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Scientists say flocks of dolphins in Black Sea shrink, garbage islands grow

This is according to an air survey

MOSCOW, November 22. /TASS/. An air survey of the Black Sea called Flights with Dolphins - the first one of the past 40 years - has identified a reduction in the number of dolphins in groups and a considerable growth of the amount of garbage, the press-service of the International Ecological Fund Clean Seas told the media on Monday.

"The first results have been summarized of the first stage of a full-scale aerial survey of cetaceans, carried out in September over a larger part of the Black Sea off the Caucasus shores of Russia - from the Kerch Strait to Adler. The number of dolphins in the observed groups reduced considerably from several hundred animals to 37 at the most. In the meantime, the amount of sea litter grew, the Fund said.

The deputy director-general of the international ecological fund Clean Seas, Anna Subbotina, told TASS the migration of sources of food was the main reason. Many schools of fish - the main item on the dolphins’ diet - have migrated to other parts of the Black Sea. Special comprehensive research will be carried out to establish the reasons. Russia’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Ecology has agreed to support the project.

"Russia has for the first time joined an international project being implemented by two European organizations ACCOBAMC and EMBLAS plus. The project will draft a program for monitoring the Black Sea. It will study all of the sea’s populations - different fish varieties and mammals and the condition of the water and seabed. Only after that it will be possible to realize what measures are to be taken," Subbotina said.

Garbage islands

The research expedition Flights with Dolphins identified an increase in the amount of garbage, both individual objects (such as ropes, buoys, fishing nets and plastic items), but also some 200 patches of garbage. The worst concentration of garbage is in the area of the central whirlpool and 50-60 kilometers away from the coastline.

"Fortunately, there are no giant garbage islands like the ones that can be found in the Pacific. But nevertheless it’s worth giving thought to this, because removing garbage on the high seas is a costly process. At the moment the simplest way of changing the situation is to stop polluting the planet," the Clean Seas fund’s director-general Vasily Bogoslovsky said.


About the expedition


On September 18-26, the first phase of research flights over the Black Sea was carried out by a team of leading specialists on mammals from the A. N. Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution. The La-8 amphibious plane was used in the operation. Test pilot Valery Tokarev was the mission’s chief pilot. The Clean Seas foundation acted in the capacity of the project’s operator.

The task of the Flights with Dolphins project was to monitor and count the Black Sea’s sole mammal species the - dolphins. Last time such a survey was carried out in the 1980s. During the six-day mission an area of 48,000 square kilometers was explored. The scientists flew a total of nearly 3,200 kilometers to come across three species of cetaceans - bottlenose dolphins (402 animals), butterflies (about 560), and Azovka dolphins (16).