The Aegean Marine Life Sanctuary

The Creation of a Multi-Purpose Marine Rehabilitation Centre in Greece

Our Mission

Situated on the Greek island of Lipsi, in a pristine, biodiverse coastal bay, with minimal human presence, the Aegean Marine Life Sanctuary aims to provide a hospital for marine species in need. Additionally, it will be the first sanctuary in the world for dolphins rescued from captivity. The dolphins will be rehabilitated and have the opportunity to re-learn their innate behaviours in their natural environment.

The Archipelagos Institute of Marine Conservation in Greece are preparing to open the world’s first marine life sanctuary for stranded, injured and formerly exploited dolphins. While nine other dolphin sanctuaries are in various stages of development around the world, the Aegean Marine Life Sanctuary is expected to open its gates in 2019; becoming the world’s first sanctuary for dolphins.

Frequently asked questions, click on the flags below to read in your language.


Why is a marine life sanctuary needed?

The Area of the Aegean Marine Life Sanctuary, Superimposed Over the
Area of Large EU Dolphinaria


There is a lack of facilities in the eastern Mediterranean Sea to cater to stranding calls, and there are no medical centres able to treat and care for the variety of marine species.  The area of the Aegean Marine Life Sanctuary superimposed over the area where dolphins are kept in European dolphinariums.

Release of Captive Dolphins

The global opinion about acceptability of keeping dolphins and whales in captive display is shifting. Actions and campaigns for the closure of dolphinariums around the world are increasing due to the change in the way we view and value the lives of these animals, some of whom are still captured from the wild, others are born in concrete tanks, but all of whom live in restrictive, barren and unnatural environments. Science confirms that the captive environment severely compromises the welfare of these animals.

As dolphinariums close, their captive dolphins either remain in the facility, or are moved to another dolphinarium where they continue to be used for display and entertainment purposes. Currently, there is no suitable natural environment able to keep or rehabilitate dolphins.

There is currently no facility in the eastern Mediterranean that can provide medical treatment for injured marine species in semi-natural conditions. As an area with a thriving marine population, strandings and injuries occur, therefore establishing a veterinary clinic to treat and rehabilitate wild marine mammals and turtles is vital.

The demand for a sanctuary has become critical in recent years, with the number of dolphinaria closures increasing as a result of public pressure and policy changes. While these dolphinaria are closing, there is no suitable alternative housing for the captive dolphins. Activists continue to campaign for the closure of the dolphinaria, but no suitable alternative location for the dolphins exist.

The Aegean Marine Life Sactuary, honoring Greek Cultural Heritage

The first recorded studies of dolphins and their behaviour were undertaken by the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle (384-322 BC). Dolphins have been depicted on frescoes dating back to the sixth century and 40 Greek cities used dolphin images on their coins. Greece was also the first country to protect dolphins by law, when killing a dolphin was punishable by death. Honouring its cultural heritage Greece can now make another milestone in global history when the world’s first Marine Life Sanctuary is opened in the Aegean Sea.

Our Solution, Their Sanctuary:

The Aegean Marine Life Sanctuary offers for the first time in the world the ideal solution to provide a home for the long-term rehabilitation of stranded and formerly captive dolphins and other marine animals. It is located in a pristine and biodiverse coastal bay with minimal human presence, on the small Greek island of Lipsi in the eastern Aegean. Years of environmental surveys and logistical planning are now coming to a head as the sanctuary is in the process of being built. Further locations in the region have also been identified for additional facilities.

The Aegean Marine Life Sanctuary will function to:

  • Provide medical care to all stranded marine species. The veterinary clinic will care for and rehabilitate seals, turtles, and dolphins in need
  • House dolphins who have been rescued from dolphinaria. Currently, dolphins in Europe are housed in temporary concrete tanks in-land
  • Simulate the dolphins’ natural habitat. The dolphins will be free to learn how to hunt and behave as they did in the wild with no need to beg or perform for food
  • Serve as an educational facility that allows research without human interaction. The research base is already established on Lipsi Island
  • Serve as an archetype for the development of future sanctuaries


Years of environmental surveys and logistical planning are now coming to a head as the sanctuary is in the process of being built. Further locations in the region have also been identified for additional facilities.

The Aegean Marine Life Sanctuary already has a relationship with an aquaculture farmer on a neighbouring island who will, for low cost, provide live fish for our dolphin to hunt as they would in the wild.

The Facts

  • In the Wild

  • per
  • Live up to 50-60 years
  • Swim 40-100 miles a day
  • Playful animals with a complex social structure
  • The saltwater forms a balance needed to keep the dolphin hydrated
  • Spend 80-90% of their time underwater
  • Consume a variety of fish and invertebrates, strategically hunting for their food
  • Receive nutrients and water from their diet
  • Echolocation is a key sensory system, relied upon as much as their sight
  • Part of a marine ecosystem, often top of the food chain
  • In Captivity

  • per
  • Rarely live more than 20 years
  • In the largest man-made dolphinarium in Europe, a dolphin can swim 0.03 miles in a straight line
  • Dolphins can be housed alone or with incompatible animals, so lack social interaction
  • Chemicals used to keep the water clean cause various health issues
  • Spend 80% of their time at the surface
  • Consume a limited variety of dead fish, often used as positive reinforcement for training
  • Frozen dead fish lack water content, so they receive water via a hose down their throat, ice cubes, jello and other methods
  • Echolocation is rarely used, forced to listen to artificial noises
  • Artificial environment which lacks stimulation


Archipelagos team will have 24 hour staff to respond to stranding or marine species emergencies


The Aegean Marine Life Sanctuary will rescue dolphins and other marine species, from local strandings or captivity


All animals will be given treatment and care as needed. Dolphins from captivity will be taught to once again eat live fish, with as little human interaction as possible


The Aegean Marine Life Sanctuary will provide permanent refuge in a semi-natural environment, for rescued and rehabilitated dolphins that are unable to be re-released.

Help the Cause Donate Now

Months away from completion, the Aegean Marine Life Sanctuary is seeking supporting partners, as well as greater financial support, required to realise the full potential of this ambitious project. We would welcome your support.