Black Sea Eastern Anatolian Coast IMMA

Size in Square Kilometres

71,143 km2

Qualifying Species and Criteria

Black Sea Harbour porpoise – Phocoena phocoena relicta

Criterion A; B(2); C(2)

Black Sea Common dolphin – Delphinus delphis ponticus

Criterion A; B(2); C(2)



Black Sea Eastern Anatolian Coast IMMA is a large area in the southeast of the Black Sea that has important aggregations and feeding areas for endangered harbour porpoise Phocoena phocoena relicta and common dolphins Delphinus delphis ponticus.  The IMMA runs from the coast of the Sinop Peninsula in the west, to Hopa on the eastern border to Georgia. While Harbour porpoises concentrate in the near coastal zone, common dolphins use habitat further north and offshore, following migrating fish schools. The cetacean presence is closely related to quality and quantity of fish resources, especially anchovy, which overwinters in this area. Migratory fish species are preferred mainly by common dolphin and bottlenose dolphins in the eastern Black Sea and there are high fish resources and extensive fisheries in the Eastern Anatolian Coast IMMA region.

Description of Qualifying Criteria

Criterion A – Species or Population Vulnerability

All three Black Sea subspecies, Black Sea Bottlenose Dolphin Tursiops truncatus ponticus, Black Sea Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis ponticus, and Black Sea Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena relicta, are sighted in this IMMA, but their densities change according to the season and locations due to variations in prey abundance and environmental factors. Harbour porpoises and Bottlenose dolphin is currently listed as Endangered and Common dolphin as Vulnerable in IUCN RedList.

Criterion B: Distribution and Abundance

Sub-criterion B2: Aggregations

Survey data show that common dolphins (Delphinus delphis) are widely observed across the IMMA.The heat map generated from CeNoBS surveys conducted in 2019 shows aggregations of this species in the western part of the IMMA off Sinop to Samsun, but they are also widely distributed along the entire coast and extend to offshore areas. Harbour porpoise are present in the narrow coastal strip in waters less than 1000m deep. Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) are very rare compared to the above two species and there was no sighting in some surveys.

In a study conducted in the Southern Black Sea in 2022 (Özsandıkçı et al., 2022), a total of 849 cetacean groups were recorded, with 448 groups (1846 individuals) during winter and 401 groups (947 individuals) during summer. Encounter rates in the eastern and western regions of Sinop revealed noteworthy distinctions. In winter, encounter rates for bottlenose dolphins were 0.03 ind/km in the east and 0.14 ind/km in the west, for common dolphins, 0.92 ind/km in the east and 0.68 ind/km in the west, and for harbour porpoises, 0.79 ind/km in the east and 0.47 ind/km in the west. During the summer season, encounter rates were 0.14 in/km in the east and 0.07 ind/km in the west for bottlenose dolphins, 0.47 ind/km in the east and 0.26 ind/km in the west for common dolphins, and 0.35 ind/km in the east and 0.14 ind/km in the west for harbour porpoises. These findings demonstrate a more concentrated distribution of cetaceans, particularly common dolphins and harbour porpoises, in the eastern region of Sinop, emphasising the significance of this area for cetaceans.

Criterion C: Key Life Cycle Activities

Sub-criterion C2: Feeding Areas

Stomach content analyses show that all three species feed on wide range of fish species in the Black Sea. Therefore, their food items vary according to the available food resources. Main species for harbour porpoise are anchovy, sprat, whiting, gobies. Anchovy and sprat is also the main prey for common dolphins. Whiting, turbot and mullet species (Lisa spp., Mugil cephalus and M. so-iuy) are favourable for bottlenose dolphins (Birkun 2002)

The narrow strip of coastal water less than 200 m in depth is rich in many demersal and pelagic species (Daskalov et al. 2012). Demersal fish species (red mullet and whiting) are common in the area all year around. One of the main preys of Black Sea common dolphins and harbour porpoises, anchovy becomes and horse mackerel winter in the area. The decline of prey fish resources, resulting in reduced prey availability, has a strong influence mainly on common dolphins and harbour porpoises (Birkun 2002; Tonay et al. 2007; Birkun et al. 2014). The presence and movements of small cetaceans in the IMMA is due to prey availability or scarcity and their concentration in this IMMA is due to the rich habitat supporting anchovy, horse mackerel, blue fish and bonito, all littoral zone species that are cetacean prey (Bilgin et al. 2018).

Supporting Information

ACCOBAMS, 2021. Estimates of abundance and distribution of cetaceans in the Black Sea from 2019.

Bilgin, S., Onay, H., Köse, Ö., Yeşilçiçek, T. 2018. About stranding and accidentally caught Cetaceans in the Black Sea: Death reasons, feeding characteristics and pregnancy status. Türk Tarım ve Doğa Bilimleri Dergisi 5(4): 447–454. (in TR with EN summary)

Birkun, A., Jr. 2002. Interactions between cetaceans and fisheries in the Black Sea. In: G. Notarbartolo di Sciara (Ed.), Cetaceans of the Mediterranean and Black Seas: state of knowledge and conservation strategies. A report to the ACCOBAMS Secretariat, Monaco, February 2002. Section 10, 11 p.

Birkun, A. Jr., Northridge, S P., Willsteed, E A., James F A., Kilgour, C., Lander, M., Fitzgerald, G D. 2014. Studies for Carrying Out the Common Fisheries Policy: Adverse Fisheries Impacts on Cetacean Populations in the Black Sea. Final report to the European Commission, Brussels, 347p.

Chashchin, A. K. 1996. The Black Sea populations of anchovy.Sci.Mar., 60(Supl. 2): 219–225.

Çelikkale, M.S, Karaçam, H., Duzgunes, E., Unsal, S., Durukanoglu, F. 1988. Size and distribution of dolphin populations in the Black Sea.Project Report. Trabzon (in TR, EN summary). 101pp. (

Çelikkale, M.S, Karaçam, H., Duzgunes, E., Unsal, S., Durukanoglu, F. 1989. Size and distribution of dolphin populations in the Black Sea. Turkish. J. Zool, 1989 13(3): 89-96

Daskalov, G., Osio, G., Charef, A.(eds.) 2012. Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries on Assessment of Black Sea Stocks. Doi:10.2788/63715.

Gücü, A.C., Genç, Y., Dağtekin, M., Sakınan, S., Ak, O., Ok, M., Aydın, İ. 2017 On Black Sea anchovy and its fishery, reviews in fisheries science & aquaculture. 25(3): 230-244, DOI: 10.1080/23308249.2016.1276152

Özsandıkçı, U., Öztekin, A., Şahin, F. (2021) Türkiye Denizlerinde Bütünleşik İzleme Faaliyetleri Kapsamında Ekolojik Kalite Durumunun Belirlenmesi, Deniz Memelileri Karadeniz İzleme, 2021 Yılı Yaz Dönemi Raporu. (Integrated Marine Pollution Monitoring Programme (DEN-IZ project) conducted by the Turkish Ministry of Environment, Urbanisation and Climate Change, Black Sea Marine Mammal Monitoring Report 2021).

Özsandıkçı, U., Öztekin, A., Şahin, F. (2022)  Bütünleşik Kirlilik İzleme Programı (DEN-İZ), Deniz Memelileri Karadeniz İzleme 2022 Yılı Dönem Raporu. (Integrated Marine Pollution Monitoring Programme (DEN-IZ project) conducted by the Turkish Ministry of Environment, Urbanisation and Climate Change, Black Sea Marine Mammal Monitoring Report 2022).

Saydam, G. 2015. Cetacean distribution in the Southern Black Sea: an acoustic approach. METU Ankara. MSc thesis. 144 p

Tonay, A., Dede, a., Ozturk, A., Ozturk,. B. 2007. Stomach content of Harbour Porpoises (Phocoena phocoena) from the Turkish Western Black Sea in spring and early summer. Rapp. Comm. int. Mer Médit., 38, p 616.


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