Understanding marine mammal distributions in essential for conservation, as it can help identify critical habitat where management action can be taken. The semi enclosed Gulf of Corinth (Greece) has been identified as an Important Marine Mammal Area by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Marine Mammal Protected Areas Task Force, based on the regular occurrence of odontocete populations.

This study used a 7-year dataset of boat-based surveys to model and predict the distribution of striped dolphins, Stenella coeruleoalba, common dolphins, Delphinus delphis, and common bottlenose dolphins, Tursiops truncatus, in the entire Gulf.

The results obtained through modelling indicated that striped and common dolphins prefer deep waters (>300 m) in the central and southern part of the Gulf, whereas bottlenose dolphins prefer shallow waters (<300 m) and areas close to fish farms along the northern-central shore.

Model-based maps of the predicted distribution identified a preferred habitat encompassing most of the Gulf, also revealing: 1) hot spots of dolphin distribution covering about 40% of the Gulf’s surface; 2) an almost complete overlap of striped and common dolphin distribution, consistent with the hypothesis that common dolphins modified their habitat preferences to live in mixed species groups with striped dolphins; 3) a clear partitioning of striped/common and bottlenose dolphin habitat; and 4) the important role played by fish farms for bottlenose dolphins, consistent with studies conducted elsewhere in Greece.

The authors conclude that evidence provided by this study calls for area-specific and species-specific management measures to mitigate anthropogenic impacts.

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/aqc.3148

Bonizzoni et al. (2019) Modelling dolphin distribution within an Important Marine Mammal Area in Greece to support spatial management planning. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems https://doi.org/10.1002/aqc.3148

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/aqc.3148 Bonizzoni et al. (2019) Modelling dolphin distribution within an Important Marine Mammal Area in Greece to support spatial management planning. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems https://doi.org/10.1002/aqc.3148