Spring expedition to study Black Sea dolphins

Baby bottlenose dolphin
This year too we conducted a spring expedition to study dolphins in the Bulgarian territorial waters of the Black Sea. It took place between May 31 and June 5. Poseidon was also on our side, and the conditions for observation were excellent all the time. Our team was able to cover all pre-determined transects in the shortest possible period and collected an unprecedented amount of data on the distribution and number of the marine mammals.

For a total length of the transects of 425.7 kilometers, we registered 276 observations with 506 individuals! With these results we have set a kind of record since we have been conducting these expeditions, that is, for 6 years now. The large number of observations arouses in us not only excitement but also anxiety. They coincide with other data already accumulated, both in our country and in other Black Sea countries, showing a possible shift of the populations of Black Sea species to the south due to the military actions that Russia is conducting on the territory of Ukraine. Such displacement of species from their natural and preferred habitats never ends favorably. It leads to stress and exhaustion of banished animals, weakening of the immune system, overpopulation of host areas and subsequent viral and bacterial epidemics.
In terms of species the observations look like this – 221 of harbour porpoises, 28 of common dolphins and 23 of bottlenose dolphins. The largest registered group was a mix of bottlenose dolphins and common dolphins feeding in the bay in front of the town of Primorsko - 27 animals. Some of the observations of harbour porpoises were also of relatively large groups of 5 or more animals, which is typical for this otherwise non-social species only during migration.

Our expedition ended on June 5 near the north coast, and there we reported a high density of the harbour porpoises’ population. We pay attention to this because during the next two days in this section military exercises were held with combat shootings in the area of ​​the anti-aircraft range of the Shabla Air Force and the adjacent waters of the Black Sea (according to the Ministry of Defense). Our data, collected for 6 years now, show that specifically in this area and in this period of the year the density of the cetaceans’ populations, especially of the harbour porpoises, but also of the other two species is the highest! In addition, the period of these military exercises coincides with the calving season of dolphins! This means that every year during these exercises, huge damage is done to their populations. Human impact in the Black Sea in recent decades has reached levels that could lead to ecological catastrophe - habitat destruction, species extinction, resource depletion.

That is why the immediate implementation of measures for each such impact is extremely important and cannot be delayed! With all this in mind, we at Green Balkans call on all competent authorities and state institutions to implement measures to reduce the impact of the annual military exercises - change the period of the exercises and appoint trained/experienced observers to monitor nearby animals before combat shootings/explosions. Experience and good practice can be borrowed from the example of the Navy of countries that have made great progress in their attitude to the environment and resources - the United States/NOAA.

For contacts:
Dimitar Popov -
Galina Meshkova -