Friday, August 11, 2006

Hungary respects dolphin protection zone in Adriatic Sea

A CROATIAN-BASED marine environmental group and its Hungarian partner are celebrating what they termed a "milestone" in the conservation of the Adriatic Sea after the Croatian authorities established the first dolphin protection zone in the entire Mediterranean region on August 6. The Blue World Institute of Marine Research and Conservation said that the protection zone, an area of some 52,500 hectares on and around the island of Losinj, near Rijeka, in the northern Adriatic, was a "serious commitment" by the Croatian government to ensure development would not threaten further degradation of marine life in the region.

Peter Mackelworth, Blue World's conservation director, said, "We have had a marine education center in Losinj, due to support from MOL [the Hungarian oil and gas group] in 2003. This has probably been the biggest single development in our public awareness program. "And the support and advice from [Budapest-based public relations company] Capital Communications has also been very good in raising our profile and morale," he said. Blue World, an NGO staffed by a small team of Croatian and international experts, has made scientific studies of the local dolphin population over the last 20 years.

The group estimates that the number of bottle nose dolphins regularly inhabiting the waters around Losinj has declined to around 100 animals, a drop of 20%, in the past decade. The decline is largely attributable to increased human activity, most particularly shipping and fast motor-boat traffic, Blue World officials said. "We have recorded and analyzed data which show that the sightings of dolphins is inversely connected to the noise levels in the water produced by boats.

The dolphins simply disappear during July and August when traffic is at is highest. And they seem to remember the disturbances, and come back less often to the worst affected areas," said Mackelworth. He stressed that the institute was not simply "anti" development, but wanted to work with all stakeholders to ensure sustainable progress was made.

Quick "Facts about Dolphins"