Associazione Me.Ri.S. aims to increase dolphins protection in the Sicilian Channel through two coordinated activities. The first, is to increase scientific knowledge about bottlenose dolphins inhabiting waters off Agrigento Province. The second, aims to raise awareness of people about the importance to protect cetaceans and their environment, through dissemination and training activity.
Rationale and Objectives:
Cetaceans are top-level predators that regulate the abundance of a wide variety of fishes and squids, they also concentrate and magnify contaminants through bioaccumulation processes. They are considered as sentinel of the health and status of lower trophic levels in the marine ecosystem. Thus, marine mammals are key species for monitoring in marine conservation planning and have been often used to promote designation of reserve areas in many countries. In Europe, several conservation policies refer in part to the marine environment, among which the most significant is the Habitat Directive that requires all European member states to select, designate and protect sites that support species such as the bottlenose dolphin. Conservation of threatened species and management of those exploited requires reliable information about distribution, abundance and trends in abundance. To reach a comprehensive knowledge of dolphins ecology, information on population behavior budget is also necessary.
The main goal is to set down the basis to increase the conservation status of the bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) in the Sicilian Channel by improving knowledge, through scientific research, in order to properly manage the area.
This target will be reached through the following specific objectives:
1) calculate a preliminary estimation of the dolphins abundance and movement patterns in order to identify ecological corridors;
2) evaluate the interaction between dolphins feeding behaviors and humans activities with particular regards to professional fishing.
The second activity aims to increase people awareness about the marine environment protection, this goal will be reached through dissemination activities for citizen as well as scientific training activities.
The activities will be carried out in the Sicilian Channel, the strait of sea between Sicily (Italy) and Tunisia. This area plays an important role by dividing the Mediterranean Sea in two major sub-basins, the eastern and western. The complexity of the topography and the circulation scheme makes the Sicilian Channel a highly productive area and a biodiversity hotspot in the Mediterranean Sea.
1)Scientific expedition on bottlenose dolphin (summer 2019). Data about dolphins occurrence, distribution, behaviour, interaction with fishing, and photographic identification will be collected.
2)Data analysis. The population abundance will be estimated through photographic mark-recapture. Bottlenose dolphins have been documented obtaining food from trawling fishing, incidence on population of this opportunistic behavior will be assessed.
3)Bottlenose dolphins expedition training camps (summer 2019). Participants will be involved in all the scientific activities of the researchers. The program includes: biology and cetaceans monitoring techniques lectures, and research activities at sea.
4)Citizen Science campaign. Citizens will be involved in the bottlenose dolphins monitoring with the double purpose to increase knowledge about dolphins presence and raise local people awareness about the importance of marine conservation.
Report of the activities aimed to raise awareness about the wonders of marine life and the importance of marine conservation.
Bottlenose dolphin Abundance estimation and Incidence of interactions between dolphins and fishing activities (data analysis report)
Report on the results of the 2019 scientific expedition (number of daily survey, number of sightings of bottlenose dolphins, maps of the survey conducted) and the participation at the training camp 2019 (Education activities)
Brochure publishing to involve people in the citizen science programme