WWF Greece’s new campaign to save endangered marine mammals

Common dolphins (Delphinus delphis), Azores Islands.
© Brian J. Skerry / National Geographic Stock / WWF
As of September 2010, WWF Greece together with MOm (the Greek NGO responsible for the protection of the Mediterranean monk seal) have embarked on an ambitious project to mitigate a very important problem of Greece’s maritime environment, the conservation of Greek marine biodiversity.
Greece’s marine biodiversity, albeit impressive, is under threat due to human related causes. Overall, fourteen marine mammals live and breed in Greek seas. From the above, six cetaceans and the Mediterranean monk seal have been characterized as “endangered” and “critically endangered” respectively by the IUCN Red List.

The large and impressive variation comprises of: the striped dolphin (Stenella coeruleoalba), the common bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncat), the short-beaked common dolphin (Delphinus delphis), the Cuvier’s beaked whale (Ziphius cavirostris), the sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus), the Risso’s dolphin (Grampus griseus) all six of which live permanently in the Greek seas.

Two others, the harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) and the fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus) have been recorded locally. Three species the humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae), the false killer whale (Pseudorca crassidens) and the common minke whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata) have been rarely recorded in Greek seas. The beaked whale (Mesoplodon sp.), one of the least known mammals on Earth, has also been recorded and even the rough-toothed dolphin (Steno bredanensis) from Gibraltar has been observed.

The information publicly available on the population of marine mammals of the Greek seas and the rest of the Mediterranean suggest that the cetacean populations are declining. Currently, data on the ecology and feeding habits, genetics, stock discreteness, life history, toxicology, histopathology, causes of death, biometry as well as absolute abundance of each species population is sporadic.

The threats are numerous and for their most part human related: prey depletion, accidental takes in fishery activities (bycatch), intentional killings, collisions and accidents with vessels, disturbance, acoustic pollution, ingestion of solid debris, contamination by xenobiotic compounds, oil pollution, ecosystem change, climate change.

Thus, Thalassa’s aim is first and foremost to raise public awareness vis-à-vis these flagship species by organizing a multi-faceted campaign. Primarily, a three wave mainstream media campaign will be launched, in 2011, 2012 and 2013 respectively, each of which will comprise of both a TV and a radio spot as well as press publicity on both a national and a local level.

The first wave will also include a 30 minute documentary on marine mammals that live in Greece. Simultaneously, a new media campaign will disseminate the core message of Thalassa to the broader public via Facebook, Myspace, Youtube, Veoh, Flickr, Picasa, a blog exclusively designed for the purposes of the campaign, an e-newsletter will also be channeling information every 6 months and e-banners will be uploaded in environmental oriented web sites, portals and blogs.

Successfully informing and convincing the public constitutes the first step towards a change of mentality and consequently attitude towards the environment.

Furthermore, an environmental educational campaign for kids and key stakeholders as well as a capacity building campaign will take place. The aim is to educate children, thus the future generations in relation to sea mammals as well as key stakeholders whose function is related and affects marine mammal conservation: Local authorities, Members of the Greek Parliament and European Parliament, Coast Guard, Cadets of Merchant Marine and Navy.

The aim is for the above stakeholders to acquire the necessary knowledge and develop an environmentally friendly attitude in order to promote marine mammal conservation.

WWF Greece and MOm are doing their best to contribute to saving biodiversity and reduce humanity’s impact on natural habitats. The Thalassa project constitutes a three year campaign to save the biodiversity treasures of the Greek Seas and ensure a mutually harmonic and environmentally sustainable relationship between humans and marine mammals for the years to come.

We will keep you posted!

The aim of the project LIFE+ "Thalassa Campaign: Learn, Act, Protect/Awareness, Educational and Participation Campaign for Marine Mammals" is twofold: to raise the level of public awareness for marine mammals who inhabit the Greek Seas and establish an environmentally friendly attitude and behavior.

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