Research Project

DMAD collaborates with leading scientists, Prof. Dr. Bayram Öztürk and Dr. Ayaka Amaha Öztürk, from Turkish Marine Research Foundation and considers their supervision as an important guide on our activities, with an awareness of importance on share knowledge. Moreover, DMAD has united their conservation effort with Archipelagos Marine Institute (archipelago.gr/) and Natural History Association of Montenegro (naturalhistoryassociationofmontenegro.weebly.com/)  to highlight the necessity of transboundary marine mammal conservation and to notify the public that environmental cooperation is an extremely important tool. Since stakeholder-dolphin interactions are detrimental for all sides, active hands on enrollment to the project activities will be encouraged to strengthen their vital effort on nature conservation.

02.05.2016ANTALYAGR1SELALE_369 copyAs a result of our collaborations and ambition of spreading our scientific studies on marine mammals, we are already working on three important areas. First of all, Nortwestern Levantine Sea, which is a important fauna in terms of marine mammals population, is our main focal point. Later on, we work on Samos Island which shares the identical marine shelf with Turkey and is an important area to understand the areal mobility of marine mammals having habiat in Agean Sea. Finally, we have initiated our marine mammals project in Adriatic coasts of Montenegro with collaboration of local NGO, NHAM to understand the marine mammals life and contribute to marine conservation.

Northwestern Levantine Sea

The project focuses on the north-western Levantine Sea in the Eastern Mediterranean Basin which is an oligotrophic sea with high sea temperature and high salinity. It has a narrow continental shelf (mostly <15 km wide) which lies between 40-130 m depth, a continental slope reaching 2000 m and an abyssal plain found until 2600m depth. North-western Levantine Sea has a unique habitat created by sea mounts, mud volcanoes and methane cold seeps which hosts deep sea fish species and deep sea sharks. Concomitant with its economical value for fishing, tourism, shipping, north-western Levantine Sea possesses an ecological importance within the whole Mediterranean Sea. It sits within an “Ecologically or Biologically Significant Marine Areas (EBSA) and part of the UNEP Mediterranean Action Plan. Moreover, north-western Levantine Sea is listed as a priority conservation area and hosts several proposed “High Sea Marine Protected Area” due to its unique habitat and rich biodiversity. Nevertheless, lack of scientific research prevents implementing conservation actions and management policies in the area.

  • Göcek, Fethiye Specially Protected Area

Göcek, Fethiye is located in the souhteast borders of Mediterrenean region of province Muğla. It’s located right on the eastern egde of the gulf at the abutment of mount Mendos. Fethiye town which is located in the western part of the Teke peninsula has neighbourhoods: Köyceğiz is in the northwest, Denizli and Burdur are in the north and also Antalya is in the east. (National System of Marine Protected Areas, 2012). According to the Barcelona agreement in 1988, the region is declared as “Privately Protected Area” and an archaeological site. (National System of Marine Protected Areas, 2012)

Regional vegetation consists of scrubs on the shore and conifer forests on the onshore. These forests are Black pine (Pinus nigra), Red pine (Pinus Brutia) and Cedar (Cedrus sp.) forests. Moreover, there is an endemic species Liquidambar orientalis which is known as Turkish sweetgum or Oriental sweetgum grows in streams, deltas. The oil obtained from Turkish sweetgum is used in cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries. (National System of Marine Protected Areas, 2012)

Two sea turtle species (Caretta caretta, Chelonia mydas) are present in Fethiye beach which is one of the breeding zones of the species. The named species are under the protection by Berne convention and CITES.

We have initiated our conservation and education project Combining Research with Education for Cetacean Conservation in Fethiye-Göcek SEPA Turkey in the area. Main targets of the porject were to improve our understanding on cetacean populations in Fethiye-Göcek Special Environmental Protected Area (SEPA) and to clarify spatial and temporal cetacean biodiversity, abundance, distribution, important habitats as in feeding and resting and major threats on their survival.  Besides, the first photo-ID catalogue of the area was going to be initiated with the direct participation of scientists, fishermen and tourist boats’ crews. And finally, we aimed to provide hands on science experiences for children, who were raised in sexually and physically abused environments. They were going to be inspired and motivated which will help them to gain their self-confidence that will hopefully provide them different alternatives and show them new paths they can take.

As a result of yearlong conservation activities in the area, we have mainly mapped all dolphin sightings after conducting 9 scieintific day long surveys, started the catalogue of bottlenose dolphins, determined the summer months as critical for dolphin observations and contacted with Fethiye Municipality and ÇODEM (Childeren Education and Support Center) and reached over 30 girls who were under the government protection and for over 50 in-need kids resident in undeveloped areas of Fethiye by taking them them out to the dolphin tours, trained them to be a scientist for a day and thought them the importance of marine life and its protection.

  • Antalya

Antalya is the eighth most populous city in Turkey and the sixth largest province of Turkey in term of surface area. It is surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea in the South and Taurus Mountains extending parallel to the sea, also it is neighbor with Mersin, Konya, Karaman in the east and Isparta, Burdur in the North and Muğla in the West. The surface area of ​​the province is about 20.815 km2. (“Antalya”, 2016)

The provincial land is 77.8% of mountainous, 10.2% of the plain and 12% of rugged construction in average. Many hills of Taurus covering ¾ territory of the city exceed 2.500-3.000 meters. Wild plateaus and basins are located in the Teke region. (“Antalya”, 2016)
Concomitant with its economical value for shipping, fishing and recreation, Antalya Bay possesses an ecological importance within the Mediterranean ecosystem, known as one of the highest biodiversity basin in the world. It sits within an EBSA of the Mediterranean and its part of the UNEP/MAP action plan which is proposed as a priority conservation area (Anon 2010). Kekova and Patara in Kaş, Belek and Finike Underwater Mountains are specially protected areas in Antalya. (T.C. Çevre ve Şehircilik Bakanlığı Tabiat Varlıklarını Koruma Genel Müdürlüğü, 2016).

DMAD has implemented the cetacean surveys to identify the population statues, site fidelities, residency patterns and species’ abundance and distribution patterns. We have specified our survey area as %20 of Antalya Bay for our studies to make sense scientifically. We have conducted our cetacean surveys as Boat and Land ones.

Boat Surveys: During our boat surveys conducted around 4 times in a month and comprising sunrises, we have collected the scientific datas of cetaceans with the help of our volunteers. Acording to the distribution of tasks, our team has conducted cetacean surveys by naked eye or binoculars, recorded the GPS coordinates of mammals, collected the scientific datas of population, marine mammals species and behaviour, taken the photos of cetacean and transmitting all scientific datas to the computer. Finally, all outputs gained have been recored sistematically to be analyzed by the computer programs, Logger, I-Match etc.

Land Surveys (Surveying the sea from land): We have conducted our surveys around 8 times in a month covering sunrises and sunsets sistematically by theodolite, binoculars and naked eye. Once again, we have obtained
important scientific datas regarding cetaceans and recorded them to the computer programs to analyz them. During our land surveys, we have also worked on Mediterranean Monk Seals which are rarely seen and published our paper on their potential habitats, pupulation statues and measures of conservation.

In consequence of our sistematic boat and land surveys; we have acquired great numbers of scientific datas on population statues, distribution patterns and site fidelity of cetaceans in Antalya Bay and published our scientific papers. Not only our papers published, but also the other results to be obtained by our planned long-term surveys will contribute to the conservation of biodiversity in Antalya Bay in the coming years. 

Central Aegean Sea-Samos Island

We have aimed to enlarge our study area after the scientific results on marine mammals gained in north-western Levantine Sea and have published papers. So, we desired to work on marine biodiversity in close by Agean Sea with a local NGO cooperation. In 2016, we have agreed to work together with Archipelagos, Institute of Marine Conservation based in Samos Island on marine conseration and headed to this cozy and dolphin-rich island.

For uderstanding better the area: “Mediterranean cetaceans are classified either at risk or data deficient”, species encountered or detected per acoustic in previous survey (C. Ryan et al.) & IUCN Red List status:

  • Short-Beaked Common Dolphin – endangered (Mediterranean subpopulation)
  • Bottlenose Dolphin – vulnerable (Mediterranean subpopulation)
  • Striped Dolphin – vulnerable (Mediterranean subpopulation)
  • Sperm Whale – endangered (Mediterranean subpopulation)
  • Beaked Whale – data deficient (all species)

Besides, the central Aegean Sea, bordering with Turkey and Greece, according to the very few published studies performed within this area, one of the richest habitats in the Eastern part of the Mediterranean in terms of cetacean species. Previously pointed critical habitats are under various anthropogenic threats as in marine traffic, unregulated and uncontrolled fishery and pollution. The goal of this collaboration is to fill the knowledge gaps on population statues, residency patterns, abundance and encounter rates, as well as to determine their habitat usage and the dimension of marine traffic and fishing impact on the population. In addition, our initial aim is to develop a general idea of what cetacean species are present within the Ikaria basin, and how abundant each species are. Besides, with the help of Photo-ID analysis, a catalog of individuals present within the Ikaria basin can be created and subsequently expanded in future years.

We’ve basically kept up the same scientific methodology, which is conducted in north-western Levantine Sea, in Samos Island and identified population status, site fidelity, residency patterns and species’ abundance and distribution patterns of marine mammals via boat and land surveys with the collaboration of ARCHIPELAGOS Institute. Having frequently observed the bottlenose and common dolphins in the island, we got important scientific behavioral datas on mammals and took many photos of them to suply input for our photo-ID work which is important to discover and understand characteristics of dolphins deeply. The marine mammal surveys succesfully continous by ARCHIPELAGOS in the central Aegean Sea.

As long as we conduct our scientific surveys on a long-term base in the Island; due to identical marine shelf between Turkey and Greece, in the long run we are expecting to reach significant results on marine biodiversity in the region. 

South Adriatic-Montenegro

The project focuses all the coastline of Montenegro. South Adriatic Sea, including Montenegrin coast, characterized with its steep slopes and higher water salinity than rest of the Adriatic. The maximum depth reaches only up to 1.200 m. The continental shelf of Montenegro covers almost 44% of the total area, while the bathymetric belt covers around 34% of it.  Even though Montenegro is a partner country of ACCOBAMS Agreement, Barcelona Convention and Bern Convention, cetacean populations in Montenegrin waters are sufficiently unexplored.  Until now, no marine protected areas are declared in Montenegro but there are several proposed marine protected areas along the coastline. While Velika Plaza, Buljarica and Tivatska solila were selected as special significant areas according to the Law on Nature Protection, proposed sites lie all along the Montenegrin coastline (i.e. Boka Kotorska gulf, Mamula up to the ness of Mačka, ness of Trašte up to Platamun, ZPM Katič, ness of Volujica up to Dobre vode settlement, ness of Komina up to ness of Old Ulcinj (Stari Ulcinj), gulf of Valdanos up to Long Beach (Velika plaža), Seka Ɖeran and southern area of Long Beach up to delta of Bojana River. The high number of proposed marine protected areas signifies the importance of this coastline with a lack of scientific knowledge to declare these habitats under MPAs.

Our aim is to integrate scientific research with community education for cetacean conservation and to update the population statues in the coastal and offshores waters of Montenegro. For this purpose, ‘Marine Mammals Research Association’ (DMAD), and ‘Natural History Association of Montenegro (NHAM)’ were became alliance. In hand with scientific activities, stakeholders involvement, specifically fishermen, tour boat crews, locals and tourists, will be encouraged through active involvement to the project activities, public talks and creation of online cetacean sighting/stranding network to motivate and inspire the community to take a greater interest in marine conservation.

On the other hand, we also aim setting up the very first annual cetacean monitoring project in Montenegro waters which will also continue in following years. The project will contribute;

  • Assessment of species population statues in regional level
  • Accurate estimation of seasonal and annual abundance, distribution and encounter rates of target species
  • Developing an understanding on residency patterns and site fidelities
  • Contributing the photo-ID catalogue of Adriatic Sea thus to identify the home range and movement patterns of species.
  • Capacity building of fishermen, tour boat crews, locals and tourist who depends on the same habitat of dolphins.
  • Creating a sustainable cetacean conservation through various public awareness activities and online cetacean network system.

By doing all the above, not only annual and seasonal cetacean population knowledge in Montenegro will be greatly enhanced thus subsequent management plans of the area to be developed but also the conservation implication would be long lasting through active community engagement. Moreover, Marine Mammals Research Association and Natural History Association of Montenegro have united their conservation effort to highlight the necessity of transboundary cetacean conservation and to notify the public that environmental cooperation is an extremely important tool. Since stakeholder-dolphin interactions are detrimental for all sides, active hands on enrollment to the project activities will be encouraged to strengthen their vital effort on nature conservation. Public talks, lectures and reports on the current project and its social endeavor will be delivered in the city halls, festivals and universities. 

We have started our studies on September 2016 in Montenegro to identify the population of cetaceans with the collaboration of local NGO, NHAM (National History Association of Montenegro). We are regularly conducting boat and land surveys on the coastline of Adriatic Sea in Montenegro. Due to the lack of scientific studies on marine mammals in this region, we focus on marine mammals density mapping and shift our main conservation challenge to the heart of important areas.


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