The 33rd European Cetacean Society conference was held virtually this week. The theme of this year’s conference was: Marine Mammal Research and Conservation Effort – Are we on the right path?
The chosen theme stimulated the conventional approach to marine mammal science and raised critical questions about the past, present, and future to ensure that the shared goal – marine mammal conservation – is indeed being properly pursued.
In the biology section, our association presented a paper entitled Bottlenose dolphin interactions with fisheries in the Phlegraean Islands (Gulf of Naples, Italy).
The study examines the interactions between the bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) and the fishing activities in the waters of Ischia and Procida Islands (Gulf of Naples, Italy) over a period of fifteen years (2004-2018). The study area lies partially within the limits of the Marine Protected Area “Regno di Nettuno”. Data were collected in the frame of the Ischia Dolphin Project, an ongoing long-term field research program on cetaceans, and through questionnaires to fishermen. A total of 1186 daily surveys were performed, covering 58332.47 km and resulting in 91 encounters with the species. Interactions with trawling were recorded, when bottlenose dolphins were seen following fishing vessels for feeding. Interactions with bottom gillnets were also recorded, when the animals were seen swimming in the proximity of fishing gears for more than 20 minutes and performing prolonged apneas (more than 4 minutes). Interactions were observed in 22 sightings (25.18%), 55% of which involved gillnets used by artisanal fisheries and 27% trawlers of the industrial fleet. On 4 occasions, interactions with both fishing gears have been recorded. The routes traveled by dolphins during the interactions were analyzed using QGIS Kernel Density Estimation and Hotspot analysis. Interactions with gillnets are concentrated NW of Ischia and in the channel between Ischia and Procida islands; instead, interactions with trawlers are located N of Procida. Interviews were carried out almost entirely (93%) with artisanal fishermen, who mostly used fixed gillnet (87%). All the interviewed fishermen denounced cases of depredation, 65% reported several interactions per week. Main damages to the fishermen include the stealing of fish from nets (41%) and the breaking of nets (44%). Solutions are proposed, such as the replacement of gillnets with traps, the use of pingers, the enlargement of the perimeter of the MPA, and the establishment of new no-take zones.