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
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 (AMLS) is a model sanctuary where expert care and rehabilitation will be provided to sick and injured marine animals in and around the Greek islands and formerly captive dolphins can thrive in a natural environment. The AMLS is currently under construction on the island of Lipsi, aiming to become the first of its kind sanctuary using the highest standard of animal welfare and serving as a research and educational facility, that allows study without human disturbance to the animals.
Located in a pristine natural location being cost-effective, sustainable, innovative and far from the impacts of humans the AMLS is a solution to a global problem that is replicable and scalable.
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 microplastics 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 daily and seasonal beach clean ups around Samos island, as well as in other Aegean islands. Moreover, during the boat-based and ferry fixed-transect surveys, 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.
🎓 Essex University, UK in cooperation with Archipelagos Institute of Marine Conservation, offers a joint scholarship for a PhD program entitled, “Ecosystem function of key marine habitats in the Mediterranean: shallow seagrasses to deep coralligenous reefs”
⛵️ This PhD will be largely field-based, working as part of the Archipelagos research team in the Aegean Sea, Greece. Research will be assessing ecosystem services, carbon sequestration, as well as the quantification of the factors that threaten these important ecosystems.
📆 For more information: https://www.findaphd.com/phds/project/ecosystem-function-of-key-marine-habitats-in-the-mediteranean-shallow-seagrasses-to-deep-coralligenous-reefs/?p154832
Mass stranding of 12 Cuvier’s beaked whale on the North-West coast of Cyprus.🐋
Twelve Cuvier’s beaked whales (Ziphius cavirostris) have been found stranded, one after the other in recent days on the northwest coast of Cyprus.
According to the US oceanographic agency NOAA, and based on many international scientific publications, probable cause for standing and death of Cuvier's beaked whales is frequently due to the intense underwater noise pollution caused by the use of specific sonar frequencies during naval exercises.
At the time of their strandings, a Navtex had been issued for Russian naval exercises in the area of the Anaximander Seamounts north of Cyprus. Additionally, the press announced plans for a joint exercise involving the US and Cypriot navies from 4-26 February in the south of Cyprus.
This marine area of Cyprus supports significant populations of cetaceans and other important marine protected species. Many of these species have not been subject to extensive research and therefore represent significant gaps in scientific knowledge. Despite this, the same waters are regularly damaged by the naval exercises of various countries.😔
The navies of these countries themselves are responsible in many ways, but the fundamental duty lies with the states themselves. It is the governments of Cyprus, Greece and neighboring countries who have to set the conditions under which activities such as naval exercises are carried out.
Incidents such as the recent mass strandings of the 12 whales make us wonder whether the governments of the countries in the region are capable of comprehending the extent of this problem. In just a few decades, species that have survived for millions of years will be in danger of extinction. The responsibility for this is shared by all of us without exception.
Our past week of silence across social media amounts to a small sign of respect for the tragic disaster experienced by our fellow citizens and neighbors in Turkey and Syria. 🙏
In the face of this disaster, resulting in the loss of many thousands of lives, and the hardship awaiting all those who survived, let’s at least move forward with a bit more knowledge than before.
For many decades human arrogance and selective memory has perhaps become our biggest fault. We have ignored the fact that we reside on a living planet which continues to evolve every day with its own pace and rules.🌍
We continue to think that we are stronger than nature and that we have control. It is a paradox to believe that such devastation will never happen to ourselves but only those afar. With the same arrogance we destroy the air we breathe, the water we drink and so much more.
Though we will never be able to regain all lost in the tragedy, we hope you will stand by us and support in any way we can the survivors, and to go forth having drawn knowledge and respect for the living planet we all share.✊
Through the heart of winter, the Archipelagos International School of the Sea continues dynamically. 💙
Across 22 years, over 20,000 people from 46 countries, graduate and postgraduate students as well as young scientists of various specialties have been a part of the institute's field research venture. 👩🎓
We believe that The International School of the Seas is our greatest investment in protecting our seas.🌊
The research for the conservation of the coralligenous habitats of the Aegean Sea in the deep waters continues aboard the Aegean Explorer.
Corals that survive here may exceed the age of 7000 years. 🤩
However, they are a well-kept secret in the depths of the Aegean.
Τhey are being destroyed by towed fishing gear (trawlers) that can reach these depths.
Let’s continue contributing to their conservation! 🌊
The loggerhead sea turtle enjoys the seas without human disturbance! 🐢
In the quiet winter months, researchers of the Archipelagos Institute in the northern Aegean Sea are recording more and more frequent sightings of sea turtles. Green and loggerhead turtles come near the coast searching for safe feeding grounds.
Sadly many sea turtles are also being found stranded or injured … 😞
Why? Because of the tens of thousands of recreational boats and jet skis and the uncontrolled way they navigate in the Greek seqs, especially during the tourist period. Vessel strikes pose one of the greatest threats to their survival.
It’s time to change this!
We must protect our beautiful sea and its inhabitants! 🌊