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A Model Sanctuary
The goal of AMLS is to create a model sanctuary that can be replicated globally and scaled to local conditions and different budgets using our open-source set of protocols and best practices. With this in mind, we have sought to incorporate innovative practices and sustainable methods at every stage of its development and design, hoping to set the standard for all future sanctuaries.
The Sanctuary Solution
The AMLS aims to set the international standard for future sanctuaries. For this reason, we have consciously incorporated innovative practices at every stage of the design and development of the Sanctuary.
Dolphin rescue & rehabilitation
As human pressure on the world’s seas and oceans increase, the number of marine mammals and turtles in need of rehabilitation is growing. As public attitudes towards dolphin captivity changes, there is a need for a retirement solution for these performing dolphins. AMLS provides innovative and sustainable alternatives to the rehabilitation of marine mammals in need, in a natural environment.
AMLS will provide individualised care to each animal based on the life and learning history and in accordance with all accredited standards for marine mammal care and welfare.
Veterinary care for wild marine mammals and turtles
A critically high number of native marine animals are stranded or entangled within the Aegean Sea each year. Action is needed to save these animals. The AMLS veterinary clinic will provide high quality medical care to these animals, with the objective of returning them to their natural habitat. If long-term care is needed, they may remain in the Sanctuary until they are fully recovered.
As an international centre for research on marine mammals and turtles, AMLS will offer to scientists, researchers, and students the opportunity to conduct non-invasive research in a regulated, natural environment.
Visitors and the local community will be encouraged to learn about the Sanctuary, rescue, research, conservation, responsible tourism and native marine species online and at the information centre in the town of Lipsi. The Sanctuary will be open to the public on an “invite-only” basis on certain days and times in the week – with priority given to school students. All visitors will have to follow a strict code of conduct to avoid causing disturbance to the animals under rehabilitation.
Livestream video of the dolphins, hydrophone recorded dolphin sounds, and interactive materials will provide the foundation for the AMLS educational program.
Invitation-Only Visitors to the Sanctuary
Visitors will be able to see the Sanctuary on an invitation-only basis following an educational itinerary. Priority will be given to students and teachers, and other select visitors. The Sanctuary will have a specific carrying capacity to limit the number of daily visitors. Thanks to underwater cameras and hydrophones located around the bay, visitors will be able to watch live-stream videos of the animals in their natural environment. Videos will be available online, at the Public Information Centre in Lipsi Town, and at the Sanctuary itself. The Sanctuary will have a viewing platform on a hill above the bay so that visitors can view the dolphins and other marine mammals from a distance preventing any possible disturbance to the animals.
The Aegean Sea is a natural habitat for Common Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus), the species of dolphin most often held in captivity, containing all of the natural conditions and stimuli essential for their physical and psychological health.
The Aegean Marine Life Sanctuary is situated on the Greek island of Lipsi in the northern Dodecanese. The biggest challenge for any marine sanctuary is identifying a location that meets all necessary criteria. After 6 years of searching for the ideal site throughout the Aegean, and engaging in multiple consultations with the local authorities, Vroulia Bay on the northwest of Lipsi Island was chosen as the ideal location. Situating the Sanctuary in an area minimal human presence or disturbance, no light or sound pollution, a small local population and a long tradition of eco-friendly practices minimises any anthropogenic impacts which could disrupt the animals in rehabilitation. We are proud to have the full support of the Lipsi community and local authorities, our key partners on this endeavour.
Geomorphological and oceanographic characteristics
The long fjord provides safe shelter from rough seas, as well as having the perfect water parameter and sea current profiles to host marine animals in need of care. The gentle gradient provides both a shallow section perfect for rehabilitation, and deeper sections reaching 40 meters in depth.
Ideal geomorphological, oceanographic and ecological characteristics.
Sheltered from rough seas, providing optimal living conditions for marine animals.
A high level of marine biodiversity with extensive productive seagrass meadows.
A remote area with limited anthropogenic activity or disturbance
Publicly owned with no possibility of future private investment or building. No conflict of use issues
Vroulia bay’s characteristics – Why was this bay selected?
Vroulia Bay is home to an abundance of life, to date more than 150 native species have been recorded. This high biodiversity is evidence of the supreme health of the bays’ waters. The extensive Posidonia oceanica seagrass meadows maintain the high water quality within the bay creating a biodiverse natural environment where marine mammals can rehabilitate.
Accessing Vroulia Bay
Accessing Lipsi and the AMLS
Lipsi is easily accessible via ferry from nearby islands and Pireas (Athens). In close proximity to Lipsi are Islands with international or domestic airports: Samos, Leros, Kos and Rhodes. This allows for easy visitor access, enabling the Sanctuary to also serve as an international research and education centre.
The remote setting of the AMLS provides a quiet environment with minimal human disturbance for the marine animals to receive their essential rehabilitative care.
Please note that access to the Aegean Marine Life Sanctuary is available on an invite only basis.
Overwhelming local support
AMLS is proud to have been embraced by the small community of Lipsi Island, which is home to 800 citizens. A leader in it own right when it comes to environmental responsibility, the Sanctuary is a welcome addition to their small scale tourism-based economy.
Capacity, Replicability & Scalability
AMLS will limit the total number of dolphins housed at the Sanctuary to ensure that each dolphin has a sufficient amount of space. Once initial capacity has been met, AMLS has the ability to create additional enclosures, increasing the scale of the sanctuary without compromising on space, by expanding further into the bay.
Three additional sanctuary sites have been identified in the Aegean Sea. Once the Sanctuary is operational, AMLS will develop additional sanctuaries; grow the First Aid Response Network; and continue to train local communities on marine animal first aid, conservation, and animal welfare.
Comparison of the AMLS bay with the size of dolphinaria in Europe
For example: three European dolphinaria in The Netherlands, Spain and Greece collectively hold 43 Dolphins. Vroulia Bay will house a maximum of 6 dolphins in an area that could fit much more than the tanks of these three dolphinaria.
Use the circle in the middle of the vertical bar and slide to the left or right to reveal the size comparison between Vroulia Bay and these three dolphinaria.
Description of current state of progress
Construction and the process of securing permits have been ongoing since 2016, when the deserted building that was used to host a small aquaculture unit was acquired from the Municipality of Lipsi with a long term lease to be transformed into the rehabilitation centre and the research station.
Constructions are ongoing and progress is steadily increasing as more funds are secured. To date, construction has been focused on completing the veterinary clinic and the Sanctuary building. Roof replacement and the installation of industrial strength flooring are now finished, the plumbing, electrical and renewable energy systems, as well as the installation of new windows and doors on the ground and top floors of the building. The office areas and a first general laboratory is operational since May 2020, while the next goal is to equip the vet clinic and labs, construct the rehabilitation pools and the necessary indoor and outdoor supporting facilities.
Provided that the remaining funds are secured before autumn 2020, the Aegean Marine Life Sanctuary will open in early 2021.