Three species of cetaceans from the suborder toothed whales (Odontoceti) are found in the Black Sea. Common dolphin (Delphinus delphis) and bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) are from the dolphin family (Delphinidae). Harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) is the only representative of the porpoise family (Phocoenidae). All three Black Sea cetaceans are nominated as Black Sea subspecies by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and are listed in the Red list of threatened species. Black Sea Bottlenose Dolphin (Tursiops truncatus ssp. ponticus) and Black Sea Harbour Porpoise (Phocoena phocoena ssp. relicta) are listed as “Threatened”; Black Sea Common Dolphin (Delphinus delphis ssp. ponticus) is listed in category „Vulnerable”.
Our activities on study and conservation of cetaceans have started in 2005-2006 as part of the process for establishment of the European ecological network NATURA 2000. Field surveys have been undertaken for identification of sites of importance for the cetaceans’ conservation. In 2006 we have organized vessel survey along the Bulgarian coast with the aim to study the state of the cetaceans in the coastal waters.
Since 2008 we have started systematic collection of data for cetaceans’ strandings. International training was organized with experts from Ukraine – Dr. Alexei Birkun, Jr. and Dr. Sergey Krivokhizhin from BREMA Laboratory in Ukraine. Green Balkans NGO is maintaining voluntary cetacean stranding network along Southern Bulgarian Black Sea coast and IFR-Varna collect that data along Northern coast. Study of stranded cetaceans is valuable method for assessment of population state for these species. In 2010 experts from the society have participated in international training on the study method “Photo-identification of cetaceans”. Since 2012 the method was introduced as a pilot activity along Southern Bulgarian Black Sea coast and first catalogue for that region is produced. In 2013 a Green Balkans expert participated in international cetacean aerial survey of abundance and density of three cetacean species in the Northwestern Black Sea.
In 2013 we have developed proposals for two methodologies for study of cetaceans along Bulgarian coast as part of the National Biodiversity Monitoring System coordinated by Environmental Executive Agency. Methodologies we have proposed are: "Collection of data for cetacean’ strandings along Bulgarian Black Sea coast” and “Photo-identification of cetaceans”.
Green Balkans NGO experts contribute to compilation of National reports to ACCOBAMS.
Capacity building is of utmost importance in any activity and cetacean conservation is not an exception. In this field we have organized different events aiming institutional development: national expert meeting, training for scientific experts on “Photo-identification of cetaceans”, and training of municipal ecologists from coastal municipalities how to act in case of stranded cetacean.
Public awareness activities are important tool for education and creation of positive attitude towards nature. Dolphin conservation is promoted in our work through different events: celebrations of the Black Sea Action Day and creation of exhibition “Black Sea cetaceans” in our “Pomorie Lake” visitor centre on the coast. Brochure and CD with BULFINS 2012 Catalogue – outcome of pilot use of “Photo-identification of cetaceans” in Bulgarian waters - was published and disseminated. Our work on cetacean research and conservation is covered by tens of publications by media.
In 2013, Green Balkans NGO has become the first ACCOBAMS Partner in Bulgaria. ACCOBAMS is Agreement on the Conservation of Cetaceans in the Black Sea Mediterranean Sea and Contigous Atlantic Area.