Size in Square Kilometres
15 445 km2
Qualifying Species and Criteria
Black Sea bottlenose dolphin – Tursiops truncatus ponticus
Criterion A, B(2), C(2)
Black Sea harbour porpoise – Phocoena phocoena relicta
Criterion A, B(2), C(2)
Marine Mammal Diversity
Phocoena phocoena relicta, Delphinus delphis ponticus, Tursiops truncatus ponticus
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Kaliakra to Danube Delta IMMA is located in the coastal and shelf waters of Ukraine, Romania and Bulgaria, extending from Hyrlo Prorva in the Ukraine in the north to Cape Kaliakra in Bulgaria in the south. It includes water depths between 1m, in the West, up to the 60 meters isobath in the east of Bulgaria, Ukrainian and Romanian waters. The IMMA area includes three EBSA regions, Danube Delta Marine Area, Kaliakra, and Vama Veche – 2 Mai Marine Reserve. The area is selected as an IMMA because in summer time it supports aggregations of two endangered species of Black Sea cetaceans: the Black Sea bottlenose dolphin Tursiops truncatus ponticus and the Black Sea harbour porpoise Phocoena phocoena relicta. There are several local sub-populations of bottlenose dolphins in the area present over several years and showing residency patterns. The coastal waters of the IMMA, including those in front of the Danube delta and the Kaliakra Cape, are an important feeding habitat for Black Sea cetaceans.
Description of Qualifying Criteria
Criterion A – Species or Population Vulnerability
The IMMA contains important habitat for the survival and recovery for all three Black Sea cetaceans species. Moreover, all the three Black Sea sub-species are included in the IUCN Red List: Black Sea bottlenose dolphin and harbour porpoise are considered Endangered, whereas the Black Sea common dolphin is considered Vulnerable. Evidence for the presence of all three species is collected from regular vessel surveys in territorial waters (Popov, 2017-2020; Paiu et al., 2019a, b, 2020a, b; Goldin et al., 2017) and two large scale aerial surveys (Birkun et al., 2014; Paiu et al., 2021). Studies of stranding events have shown the presence of the species along the coast of the area (Vasiliu, F., Dima, L., 1990; Gladilina et al, 2020, 2021; Paiu et al., 2019b; 2020a, b; Panayotova et al., 2017)
Criterion B: Distribution and Abundance
Sub-criterion B2: Aggregations
Two large-scale studies, one conducted by Birkun in 2013, and the other one, the CeNoBS Survey in 2019, both recorded aggregations of each species within the IMMA area. Among them, the largest aggregations of the Black Sea bottlenose dolphins in the western Black Sea were found near the Constanta coast and the Kaliakra Cape (Paiu et al., 2021), and several very high density areas for harbour porpoises were recorded within the IMMA in the vicinity of the Danube delta (Birkun et al., 2014).
During the ANEMONE surveys which were conducted in 2019 and 2020 and covered all four seasons, aggregations of all three cetacean species were observed in the territorial waters of Romania, in the marine zone of the Danube Delta, as well as near Constanta harbour and 2 Mai-Vama Veche Marine Reserve (Paiu et al., 2019; 2021). In another study conducted by the National Institute for Marine Research and Development ”Grigore Antipa” in the same areas, aggregations of each of the three species, including groups of up to 50 individuals were recorded (Nicolae et al. 2017). In Ukrainian waters east and north-east to the Danube Delta there are regularly observed aggregations of harbour porpoises and bottlenose dolphins, mostly reported during the summer season (Birkun et al., 2014; Gol’din et al., 2017; Gladilina, 2018). Another habitat where aggregations of all the three Black Sea cetacean species are seen is the area adjacent the Zmiinij Island; their groups were recorded during all the aerial and vessel surveys in that area. Particularly large aggregations of harbour porpoises were recorded during the July 2013 vessel surveys (Birkun et al., 2014).
Ten vessel surveys conducted in Bulgarian territorial waters during the period 2017-2020 have revealed that mean encounter rate for Black Sea harbour porpoise and bottlenose dolphin is higher in the IMMA, than in the rest of the territorial waters (Popov, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020). That gradient in density is used for defining the southern boundary of the IMMA.
In the northernmost part of the area, in Ukrainian waters, there is a local population of bottlenose dolphins seen at least during the summer, possibly of several hundred individuals. Among them, there are 35 animals individually photo-identified in 2019, and one individual was recorded in 2017 and 2019 in the same area (Gladilina et al., 2020). In the territorial waters of Romania, in the Danube Delta Marine Protected area groups of harbour porpoises and bottlenose dolphins feeding and traveling in the same area were observed from summer to late autumn. Because of the influence of the Danube River, the turbidity in the area is very high which offers good habitat for harbour porpoises (Nicolae et al., 2017). Bottlenose dolphins can be regularly encountered between Cape Midia and Constanta Harbour and in the south around Kaliakra (Nicolae et al., 2017; Paiu et al., 2021; Popov, 2019; 2020; Panayotova 2015 a, b).
Criterion C: Key Life Cycle Activities
Sub-criterion C2: Feeding Areas
Within the IMMA the presence of two species (harbour porpoise and bottlenose dolphin) is often associated with the period of migration, spawning and feeding of food resources such as horse mackerel (Trachurus mediterraneus), turbot (Scophthalmus maeoticus), European sprat (Sprattus sprattus), Black Sea herring (Alosa immaculata), whiting (Merlangius merlangus), and European anchovy (Engraulis encrasicolus) (Smederevac-Lalic et al. 2018; Yankova, 2011). The highest density of harbour porpoises was detected in spring time, and coincided with animals congregating into larger groups. Similar observations were documented in offshore waters in late autumn (Popov, 2019). Higher abundance of bottlenose dolphins was detected in summer and autumn and relates well with seasonal fish migration into the area, and there are numerous anecdotal evidences for bottlenose dolphins and harbour porpoises feeding in front of the Danube delta (Popov, 2020; Gol’din et al., 2017).
In the IMMA feeding behavior has been observed in all three cetacean species. During all seasons bottlenose dolphins and harbour porpoises have been recorded feeding in shallow waters (Mare Nostrum Monitoring Program Report). In the southern part of the IMMA the high abundance of pelagic (anchovy, sprat, horse mackerel) and demersal (red mullet, whiting) fish species is confirmed by existing permanent fishing gear – pound nets – and regularly documented presence of porpoises and bottlenose dolphins around that gear. Interaction with regularly operating trawlers is well documented for bottlenose dolphins. Larger groups of feeding porpoises (more than 10) have also been observed at the site (Popov, unpublished).
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