NATIONAL MARINE PARK OF ALONNISOS
Established in 1992, the National Marine Park of Alonnisos, Northern Sporades (NMPANS), is Greece’s first marine park and one of Europe’s largest marine protected areas, with a size of approximately 2,200 square kilometers. Located within the Park is the inhabited island of Alonnisos; to the northeast of Alonnisos lies a complex of uninhabited islands that provide refuge to many rare species of flora and fauna. The NMPANS serves as an important home for many rare and endangered species and is home to one of the most important populations of the endangered Mediterranean monk seal (Monachus monachus) in the Mediterranean, with approximately 60 of these rare animals living in the area.
The healthy ecosystem of the area supports the presence of many cetacean species. Four species of dolphins have been observed in the Park: the striped dolphin (Stenella coeruleoalba), the short-beaked common dolphin (Delphinus delphis), the bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus), and Risso’s dolphin (Grampus griseus). Observations of the rarely-seen and little-known Cuvier’s beaked whale (Ziphius cavirostris) are also not uncommon; on rare occasions other larger cetaceans such as the sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus) also make their appearance.
Despite the fact that the NMPANS is officially designated as a Marine Protected Area, no systematic research has been conducted so far to study cetacean -and in our case dolphin- population and ecology. Currently, there are only few scientific data on dolphin populations, resident or transient, in the wider marine area of the NMPANS. Research focusing on the status of the local dolphin populations, including the compilation of a photo-identification catalogue is currently a priority within the Northern Aegean Dolphin Project. The information collected during the project will become the baseline for understanding the population dynamics and conservation status of dolphins in the NMPANS and for designing and implementing effective conservation actions that will safeguard their future.