The Losinj Dolphin Reserve

The Losinj Dolphin Reserve - a Special Zoological Reserve - is the first protected area for dolphins in the Mediterranean. It is located in the Kvarneric, around the sheltered coast and waters of the eastern part of the Losinj and Cres archipelago. These waters are still relatively pristine and are home to a small resident bottlenose dolphin population.

 

The Losinj Dolphin Reserve (green area).

 

Statistical modelling and other data analysis show that this population needs urgent protection against the numerous threats that is facing, including intentional kills, disturbance from boats and prey depletion caused by overfishing.

Anthropogenic disturbance remains a particularly important threat, particularly during the tourist season when the number of people visiting the island of Losinj exceeds by 20-30 times the number of winter residents, and recreational boats increase from a few dozens to the thousands. Disturbance caused by fast-moving boats and engine noise results in avoidance by the dolphins of areas with high disturbance. Research also indicated a decrease in dolphin abundance.

Overfishing may be another threat. The analysis of stomach contents of stranded animals prior to 2001 showed a clear preference for benthic species. Conversely, there are indications that during the last years the diet of bottlenose dolphins has changed. This may be related to exploitation of benthic species by the local fishing industry and by the fact that pelagic fish stocks have been increasing providing a new potential food source.

Management measures are needed to mitigate anthropogenic impact on this local population. The establishment of a fully-enforced marine protected area that would integrate conservation with sustainable development is the way forward.

 

Update by BlueWorld (August 2009)

On July 27th, 2006, the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Croatia by the decision of the Minister Mr. Bozo Biskupic declared a 3-year long preventative protection over the area of Kvarneric, Adriatic Sea, in the category of a Special Zoological Reserve known as "The Losinj Dolphin Reserve".

Unfortunately, the warm welcome received from the national and international community has not matched the feelings of the local community. As a consequence, the process towards the final declaration of the Reserve was stopped and on July 27th, 2009, in complete silence, the first Mediterranean dolphin reserve ceased to exist.

Scientific information collected over 20 years on the bottlenose dolphin community inhabiting the area, showing clear evidence of negative anthropogenic impacts, was not used to support long-term protection of the animals.

 

The Losinj Marine Education Centre

The Losinj Marine Education Centre, situated in Veli Losinj (on the island of Losinj), is an educational and interpretational centre about the marine environment. It was established by Blue World in 2003.

The Centre aims to promote environmental awareness and provide a link between scientific research and the general public.

 

The Losinj Marine Education Centre in Veli Losinj, Croatia.

 

An interactive area is open for all visitors, with a permanent exhibition consisting of photos, three-dimensional models, multimedia and interactive presentations that explain the complex natural linkages existing in the sea. Materials on display include the skeleton of a bottlenose dolphin, the bones of a fin whale, models of a common and bottlenose dolphin in actual size, a loggerhead turtle nesting on a sandy beach, a smoothhound shark, a dusky grouper and an artificial rock with a number of marine invertebrate species and seaweed.

Visitors can also watch short video documentaries about biology, ecology and research on bottlenose dolphins in the Losinj archipelago. At the end of the visit, they can test their new knowledge with quizzes and games on interactive panels. Featured languages include Croatian, English, German and Italian. Children can play in the Kid’s corner with numerous sea-related toys and educational books.

 

Blue World researchers engaged in capacity building at the Losinj Marine Education Centre.

 

Specialized workshops and educational programmes about the marine ecosystem adjusted for different ages and interest groups (school and university students, divers, fishermen, biologists, tourist professionals etc.), lectures, discussions, and scientific meetings take place in a separate part of the Centre.

A library with scientific, professional and popular literature is available to everybody. The Centre also includes a small lab where simple analyses of biological samples can be carried out.