site.btaScientists Propose New Protected Area in Black Sea to Preserve Cetaceans
A new protected area within the Natura 2000 network in the Black Sea can help preserve cetaceans, scientists argue. Krastyo Dimitrov, chief assistant at the St Kliment Ohridski University of Sofia and a member of the team of scientists who have worked on the Natura 2000 in the Black Sea project, told BTA that the area in question is inhabited by the harbour porpoise and the Black Sea bottlenose dolphin. It is located some 100 km into the sea east of the coastline between Kaliakra and Durankulak.
According to the scientists, their proposal will bring the level of protection for the two species closer to the 20% set for them in terms of areas protected within Natura 2000. The proposed area does not have very heavy marine traffic and poses relatively few risks to the animals; it is located quite far from the shore and its designation as protected is not expected to affect fishermen.
The scientists' analysis of the Natura 2000 network's sufficiency in the Bulgarian sea territory shows that approximately 23% of the shelf (the shallow part of the sea to a depth of 100 m) is well-covered in terms of protected areas, as required by EU directives. Bulgaria's entire economic zone, however, is covered by only some 8%, Dimitrov explained.
The proposed protected area was noticed as a result of the data collected and the observations made within the project as well as previous observations in the economic zone since 2011. Within the project, the two species of cetaceans were observed by air and sea. Covering 5,400 km by air at an altitude of 180 m, the scientists established the size of the two populations. The study by sea covered the entire shelf zone, Dimitrov explained.
The field studies show that the long stay of naval vessels in the Bulgarian economic zone has a strong impact on the cetaceans. The Russian Federation's military presence in part of the zone has resulted in a complete drop in the animals' activity, and for a long period of time. That partially explains the relatively low population figures recorded in the autumn, Dimitrov noted. In the end, the animals moved south, which coincides with their natural migration. In Dimitrov's words, to a dolphin using echolocation, standing next to a ship's sonar sounds as loud as a church bell ringing in Sofia's Bulgaria Hall.
Whales and cetaceans are important on a world scale; they are predators of extreme importance for the sustainable functioning of an ecosystem, such as the Black Sea.