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Northern Aegean Dolphin Project

Dolphins have played an important role in Greek culture since ancient times: they have been celebrated in works of art, linked with the gods, and studied by Aristotle. According to some accounts, dolphins were held in such high regard that killing them was equivalent to killing a person and the crime was therefore punishable by death. Paradoxically, over the last 100 years, dolphin populations have declined dramatically, due to overfishing and the consequent depletion of fish-stocks, deliberate killing, fishing-gear entanglement and consumption or suffocation by marine debris, underwater noise pollution, collision with large vessels etc. 

Dolphins belong to the order of Cetacea, along with whales, beaked whales and porpoises. Currently, there are four species of dolphins living permanently in the Mediterranean; the bottlenose dolphin, the short-beaked common dolphin, the striped dolphin and the Risso’s dolphin. Due to their declining populations they have been included in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, whereas various international and regional agreements, European and national legislations aim towards the protection of these species. Deep knowledge and understanding on the population status and trends, the behavior, social organization and ecology of dolphin species are key elements, in order to design and implement solid and integrated conservation measures. 

In Greece, although there is some progress in knowledge regarding dolphin populations during the past fifteen years, we still have important gaps to fill in order to proceed to efficient and targeted conservation measures for dolphin species protection. MOm’s Northern Aegean Dolphin Project is an effort to learn more about the dolphin populations in the wider area of the National Marine Park of Alonissos Northern Sporades (NMPANS), Greece. Despite the fact that NMPANS is an officially designated Marine Protected Area, no systematic research effort has been carried out so far to study their populations and ecology.

People interested in supporting the project join MOm’s research team, being actively involved in daily field surveys at sea, collecting and processing important data on dolphin populations. Participation does not presuppose prior knowledge on marine mammal biology or research technique protocols; throughout the project MOm’s researchers guide the team through and explain the procedures. Additionally, in the evenings educational seminars are being held by MOm’s expert stuff, which are intended to provide valuable insights and understanding regarding marine mammals, monitoring techniques and the local marine environment.