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Investigating an Apparent Decline in Bottlenose Dolphins in Montenegro & How Citizen Science has Helped to Fill Data Gaps During the Current Pandemic

Authors:
  • DMAD - Marine Mammals Research Association in Montenegro & Turkey
  • Marine Management Organisation

Abstract

A lack of baseline knowledge is one of the biggest barriers in the way of effective conservation and management of endangered species. Montenegro is the only country in the Adriatic Sea apart from Bosnia and Herzegovina (coastline = 20 km) with no marine protected areas. Land- and boat-based surveys began in September 2016 to increase knowledge about the distribution, behaviour and residency patterns of cetaceans in Montenegrin waters. Thus far, over 100 boat-based surveys and over 500 land-based have been conducted with a total of more than 2000 hours. Across this timeframe, there appears to have been a notable decrease in the percentage of surveys where bottlenose dolphins were sighted from 43% of surveys in the first twelve months (September 2016 – September 2017 to 22% in the fourth year (September 2019 – September 2020) of surveys. The study also investigated the anthropogenic activities that have the potential to negatively impact the bottlenose dolphins, in order to best inform future conservation decisions. As aforementioned, restrictions due to the pandemic decreased survey efforts in Montenegro with no surveys taking place between the 10th of March and the 2nd of July 2020. A sighting network was set up to try and aid survey effort through citizen science. More than 20 sightings were reported, from the launch of the network on 1st September 2020 until March 12th 2021. Whilst this seems a relatively low number, only 22 sightings were made by our onsite researchers during this period and so citizen science played an important role in supplementing data in a year of limited surveying ability. Evidence of submitted sightings were often provided with photos, giving authors reason to believe that submitted information was generally accurate and could help supplement surveys during and after COVID-19 restrictions.
Investigating an Apparent Decline
in Bottlenose Dolphins in
Montenegro & How Citizen
Science has Helped to Fill Data
Gaps During the Current
Pandemic
Laura Rudd1, Tim Awbery1, Sian McGuinness1, Selina Brouwer1,
Enorha Guimard1, Liam van Walsum1, Aylin Akkaya1
1 DMAD Marine Mammals Research Association
Montenegro
East coast of the Adriatic Sea
One of the fastest growing tourism industries in
the Mediterranean
Only country in the Adriatic (apart from Bosnia &
Herzegovina) with no marine protected areas
Introduction Methodology Results Discussion
Montenegro
Working since September 2016 to try and
collect baseline data on cetaceans in
Montenegro
Before the Montenegro Dolphin Research
project only one six-month research project
Introduction Methodology Results Discussion
Miočić-Stošić, J., Holcer, D., Đurović, M., Pleslić, G., Ikica, Z. and Vuković, V., 2020. Photo-Identification of Common Bottlenose Dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) in Montenegrin Waters.
Bottlenose dolphins
Most commonly encountered cetacean in
Montenegro
Considered vulnerable in the Mediterranean
Introduction Methodology Results Discussion
Bearzi, G., Fortuna, C. & Reeves, R. 2012. Tursiops truncatus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2012: e.T22563A2782611.
Main threats
Intentional killing
Introduction Methodology Results Discussion
Prey depletion
Bycatch
Contamination by
xenobiotics
Epizootic outbreaks
Climate change
Noise
Bearzi, G., Fortuna, C. & Reeves, R. 2012. Tursiops truncatus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2012: e.T22563A2782611.
Habitat destruction
COVID-19
Introduction Methodology Results Discussion
Reduced international travel
Restricted in country movement
Methods
Six pre-determined theodolite stations were
selected
Boat surveys were conducted using 6m or 12m
motorboats or sailing boats.
Introduction Methodology Results Discussion
Survey area
Introduction Methodology Results Discussion
Methods
Instantaneous focal group scan sampling
5 minute sampling intervals
GLM for binomial data
Appeal launched on 1st September 2020
Introduction Methodology Results Discussion
Results
Introduction ResultsMethodology Discussion
Significantly less encounters in
2019 and 2020 than 2017
(2019 p<0.01, 2020 p<0.05)
Results
Introduction ResultsMethodology Discussion
Less sightings in Beaufort sea state 3+
(Sea state 3 p<0.01, sea state >3 p<0.05)
Less sightings in autumn than winter
(p<0.05)
Results
Introduction ResultsMethodology Discussion
Reliable coordinates (most have
photographic evidence) on more
than 20 occasions including 17 in
the Bay of Kotor.
Awbery,T. & Akkaya, A., 2020,A Worrying Decline in the Presence of Bottlenose Dolphins in Montenegro & the Importance of Citizen Science During COVID-19,FINS (10), pg.20
Sightings from first month alone
Results
Our team only had 22 sighting
within the same period
Introduction ResultsMethodology Discussion
Awbery,T. & Akkaya, A., 2020,A Worrying Decline in the Presence of Bottlenose Dolphins in Montenegro & the Importance of Citizen Science During COVID-19,FINS (10), pg.20
Discussion
Introduction DiscussionMethodology Results
Multiple signs of decline
43% in year one to 22% in year 4
Declining group sizes
Historic intentional killings
Need for up-to-date, local studies
Awbery,T. & Akkaya, A., 2020,A Worrying Decline in the Presence of Bottlenose Dolphins in Montenegro & the Importance of Citizen Science During COVID-19,FINS (10), pg.20
McGuinness et al. in prep Bearzi, G., Fortuna, C. & Reeves, R. 2012. Tursiops truncatus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2012: e.T22563A2782611.
Discussion
Introduction DiscussionMethodology Results
Decline coincides with
seismic activity
Ramform Titan Is One Weird Looking Ship (drivemag.com)
Gordon, J., Gillespie, D., Potter, J., Frantzis, A., Simmonds, M.P., Swift, R. and Thompson, D., 2003. A review of the effects of seismic surveys on marine mammals. Marine Technology Society Journal, 37(4), pp.16-34.
Discussion
Decline, displacement
or natural variation?
Introduction DiscussionMethodology Results
Akkaya et al. in prep
2016 2017
2018 2019
Discussion
Introduction DiscussionMethodology Results
Tourism has decreased during COVID
Need for further research and the
precautionary approach
Seismic surveys are restarting
Clarkson, J., Christiansen, F., Awbery, T., Abbiss, L., Nikpaljevic, N. and Akkaya, A., 2020. Non-targeted tourism affects the behavioural budgets of bottlenose dolphins Tursiops truncatus in the South Adriatic (Montenegro). Marine Ecology Progress Series, 638,
pp.165-176.
Discussion
Introduction DiscussionMethodology Results
Citizen science
supplemented our data
with key sightings.
Continuation of the
project
Summary
There is evidence to suggest that the
bottlenose dolphin population is declining in
Montenegro.
Cause of this is unclear.
Further research is required, hopefully with
the help of citizen science.
Introduction DiscussionMethodology Results
Thank You for Listening
Laura Rudd1, Tim Awbery1, Sian McGuinness1, Selina Brouwer1,
Enorha Guimard1, Liam van Walsum1, Aylin Akkaya1
1 DMAD Marine Mammals Research Association
Laura Rudd -
laurarudd@dmad.org.tr
www.dmad.org.tr
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