About 12 o’clock on Thursday 23rd November, the MDP team was on the boat for a new survey. It was my second boat survey, the first one was in Budva and we did not see any dolphins, the sea had a high beaufort and after a few hours it rained. This time, however, the sun was shining, warming the boat, the sea was perfectly flat and we were all confident in seeing dolphins.
We started from the Bar harbor and sailed the coast to the south. After an hour and half we finally saw the first group of bottlenose dolphins, consisting of 3 individuals, one of which was a calf (we understood that because, besides being smaller in size, when he came to the surface to breathe his head came out of the water which is typical of calves).
This group showed a diving behavior. This behavior is considered a foraging technique: all the cetaceans have to dive in deep waters to find food and the duration of the immersion and subsequent breathing on the surface is different for each species. The bottlenose dolphins (Tursiop truncates) usually dive for 5-8 minutes, sometimes reaching 12 minutes, looking for krill and small fishes; this interval time is short enough to follow the group easily.
During the survey the team was split accordingly, we each had a task, taking photographs for photo-identification, reading the behavior through binoculars and recording the data. After an hour observation and data recording, we left this first group displaying a milling behavior and made our way back to Bar Harbour.
About 20 minutes later we spotted another group of 2 individuals and immediately after we sighted a group of 6-7 individuals following a fishing vessel casting its net. Also this time they were mainly diving and sometimes they came very close to the vessel, probably feeding on fishes escaping from the nets. This kind of behavior has negative effects on dolphin health for many reasons. With our data we are studying the impact of fishing vessels on dolphins in the Montenegro and all our results will be an important proof to support and increase the conservation in these coastal waters.
With the beautiful view of the sunset over the calm sea, the dolphins and the mountains, we started to return to the harbor after 4 and a half hour of successful and uplifting survey.
The day after we left our house in Ulcinj at 7.30 am for a land survey in Utheja. The survey began at 8 am and after about an hour, while I was operating the theodolite, I saw a dolphin after the small marina but because of the haze and its position in the distance we lost sight of it. Two hours after our first sighting, I re-sighted the dolphins, this time they were closer to our land station, 3 individuals, two were together and one alone. We spotted them travelling and following a series of long dives about 750 meters from the coast. After 40 minutes they went further from the coast and they disappeared behind the headland towards Utheja.