals in rehabilitation. Additionally, the AMLS has received a huge amount of support from local communities in Greece and surrounding islands, the Mayor of Lipsi, licensing authorities and environmental partners, enabling the work of the sanctuary to continue.
Constructions and Licensing
Since 2016, when Archipelagos Institute got the long-term lease of the Vroulia site and building for the establishment of the AMLS, continuous progress has been ongoing, aiming to complete the initial phase of the sanctuary construction within 2019.
Landscaping on the outside area of the research base and facilities has made the site more accessible and useable, such as clearing a section for outdoor pools and building a strong road from the main road to the Sanctuary. External and internal building constructions are making it possible to create a veterinary clinic within the research base.
Many surveys and supporting research have been conducted on the biodiversity of Vroulia Bay, such as seagrass mapping, water temperature and species, making sure this area is ideal for hosting marine mammals and turtles. Furthermore, a wooden platform has been constructed down the bay, which will be used as a viewpoint and also vantage point for water field research.
With the support and funding from international sponsors, the majority of the licensing and environmental permits have been submitted to the Greek Government and obtained. The Sanctuary still has pending licensing which are awaiting approval, in preparation for the operational stages in early 2020.
Funding & Donations
The AMLS is currently securing funding through organisational grants and individual donations. These funds are essential in the establishment of the AMLS. We are looking for partners who can sponsor and support our project, either in the entirety of specific development stages or through the support of individual materials. This much needed support includes donations and services in-kind (e.g. renewable energy equipment, and veterinary equipment), along with vital financial support for bespoke areas of the ALMS.
Please join us to help build, grow and provide innovative and sustainable solutions to open a global centre of excellence in marine rescue and rehabilitation.
The AMLS is providing a solution to two essential problems: The absence of acceptable homes for formerly captive dolphins from the entertainment industry and the lack of facilities that provide medical care to endangered species living in the Aegean Sea. All around the globe dolphins live in captivity and are put on display to tourists in dolphin shows. But the public perception is changing. Now the world needs acceptable solutions for the animals formerly kept in tanks.
Dolphins are highly intelligent mammals with extremely well developed social skills. Living and traveling usually takes place in groups from 2-40 dolphins within home ranges as large as 300 kilometers. They are almost always in motion, even when resting. Less than 20% of their time is spend at the water’s surface.
Through tv shows (such as Flipper), movies and advertisements from travel operators, the hospitality industry and other relevant companies, the international public is raised with the normality of having dolphins and other cetaceans in captivity for the tourists own entertainment.
From the instant dolphins are captured to perform in public display until they are either moved to another facility or die, their lives are brutally overturned. The methods of capturing the dolphins and the actions taken to force them to perform unnatural acts, such as the incentive of food, are completely against the welfare of the animals. Dolphins in captivity suffer from many stress related disorders, including behavioural abnormalities such as self-mutilation, self-inflicted trauma, repetitive purposeless behaviour and excessive aggressiveness towards other dolphins as well as humans. These are caused by the artificially created social groups and tanks or pools that are not a fitting environment (acoustic, size) for these cetaceans.
Maps showing the past and present occurrence of Dolphinaria and prevalence of Cetacean Anti-Captivity Legislation around the world. A comparison reveals fewer countries with active Dolphinaria due to stricter legislation and a decline in public interest. Produced using research conducted by Archipelagos Institute.
"The AMLS is following in the old Greek tradition of honouring and respecting dolphins, which they have done for more than 2500 years. In ancient times Greece was the first country to protect dolphins by law."
The public perception towards dolphin captivity is changing. We now need to find acceptable solutions for animals formerly kept in artificial environments.
The ALMS aims to recognise the individual needs of each animal, based on the duration and location of their captivity. We will provide sustainable and educational alternatives to house formerly exploited dolphins, respecting animal welfare standards. Addressing this problem will raise awareness about captivity and the human impact on marine animals and their habitats.
The Sanctuary will host a medical centre, helping to protect local and endangered species. We will use an on-site treatment facility to rehabilitate them through various methods of therapy, with the objective to release marine animals back to the sea.
As the number of strandings and entanglement incidences remain constant throughout the Eastern Mediterranean, action is strongly needed. If permanent care is necessary, individuals will remain in the Sanctuary in a designated long-term refuge bay.
A Public Information Centre will be located in Lipsi town which will provide information on marine mammal welfare and rescue. The research base at Vroulia Bay will have an educational centre for visiting public, locals and students.
The Sanctuary will be hosting volunteers with positions based in all areas of the AMLS, such as research, clinical veterinary work, education and communication. The sanctuary will offer the possibility for students to practice with marine animals, receiving practical and professional training, an attractive opportunity to study in a semi-wild environment, rather than zoos or dolphinariums.