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First report on abundance and distribution of common bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) in the NATURA 2000 area, Istria, North-eastern Adriatic Sea

  • Darja Ribarič (a1) (a2)

The bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus M.) local population off west Istria in the North-eastern Adriatic has received no prior study of abundance and distribution despite the habitat's relevance for the preservation of this key species in the marine ecosystem. The research area comprises part of the NATURA 2000 network which was predominantly established here for these dolphins. Official data regarding the local population's status in the region are currently marked as deficient. Thus, the aim of the present study was to provide the first population data for the area. Boat-based survey work was carried out from April to September 2012–2015 using a mark–recapture photo-identification method. Prior to this period a random data collection was used to study distribution, since 2001, to cover the area of 927 km2 lying between Umag to lighthouse Albanež in the south. 143 bottlenose dolphins were photo-identified to date with the average group size of 9.27 ± 6.53 animals. Several abundance models were used, from which the Markovian robust model proved the best fit and predicted between 47–142 dolphins along the west Istria coast. A few individuals were also identified in Slovenia, indicating a bigger home range along the 98 km length of the studied area. There is an indication of a regular year round presence of dolphins. The west Istria coast constitutes an important feeding and breeding ground. The region should develop a sustainable plan to manage those human activities negatively impacting the dolphins. Therefore the present study is of relevance for the implementation of management directives for their conservation.

Corresponding author
Correspondence should be addressed to: D. Ribarič, Vivamar – Society for Marine Mammal Research and Sea Conservation, 52475 Savudrija, Croatia email:
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