The Common Dolphin species (Delphinus delphis) used to be the most abundant cetacean species in the Medi­terranean Sea. But in the past decade it has been in steep decline in Greek and Italian waters. Notable populations remain in the Alboran Sea – the westernmost part of the Mediterranean – and in Maltese waters. But with changing environmental conditions it may move away or disappear, as has happened in other parts of the Mediterranean, unless tangible integrated management action is implemented in the near future. These dolphins are considered an important flagship species for the protection of marine life and biodiversity in general.

For this reason, cetacean researcher and leader of the University of Malta’s Conservation Biology Research Group (CBRG-UoM) Adriana Vella recently addressed two international scientific conferences on endangered cetacean species. The first was the first International Workshop on the Mediterranean Common Dolphin, held in Ischia, Italy. The second was the Mediterranean Gap Analysis for Cetaceans and Turtles, held in Nice, France.

Both these international scientific events stressed the importance of long-term and year-round research on these vulnerable and long-living marine species such as the work of CBRG-UoM and that of the NGO Biological Conservation Research Foundation (BICREF Malta). Sustained and dedicated research by the CBRG-UoM, also assisted by BICREF volunteers has allowed long-term monitoring of cetaceans in local waters.

Dr Vella has conducted local field research on dolphins, whales, turtles and various other marine species via aerial and marine surveys since 1997. Her research, together with that of other researchers from around the Mediterranean, was instrumental in promoting the Common Dolphin population as endangered in the Mediterranean in 2003, referred to as the IUCN Red List. At the recent international workshop the IUCN assessment for the specis in this region was discussed and upated.

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