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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.

Education

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.

Location

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.

Lipsi Island

After six years of searching for the perfect location, Vroulia Bay on Lipsi Island was identified as the ideal site for the Sanctuary. The site selection process was initiated in 2010 and led to 5 possible locations in the eastern Aegean Sea. After a comprehensive analysis of the characteristics of each site, and extensive discussions with the local authorities and communities, Vroulia Bay was found to have the necessary local support and and environmental conditions for a sanctuary.

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 dolphins. The gentle gradient provides both a shallow section perfect for rehabilitation, and deeper sections reaching 40 meters in depth.

High biodiversity and water quality

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

Vroulia Bay is a secluded bay on an accessible island. This allows the dolphins to rehabilitate with minimal human disturbance, while also allowing the Sanctuary to serve as an international research and education centre. Lipsi Island is in proximity to several international and domestic airports and ferry ports for easy visitor access.

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.

Progress

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, as well as the plumbing, electrical and renewable energy systems. Windows and doors are currently being installed on the ground and top floors of the building, while the next goal is to equip the vet clinic and labs, construct the rehabilitation pools and the necessary supporting facilities.

Provided that the remaining funds are secured in early 2020, the Aegean Marine Life Sanctuary will open during 2020.