Following the Alarming Increase in Dead Dolphins along the North Aegean Coast

Following the recent announcement by the Archipelagos Institute of Marine Conservation, regarding
the Alarming Increase in Dead Dolphins along the North Aegean Coast and as a result of the great
promotion of the issue in the Greek and international press, we consider it necessary to make the
following clarifications:

1. A part of the press referred to the issue once again using extreme titles, emphasising the
aspects relating to the Greek-Turkish controversy or erroneously attributing the deaths
to the use of sonar and removing the focus from the essence of the problem. The
announcement of the Archipelagos Institute was not intended to exploit this event for
nationalistic purposes. The alarming increase in the number of dolphins found dead without
indication of intentional killing, or serious illness, raises questions about the causes of
death of these protected mammals, as it coincided in time and space with the
extensive exercises of the Turkish Navy in the Aegean. Therefore, although time is
needed to make the necessary analysis to determine the possible link between dolphin
deaths and the recent Turkish naval activity, this unprecedented pressure on marine
species and ecosystems should not be overlooked.

2. Following the publicity of the issue in the international press and its promotion through
international news agencies, Turkeys’ Ministry of National Defence responded with a
video on Twitter depicting dolphins travelling in tranquility alongside warships accompanied by
a text outlining their sensitivity to marine wildlife. Unfortunately, this beautiful picture does
not correspond to the reality, Turkish media have instead published the following extract
from a Turkish news bulletin, among many other equivalent.
Certainly, we all would like the exercises carried out by the armed forces in the world’s
oceans to resemble the video of the Turkish ministry and not impact marine life. However,
these military exercises, as described by Turkish media, were attended by 103 warships,
with live ammunition and anti-submarine action and continuous sonar emissions by
dozens of ships and submarines. In a sensitive semi-enclosed sea of global
environmental importance – such as the Aegean – neither this scale or intensity of
military activity, by any party, can be justified. It cannot continue to be acceptable in
times of peace to destroy marine ecosystems during military operations.

After the 15 dead dolphins of previous weeks, another one was found last Saturday that was in a
state of advanced decomposition and is estimated to have been dead in the sea for many days. The
problem of rare marine animals that end up dead on our coasts as a result of various anthropogenic
causes is not something new. The incidents of recent weeks are just the culmination. As
mentioned in the previous announcement, the effective protection of the Aegean as an ecosystem
must be an important part of the Greek-Turkish dialogue. This should be achieved by avoiding
nationalistic approaches and instead cooperating through good neighbourly relations, with the
aim of finding and implementing solutions to existing common problems.

All of us at the Archipelagos Institute, but also all others working for the protection of our seas, cannot
accept the role of becoming the undertaker for rare species or just present to count the losses.

It is time for both the state and the citizens to stand and acknowledge the real size of the
numerous, growing threats to our marine ecosystems and species that depend upon them.
Otherwise, we will be consigned to history as the generations that accepted impending
disaster on our watch.

Thodoris Tsimpidis
Institute for Marine Protection Archipelagos