The Ionian Dolphin Project continues in Paxos and Anti-Paxos for the third year running. This year, as a trilateral partnership between the Ionian Environment Foundation, The Blue Marine Foundation and the Tethys Institute, we worked in collaboration to maximise the outputs of the project.
The Ionian Environment Foundation will play an important role in the implementation and establishment of strong and trustful relationships with the fishing communities of the Ionian islands. This project works well in symbiosis with other IEF aims to build trust with local stakeholders in the region, particularly the fishing communities, and in so doing contribute to the improved likelihood of effective marine conservation via their cooperation over time. Together with the guiding principles of the Blue Marine Foundation we recognize that small-scale fishing practices are fundamental to the Greek islands’ economy and culture. As such, developing close relationships with fisherfolk and ensuring they are actively engaged in marine management discourse, is essential to promote the sustainable exploitation of the seas.
The surveys will provide new evidence and key information on the actual status of the common dolphins and the bottlenose dolphins in the central part of the Ionian Islands, which will contribute in identifying the most adequate measures to promote the conservation of these charismatic species. The same applies to the Endangered Mediterranean monk seal.
The surveyed area is a NATURA 2000 area, which is known to be important for marine mammals, such as dolphins and monk seals. This area has been regularly surveyed by the IDP for over three decades and it is important to keep collecting data in order to be able to contribute to effective protection in the future.
I. Dedicated marine mammal visual surveys will continue in the above-mentioned areas. The surveys aim to collect data about the presence of coastal dolphin species. Monitoring and periodically assessing marine mammal population abundance and distribution is critical in order to ensure their conservation and design management strategies.
II. A preliminary assessment of the coastline morphology of the west side of Paxoi-Antipaxoi in terms of coastal monk seal habitat availability will be also conducted. This will be done by performing an aquatic inspection of the coastline to verify and document the presence of caves suitable as potential monk seal shelters and hauling out sites or pupping locations.
III. Preliminary accumulation of Fishers ecological knowledge:(FEK), accumulated over the course of their fishing careers can be invaluable and help significantly marine researchers and resource managers by providing critical information to improve management of fish stocks and rebuild marine ecosystems. We mostly intend to increase awareness and sensibility of the fishers towards marine conservation by inviting them to reflect on issues that traditionally have been largely ignored by their community and to gain their collaboration and support the eventual promotion of the most adequate ecosystem-based management measures for the conservation of marine ecosystems and biodiversity.
We are confident that these activities will help shed light on issues that have been largely ignored until now. The IDP has actively contributed, with their knowledge gained over 30+years, in the drafting of the management plan for the Inner Ionian Sea Archipelago Nat2000. They have strong links with the Management Unit of Zakynthos and Ainos National Parks and Protected Areas of the Ionian islands, the body responsible for the implementation of the Management Plans and the measures included within them. We are confident that the research conducted this year, in 2022, will continue to inform these management plans and promote the creation of well-monitored marine protected areas.