TRAMUNTANA DOLPHIN PROJECT aims to promote the conservation of marine ecosystems in the Creus Canyon area of Catalonia (Spain) and the bottlenose dolphin population of the area.
This area includes two submarine canyons considered sites of Community Importance (EU-SCIs): Cap de Creus and Lacaze-Duthier, the continental plate and a part of the coastal area included in the Natural Park of Cap de Creus and Canyó de Creus. Both canyons also conform the southwest boundary of the Plate of the Gulf of Lion IMMA (Important Marine Mammal Areas).
Together with the stakeholders – mainly the fisheries sector, but also with the touristic sector- we work towards involving fishermen in the study and conservation of the bottlenose dolphin population. Moreover, the project also promotes the value of the fishing resources and traditional professions within the area, which is very related to cultural and territorial development.
What do we do?
Over the summer of 2017, a monitoring program started in the Cap de Creus Marine Protected Area (MPA) and surroundings.
The monitoring project focused on the study of the bottlenose dolphin population and other cetacean species inhabiting the area. Visual transects and photo-identification techniques were carried out, using a 6 meters, semi-rigid motorboat.
Photo-identification is a non-invasive technique for labeling individuals and helpful for the subsequent counting. Among other things, photographic identification allows us to obtain different types of information about the dolphin groups present in the area like the residence degree, movement patterns, use and preferences of habitats, and, furthermore, it gives us an appreciation of the population.
Additionally, the collaboration and interest of the fishermen towards the project has been proved in different actions and contributions like observation and data contribution, best practices dissemination and assessment to fisheries that interact with dolphins.
The most involved fishermen have even recorded the GPS position and number of individuals of all groups observed on each fishing day! Indicating, in each case, whether the animals were interacting with their fishing gear or not.
In addition, in several instances, they have provided images of the sightings -so that the species could be corroborated- as well as the completed sheet of commercial fish species they have captured during the day -so as to have a reference of the species that the dolphins could be eating-.
The general goal of the project is to promote territorial development through the conservation of natural values, integrating the fishing sector and also the touristic sector.
The area represents an important breeding and feeding zone for the bottlenose dolphin population of the northeastern Mediterranean and supports the inclusion of the Creus Canyon as a part of a Marine Protected Area. The presence of dolphin pups in the 60% of the sightings suggests this is an important breeding area.
Data from the study provides possible evidence of dolphin-fisheries interaction that will need a future specific study in order to better determine the impact of the activity on the dolphin population.
The preliminary abundance estimate suggests a small population has seasonally settled in the area, but data from 2018 would be included to achieve a better robust model.