Among other conservation activities, Miramare MPA plays an important role in the protection of threatened marine species. In this regard, a relevant activity is monitoring the presence of cetaceans and sea turtles in the Gulf of Trieste. Even if there are no resident populations, these big vertebrates are known to swim quite frequently across the Gulf’s waters, either alone or in small groups. Threats to cetaceans and sea turtles include ending up beached if they are in poor health conditions, or accidentally caught by fishing nets. In order to monitor their presence and organize their rescue and care if necessary, Miramare MPA has created a Monitoring and First Aid Group composed of marine biologists who work in strict contact with the Veterinary Department of the Local Health Authority and with colleagues of the Blue World Institute and Morigenos associations in Slovenia and Croatia.
Cetacean sightings in the Gulf of Trieste have been recorded and filed since 1990. Data come from direct observations carried out by Miramare MPA’s biologists, as well as from Trieste and Grado Harbour Offices, that collect sightings made by yachtsmen and fishermen (HERE you can find the cetacean sighting form).
All notifications received by phone, email, fax or social networks (e.g. Facebook) are reported in an Excel file. Here you can see a summary of all cetacean sightings made in the Gulf of Trieste from 1990 to 2012.
Seven different species have been reported: 5 are toothed whales (common bottlenose dolphin, striped dolphin, Risso’s dolphin, short-beaked common dolphin and sperm whale) and 2 are baleen whales (fin whale and humpback whale). In 25 years, a total of 156 sightings were made, 136 of which are confirmed (that is, documented by photos/videos). Table 1 shows all sightings sorted by year and by species.
The number of sightings does not correspond to the actual number of individuals, since both a single individual and a group of same-species individuals are counted as one sighting.
If we consider the total number of reported individuals, it is possible to estimate that about 581 individuals belonging to the 7 aforementioned species have been spotted in the Gulf of Trieste in the last 25 years, with an average of more than 20 individuals per year. This average value does not correspond to reality, since years with no recordings have also occurred. Of course, a year without sightings is not necessarily a year with no cetaceans in the Gulf – it is simply a year in which they were not spotted or reported to Miramare MPA.