The AMLS will strive to function sustainably to lower the operational cost of the facility. Once the AMLS is complete, the funds will come from the following sources:
An agreement with all parties involved including the marine The facilities releasing the dolphins: will be negotiated to cover the welfare costs associated with the dolphins for their entire .
Donations: The Archipelagos Institute of Marine Conservation will facilitate ongoing income generation and explore new fund raising sources to supplement existing income streams. The AMLS has received strong interest from several foundations, both in Greece and abroad, but also from large companies owned by Greeks living abroad. In addition, the Archipelagos Institute of Marine Conservation is working with international NGOs to raise funds for the project on a permanent basis.
Educational programmes: The AMLS will be a training centre for veterinarians, veterinary nurses and national authorities, and a research centre for marine biologists. The training fees of these courses will partly cover the operational costs of the sanctuary. The Archipelagos Institute of Marine Conservation has 17 years of experience in offering training courses and practical experiences to students and scientists. In 2016, when the first zero-data collection opportunities were available in the AMLS, over 700 students from 22 countries participated.
- Minimal human presence and activity in the bay and the surrounding areas.
- Construction of new buildings is prohibited in this section of the island as the land is public.
- The bay is sheltered from the rough seas and the temperature profile is ideal to host dolphins. During preparation work to select the site, wave heights were recorded. It is important to note, that during days with strong northerly winds, the largest wave height that was recorded in the mid part of the bay was 30cm, whereas in the inner part of the bay, it did not exceed 10cm. This bay is ideally sheltered to serve the purpose of a sanctuary.
- High marine biodiversity with 64 species recorded so far and in the broader marine area, in the eastern Aegean Sea, numerous endangered and protected marine species have been recorded.
- The site is remote enough to minimise human disturbance, but not too remote to be problematic to access. Near Lipsi there are two international airports, on Samos and Kos islands, as well as one smaller airport on Leros island and four heliports. For more than half of the year there are regular boat connections to the larger islands with modern speed boats, and for the remainder of the year, there are regular boat connections to nearby larger islands with ferry boats and smaller passenger boats. Throughout the year there are also direct ferry boat connections to the main port of Greece, Piraeus (Athens).
- Overwhelming support from the local community and authorities provides the ideal conditions for this project to move forward without any obstacles.
The map below shows specifications of the sanctuary area. The volume of water contained in Section 1 corresponds to 61 Olympic sized swimming pools, Section 2 corresponds to 165 Olympic sized swimming pools and Section 3 corresponds to 325 Olympic sized swimming pools.
The actual capacity of the AMLS has not yet been defined and remains a matter of discussion among the experts and scientists involved in the development of the sanctuary. It is estimated that it will be able to accommodate 10 dolphins. During the first phase, the sanctuary will host a limited number of dolphins, ensuring dolphins are kept under the best possible living conditions; which will include providing them with the appropriate care to improve their physiological and psychological well-being. Following their successful rehabilitation, the sanctuary will expand its hosting capacity by extending to the surrounding bays.
The bay is deeply located in a system of inlets at the remote end of a sparsely populated island. During the tourist season, there is a boat presence but with the construction of the barriers and the installation of buoys and signs informing tourists of the importance and private nature of the area, boat traffic will not be a disturbing factor. It is expected that once the AMLS is operational, the bay area will be inaccessible to boats.
The area where the AMLS is situated belongs to the Natura 2000 network which prohibits potential development in the area. The only other activity allowed is animal farming. Archipelagos Institute of Marine Conservation has established a positive and cooperative relationship with the farmers on the neighbouring land. The number of animals in the surrounding area is small and local farmers have agreed that the locations where the animals are aggregated will remain far away from the bay. At the entrance to the sanctuary area, there is fencing with a gate and no-entry signage located 800m from the bay. Entrance without a permit in this location is illegal and trespassers can face direct prosecution, based on a law against livestock theft. With regards to accessing the site from the sea, as soon as the first licence is issued, there will be a local regulation issued by the local port authority, which will define a marine zone in which access will not be allowed. Additionally, the invitation-only visitors to the site will include academic researchers with the aim to contribute to the research and expand the knowledge of sanctuaries, government officials and a limited number of small school student groups. Priority will be given to the small island schools of the nearby area.
An expert consultancy with years of experience in conducting environmental impact assessments (EIA) in protected areas of significant ecological importance has undertaken the EIA for this project. They will also be conducting a range of other assessments to prepare the necessary documents for the final licensing application for operation of the AMLS.
The sea current flows in and out of the bay refreshing the water and safety boundaries which maintain the dolphins within the area will have wide enough boundaries to ensure continued flow. A solar powered propeller-based pump will be installed in the bay to supplement the existing current. This will help move waste out of the bay to the edge of the island, where larger currents will disperse it, preventing build up. The pump has been designed ensuring minimal noise production. Additionally, Archipelagos Institute of Marine Conservation will work to increase the biomass of naturally occurring marine detritivores (i.e. holothurians) that will accelerate the breakdown of organic matter.
The marine ecosystem of the bay is diverse, consisting of seagrass meadows that shelter numerous marine organisms. More than 30 fish, 30 invertebrates, and 1 sea turtle species have been recorded within the bay to date. The Archipelagos Institute of Marine Conservation has been planting additional seagrass meadows. To maintain a healthy ecosystem once the dolphins arrive, the AMLS will work on selectively enriching the bay with certain fish, invertebrate species and naturally occurring marine detritivores to manage organic waste. Additionally, there will be constant water quality testing done. It remains to be assessed whether the filtration of some form of bioload removal system is needed beyond the natural flow of the currents in the sanctuary. Moreover, the bay where the sanctuary is located is a natural habitat for the Bottlenose species (Tursiops truncatus) where the animals can find the natural conditions in terms of stimuli essential for their psychological health and echolocation.
The AMLS team will ensure that the dolphins receive all the nutrients needed and feeding plans will be specific to each dolphin’s needs. The diet will be reviewed by a nutritionist expert regularly. Initially frozen fish with vitamin supplementation will be continued as this is what they will be fed within their captive environment. The ideal situation is that dolphins will learn to hunt live fish, which will be introduced to them. The live fish will be sourced from a local sustainable fish farm. To achieve this, a rehabilitation protocol will be introduced: first the dolphins will be fed stunned fish at the surface, then they will be encouraged to eat only live fish underwater, gradually eliminating the surface interaction. Dolphins will always have the opportunity to forage and feed by themselves. The feeding and hunting of live prey are a gradual process and may take some years for some animals, whereas others may never succeed. Observation of the underwater behaviours with cameras and hydrophones and weight control will help to control their health status, which will be the top priority of the sanctuary.
There will be no direct contact between the resident and wild animals. The AMLS will have two safety borders, creating a controlled zone where interactions will be prevented. More specifically, there will be a 10m minimum separation between nets to avoid transmission from breathing splashes. This dual boundary system will make escape from the AMLS impossible, preventing any contact between wild and resident dolphins. Decontamination and sterilisation of equipment and personal gear will prevent transmission between resident animals and those attended to from strandings. Each dolphin will have a full epidemiological check-up prior to arrival and will be placed in the quarantine area before introduction to the AMLS space.
No, dolphins currently in captivity are taken from locations outside of the Mediterranean so it is not feasible to introduce them into the Aegean Sea. The AMLS will operate only as a retirement facility for these dolphins.
The sanctuary will operate under a strict no-breeding policy. Breeding control measures will be managed according to the social composition of the dolphin groups in the sanctuary. AMLS is liaising with a dolphin reproduction specialist who is developing the safest methods and protocols to be followed with the aim to prevent the dolphins from breeding, via a practice that will not harm the dolphins or interfere with their natural reproductive activity.
There will be efforts to minimise human contact, this being reduced to health check-ups. However, depending on the individual’s needs, more interaction between dolphins and staff may be required for those being hand-fed or under chronic treatment. Dolphins will follow a gradual process of desensitisation to human contact.
Depending on the place of origin of the dolphins, they will be transported to the sanctuary by plane, boat, or road. A dolphin will not be transported if it is determined by the specialised veterinarians that it would not be safe to do so. A specially designed dolphin stretcher will be suspended into a carrier that can hold water and has foam to support the dolphin’s weight. The dolphin will be continually sprayed down to allow thermoregulation. Veterinarians and dolphin caregivers will attend to the dolphins during the transport ensuring first aid if necessary.
The AMLS will host a veterinary clinic with all the facilities and equipment necessary for health monitoring, first aid and caring for dolphins and other species, including sonography, haematological analysis, and a quarantine pool. There will be a group of full-time staff living on site that will include at least one marine mammal veterinarian. All medical care before, during and after the rehabilitation will be provided as well as constant monitoring of the health status of the animals hosted.
To prevent disease transmission, other species like monk seals and turtles will not be allowed in the same space with dolphins coming from dolphinaria. However, the AMLS will operate as a rehabilitation centre for marine mammals, turtles and birds and it will provide assistance for them in different spaces, taking all the necessary precautionary measures to ensure a safe environment for all animals.
A 24-hour rescue team will be established to respond to and rescue animals from strandings. Response teams on neighbouring islands will be trained and equipped to assist. The Archipelagos Institute of Marine Conservation has extensive experience in stranding response and for conducting necropsies and sampling of dead stranded animals. All marine species in need of first aid or rehabilitation will undergo a medical examination and will receive veterinary treatment as needed. If permanent care is necessary, the individual will remain in the AMLS in a designated long-term refuge bay, which will be separate from the resident dolphins.
Currently, there is no facility in the eastern Mediterranean that can provide medical treatment for injured marine species, other than a few in-land facilities. Since the area is home to many populations of marine animal species, strandings inevitably occur, creating a vital need for a veterinary facility to treat and rehabilitate seals, turtles, and dolphins. Since the AMLS will be situated in a natural bay, it will reduce stress associated with the treatment and recovery process thus increasing the probability of a more successful release. In Greece, there is a Cetaceans Sightings and Strandings Databank running since 1945 and managed by ARION Research Centre for the Rescue and Care of Cetaceans. ARION is a Greek network that provides first aid and professional veterinary care to stranded, dead or alive cetaceans in Greek waters in collaboration with many NGOs, associations, and the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki.
The AMLS is at a critical stage of near-completion, and with the recent public and political pressure to close dolphinaria, the situation has become more urgent. There are dolphins urgently needing a sanctuary facility. We try and raise awareness of the situation surrounding the captive populations so please follow us on one of our social platforms. If you are able to your financial support will help complete the necessary infrastructure, as well as to secure funds for the sustainable operation of the project over the coming decades. Your donation will fund items such as equipping the veterinary clinic, installing rehabilitation pools, installing the specialised safety boundary fencing to close off the sanctuary bay, government licenses, and all capital costs associated with such a long-awaited project. Start-up funds needed: €600,000 and annual operating budget: €300,000. Please refer to our donate section or you can make a transfer via PayPal – There are different fund-raising platforms where you can make a financial contribution: https://www.gofundme.com/greek-sanctuary-for-dolphins www.justgiving.com/campaigns/charity/orca-rescues/aegeansanctuarywww.youcaring.com/dolphinsanctuary