Green Balkans' activities

Study and data collection

Our activities on cetacean study and concervation have started in 2005-2006 as part of the process for establishment of the European ecological network NATURA 2000 in Bulgaria. Dedicated field surveys have been held aiming to identify importnat areas for cetaceans along Bulgarian coast. In 2006 a vessel survey was made in the coastal waters aiming to assess distribution and abundance in these waters.

Since 2008 we have started regular data collection on cetacean strandings. International training was organised led by colleagues from Ukraine - Dr. Alexei Birkun Jr. and Dr. Sergey Krivokhizhin of BREMA Laboratory. In 2012 Green Balkans experts have undergone specialized training on cetacean necropsy at IFR-Varna and organized jointly by ACCOBAMS Secretariat and Ministry of Environment and Water.
Study of cetacean strandings is important method for assessment of these species state of teh populations. Ever since the beginning of the cetology stranded cetaceans have been considered as important source of scientific information. Due to that reason often remnants of stranded dead cetaceans have been collected and preserved in museum collections. In more recent times with the technological developments study of such cases employes modern methods including molecular for genetic studies. Regular monitoring of coasts for stranded cetaceans is powerful tool for investigating the health status by performing necropsies and interdisciplinary studies - imunohistological, pathological, microbiological, toxicological, parsitological, etc. That provides opportunity for on time identification of key problems that can cause mass mortality of cetaceans. Green Balkans NGO keeps a volunteer monitoring network for stranded cetaceans along Southern Bulgarian Black Sea coast in close cooperation with Regional Environmental Authority in Burgas. Since 2013 in the network were attracted and municipal ecologists through trainings and provision of tool boxes for study of stranded cetaceans. Fruitful collaboration has been established with Nessebar and Balchik municipalities. Collected data on cetacean strandings is submitted to the international data base  for the Mediterranean and Black Sea – MEDACES, managed by University of Valencia, Spain.    
In 2010 Green Balkans experts have undergone intensive international training in the use of the study technique "Photo-identification of dolphins" at Crimea, Ukraine. Since 2012 the study technique was introduced in a pilot study along Southern Bulgarian Black Sea coast with target areas of Cape Emine and Cape Maslen nos. More than 20 surveys were made aiming data collection with more than 1000 km and 100 hours of effort. As a result of the surveys 46 sightings have been registered with 10 photo-sessions. First catalogue for that region was compiled including 20 individuals of bottlenose dolphins and 3 indivisuals of common dolphins.
In 2013 Green Balkans expert took part in international aerial survey for estimation of abundance, density and distribution of cetaceans in the Nortwestern Black Sea covering EEZs of Bulgaria, Romania and part of Ukraine.

Proposals for inclusion of two monitoring methodologies to the National System for Biodiversity Monitoring: "Collecting data on cetacean strandings" and "Photo-identification of dolphins" have been developed and submitted to the Environmental Executive Agency. 

Capacity building

Capacity building is of utmost importance in each sector and cetaceans’ study and conservation is not an exception. Historically cetacean studies in Bulgaria are very few resulting to very scarce available data and low national capacity in cetology. We have dedicated significant efforts in that direction to raise national capacity of environmental authorities, municipalities and scientific institutions.  

The process is two-sided – on one hand we learn from the international experience in that field and on the other hand we transfer that knowledge at national level. Our experts have participated in different international trainings and workshops – Intensive training on photo-identification in Crimea, Ukraine, 2010; Ninth meeting of ACCOBAMS Scientific Committee, 2014; Workshop on cetacean live stranding, 2014; European Cetacean Society Conference, 2015; ACCOBAMS Regional workshop for Black Sea and Eastern Mediterranean, 2015, etc.    

In 2012 national expert workshop has been organized with participating experts from Ministry of Environment and Water; Regional environmental authorities in Burgas and Varna; IFR-Varna; Black Sea Basin Directorate and IO-BAS, Varna. Main topic of the workshop was discussion of current state of knowledge on cetaceans in Bulgaria and conservation status. In August the same year international training on “Photo-identification of dolphins” for experts from scientific institutions has been organized (IFR-Varna and IO-BAS, Varna) jointly with Mare Nostrum NGO, Romania led by Joan Gonzalvo of Tethys Institute, Italy.   

In 2013-2014 series of trainings for municipal ecologists from Black Sea coastal municipalities have been organized to create capacity for action in cases of cetacean strandings. Topics presented during the trainings included species identification; what data to be recorded in the field forms and archives; legal framework and opportunities to solve the problems arising by stranded cetacean for public health and required permits for their removal and disposal.

In 2015 project Citizens' support for study of Black Sea cetaceans along Bulgarian coastis realized aiming involvement of volunteers in cetacean ”citizen science”. Monitoring techniques for cetaceans are presented to target groups like yachtsmen, natural sciences students, tourist boats’ operators and citizens living at the coast.

Raising public awareness

Public awareness activities are extremely important for educating youth and adults on positive attitude to nature. Cetacean conservation is promoted in our work by celebrating the Black Sea Action Day. In 2013 specialized exhibition "Black Sea Cetaceans" was produced that is permanent part of Pomorie Lake visitor centre exhibition and has been on display at Green Environmental Centre at Shabla, Northern Black Sea coast and History Museum - Stara Zagora. 

In 2015 ACCOBAMS Secretariat officially designated 5 June as ACCOBAMSE Cetaceans Day for these states that are parties to the Agreement. Green Balkans NGO being ACCOBAM Partner has organised a celebration of the event at Pomorie on the Black Sea coast in Pomorie Lake visitor centre. 

Within the project „Citizens' support for study of Black Sea cetaceans along Bulgarian coast" in August 2015 we have organised series of publicity events in Bulgarian Black Sea ports of Burgas, Varna and Sozopol dedicated to the cetacean conservation - Blue Week for the Black Sea and its inhabitants.  

Our work on study and conservation of cetaceans has been widely covered in different media.