The Ionian Dolphin Project works to ensure the long-term viability of dolphin species living in coastal waters of western Greece.
Dolphins inhabiting the coastal waters of Greece are facing significant threats. Some dolphin populations must deal with increasing human encroachment, while others have disappeared altogether from portions of their former range.
Among the threated dolping species that are monitored by the Ionian Dolphin Project are the Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus). These are the most abundant coastal cetacean species in the Mediterranean Sea, that have been negatively affected in numerous ways by human activities. Until the 1960s, they were one of the main targets of culling campaigns, resulting in thousands of animals killed. In recent times, incidental mortality in fishing gear, prey depletion caused by overfishing, habitat degradation, boat traffic, noise and health effects caused by pollution are important threats. Mediterranean bottlenose dolphins have been proposed for classification as Vulnerable in a recent Red List assessment by IUCN.
Another species monitored by the Ionian Dolphin Project are the Short-beaked common dolphins (Delphinus delphis). Once one of the most abundant cetacean species in the Mediterranean Sea, they have declined throughout the region since the 1960s. In 2003 their Mediterranean population was classified as Endangered in the IUCN Red List. In 2006 they have been included in Appendix I and II of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species (Bonn Convention – CMS). The causes of their decline include prey depletion by overfishing and incidental mortality in fishing gear
Since 1991 the Ionian Dolphin Project works to ensure the long-term viability of dolphin species living in two coastal areas of western Greece: the Gulf of Ambracia and the Inner Ionian Sea archipelago. These two study areas are remarkably diverse in terms of environmental features and threats posed by human activities, therefore they offer opportunities for understanding the links between dolphin status and habitat quality in different situations.
The Ionian Dolphin Project aims to understand, through long-term monitoring, how the local dolphin communities interact with their environment and how human activities—particularly fisheries and pollution—may affect its conservation status.
By deploying state-of-the-art techniques, the Ionian Dolpin Project contributes tools to:
- inform management action,
- promote marine conservation in Greece, and
- support conservation efforts in the wider Mediterranean region.
Through their quality of umbrella, flagship and cultural keystone species, charismatic animals such as dolphins can be important drivers of the conservation process.
Our conservation activities at the Ionian Dolphin Project should result in local citizens, stakeholders and authorities being aware of the ecosystem services provided by a diverse and healthy habitat, and thereby, the importance of endorsing sustainable management. People need to care, and caring largely comes from knowing and understanding.