30 Mar 2017
From Research to Policy Implications; Minimizing Negative Human Impacts on Cetaceans and their Vulnerable Habitats in the South Adriatic
Turning Paper Results into Conservation Outputs for Marine Top Predator Protection in Montenegro
Adriatic Sea holds one of the richest cetacean habitats in the Mediterranean Sea, however the same cetaceans are classified either at risk or data deficient and subjected to various anthropogenic threats as in habitat degradation, prey depletion, by-catch, vessel traffic, pollution. Montenegro waters forefront with the lack of annual cetacean survey efforts, unlike the rest of Adriatic Sea. The project will be the first annual survey in the coastal waters of Montenegro. Cetacean encounter, abundance rate, fishing impact analysis and residency patterns will be clarified. Moreover, the project outstands with its community enrollment through active involvement of fishermen and public.
Adriatic Sea is home to seven cetacean species; all are either in decline or data deficient in regional levels. Previous studies underlined that there are possible resident groups of bottlenose and striped dolphins in Montenegro, while once widely distributed common dolphins (Delphinus delphis) regarded as regionally extinct. Bottlenose (Annex II and IV Habitat Directive) and striped dolphins (Annex IV Habitat Directive) are on the List of Protected Plants and Animals of Montenegro and are of community interest in need of strict protection. However, no further studies have been carried. Annual surveys provide in depth information and conclusions on population statues, abundance, distribution, residency patterns and human impacts which form the base on the management policies. Species’ regional status and future conservation efforts can be determined with dedicated systematic surveys. The origin of the project is to form the steps for conservation plications by integrating science and community engagement. For this purpose, ‘Natural History Association of Montenegro’ and ‘Marine Mammals Research Association’ became alliance. In hand with scientific activities, cetacean sighting/stranding network and stakeholders involvement will be encouraged to inspire the community to take a greater interest in marine conservation.
The project contributes to:
• Assessment of species population statues for bottlenose and striped dolphins in regional level
• Accurate estimation of seasonal and annual abundance, distribution and encounter rates of the two species
• Assessment on residency patterns and site fidelities of the two species
• Contributing the photo-ID catalogue of Adriatic Sea to identify the home range and movement patterns.
• Investigating the effect of fishing pressure and marine vessel traffic on two species.
• Capacity building of stakeholders and decision makers via active involvement to the project activities, workshops, conservation educations in schools and academic lectures. Informal talks with local inhabitants about the problems that marine life is facing and how we each can help to conserve it will also be carried. National televisions, festivals, city halls and media promotions will be delivered to reach a wider range of public on our project activities. Additionally, project news and updates, including field research and school lectures, will be published on the Montenegro Dolphin Project website (http://www.montenegrodolphinproject.org/) for our capacity building activities.