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Conceta: EU-funded Turkish project to prevent dolphin deaths

Acoustic devices may be deployed on fishing gear as part of the project launched by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry to deter dolphins in order to reduce the risk of the mammals getting stuck or entangled. The EU-funded project called “Conceta” aims to prevent the recently increasing dolphin deaths.

More than 100 dolphins had washed ashore in March on Turkey’s Black Sea coast, from Istanbul’s north to Sinop in the country’s northernmost tip. The number is unusually high for the country, as dolphins mostly stay away from coasts. Initial findings showed the animals were victims of fishing nets that entangled them but it is unclear what drove them to the coastline.

Ümit Aydın, the general coordinator of the project, told Ihlas News Agency (IHA) that the project aims to eliminate dolphin deaths in the Black Sea and reduce the damage to fishing nets and losses suffered by the fishermen.

“We use the method of attaching acoustic sound devices in networks developed abroad. These devices are a system that emerged by obtaining the interaction frequencies between dolphins and transferring them to the mechanical mechanism as a result of trials,” he said.

Stating that the project was tested in the Baltic Sea and successful results were obtained, Aydın said there are linguistic differences among dolphin species living in different regions, as in humans.

“Therefore, we try frequencies that we think are suitable for the Black Sea,” he added.

“We are carrying out this project together with Sinop University, Sinop Governorate and fisheries organizations from the city with the support of German and Danish marine research experts and our Romanian partner,” said Aydın, underlining that the project is also supported by Turkey’s Central Finance and Contracts Unit as well as the EU.

Two more dolphins were discovered dead after a dead dolphin came ashore last week on the coast of northern Trabzon’s Sürmene district.

After the test phase of the project, fishermen will be encouraged to use the devices. It is expected that the project will decrease the number of dolphin deaths caused by fishing activities.

Experts suggest a number of reasons for the dolphins’ uncharacteristic behavior, from higher mobility in the Black Sea, especially at a time when the conflict between Ukraine and Russia is contributing to maritime traffic, as well as the impact of climate change. The ongoing war has also raised alarm about stray naval mines and led to a temporary ban on fishing in the Black Sea.

Istanbul-based Turkish Marine Research Foundation (TÜDAV) urged fishermen to proceed with caution while casting their nets and check for dolphins trapped in them to save the animals. TÜDAV said dolphins, concentrated in other parts of the Black Sea, likely headed to the southern coast of Turkey they viewed as a “safe harbor” due to climate change, unusual maritime traffic, changes in fish migration routes and intense military activities both on the surface and underwater in the north.

An annual ban on fishing will start on April 15. TÜDAV appealed to fishermen to exert caution to protect the dolphins and urged authorities, including the coast guard, to step up inspections across the Black Sea coast for the protection of dolphins.

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