In Greece, there are 8 resident cetacean species which are: the fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus), the sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus), the Cuvier’s beaked whale (Ziphius cavirostris), the Risso’s dolphin (Grampus griseus), the bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus), the common short-beaked dolphin (Delphinus delphis), the striped dolphin (Stenella coeruleoalba) and the harbor porpoise (Phocoena phocoena). Besides the fin whale that belongs to baleen whales, the rest of the resident species that live in Greece belong to toothed whales. Additionally, there are more visitor or vagrant species that can be found occasionally in Greek waters such as the humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae, which is one of the most popular and well-studied cetacean species worldwide.
Cetaceans nowadays face a variety of threats around the globe. Ocean pollution, noise pollution, collision with vessels, entanglement in nets and other fishing gear, overfishing-induced prey depletion are some of the greatest threats they face. Additionally, in some places, cetaceans are still directly targeted either for their meat or for their transfer in zoos and dolphinaria.
Thermaikos Dolphin Project will consist of a systematic study on Thermaikos Gulf’s cetaceans as well as environmental education and sensitizing of the public about marine mammals and the marine environment.
Thermaikos Gulf is an important area for both Greece’s biodiversity and economy. Thus far, only a handful of studies have been conducted in the area about cetaceans which have actually focused on either stranded specimens or were interview-based studies on fishers’ local ecological knowledge. Through Thermaikos Dolphin Project, the area’s dolphin populations’ abundance and distribution will be studied for the first time in a systematic way for species that regularly or occasionally occur in the gulf. The broadly used photo-identification method will be used.
Bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) – Conservation Status in the Mediterranean: Vulnerable
The bottlenose dolphin is the most common coastal dolphin species in Greece and can be found throughout the whole country. It is considered one of the most popular cetacean species worldwide as it is often kept in dolphinaria and zoos. In Greece, it can reach up to 3.30 m.
Common short–beaked dolphin (Delphinus delphis) – Conservation Status in the Mediterranean: Endangered
Once quite common in the Mediterranean, it has been declining in the basin since the ‘60s due to overfishing-induced prey depletion and its entanglement in fishing gears. It is noteworthy that despite its generalized population decline in the Mediterranean, the North Aegean still constitutes a stronghold for the species. In Greece, it can reach up to 2.27 m. In the Mediterranean, it is broadly known as common dolphin as there is no other short-beaked dolphin in the region.
Striped dolphin (Stenella coeruleoalba) – Conservation Status in the Mediterranean: Vulnerable
In Greece, it has been reported in most regions in open areas. Its body shape is similar to the one of the common dolphin which it can be mistaken with while on the field. Its distinctive characteristic is a gray stripe that extends from its eyes up until its dorsal fin. In Greece, it can reach up to 2.20 m.
The project’s main goals are the following:
- The estimation of dolphin species’ abundance
- The behavioral study of the area’s dolphins
- The public’s environmental education and sensitizing through a variety of activities such as workshops and dolphin-watching tours provide the opportunity to observe dolphins in their natural habitat
The project is implemented by iSea and is funded by Sani Resort.