Size in Square Kilometres
2 079 km2
Qualifying Species and Criteria
Black Sea bottlenose dolphin – Tursiops truncatus ponticus
Criterion A, B(2), C(1,2), D(1)
Marine Mammal Diversity
Criterion D (1)
Tursiops truncatus ponticus, Phocoena phocoena relicta, Delphinus delphis ponticus
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The Karadag and Opug IMMA is located in coastal waters of south-eastern and eastern Crimea between the Sotera and the Takyl Capes. The IMMA contains habitat from the coast to the 200 m depth contour in the southwestern portion, and follows the 40m depth contour in the northeastern area. All three Black Sea cetacean species inhabit the area, the bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus ponticus), the common dolphin (Delphinus delphis ponticus) and the harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena relicta). The IMMA is particularly important for bottlenose dolphins where they occur in at least two large aggregations and at the highest density in the Black Sea. The IMMA is an important bottlenose dolphin nursing and feeding area. Bottlenose dolphins in these local populations show distinct morphological and behavioural features.
Description of Qualifying Criteria
Criterion A – Species or Population Vulnerability
The Karadag and Opuk IMMA is an important habitat for the endangered Black Sea bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus ponticus). Two other Black Sea cetaceans, the Black Sea harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena relicta) and the vulnerable common dolphin (Delphinus delphis ponticus) also extensively use this area (Birkun, 2002, 2012; Mikhalev, 2005a,b; Birkun and Frantzis, 2008; Birkun and Krivokhizhin, 2011; Birkun at al., 2014; Krivokhizhin et al., 2012).
Criterion B: Distribution and Abundance
Sub-criterion B2: Aggregations
The Kardag and Opuk IMMA is an important habitat for the largest population of bottlenose dolphins in the region. It hosts at least two groupings of Tursiops forming large and dense aggregations during the warm season, in the western and in the eastern part of the IMMA area. The abundance of the aggregation in the western part of the IMMA during the summer is between 600 and 1600 individuals (based on different estimates), and its density reaches 4.5 individuals per square kilometre in some local areas near the Sudak Bay, which has the greatest density of bottlenose dolphins throughout the Black Sea (Gladilina and Gol’din, 2016). Abundance estimates are based on the results obtained from mark-recapture during photo-identification surveys in 2009-2013 and the vessel line transect survey in 2012 (Gladilina and Gol’din, 2016; Gladilina, 2018; Gladilina et al., 2018). Another large local population of bottlenose dolphins is recorded south to the Kerch Peninsula, at least a few hundred individuals, as estimated from the mark-recapture photo-identification data (Gladilina et al., 2018). Bottlenose dolphins form large groups of at least 60 individuals found in association with trawlers during sprat fisheries season (Gladilina, 2018).
Criterion C: Key Life Cycle Activities
Sub-criterion C1: Reproductive Areas
The IMMA is an important nursing area for the bottlenose dolphins during the warm season. Mother and calf associations were seen in at least 50% of groups during the 2011-2014 warm seasons. Several associations were seen between the years. In several cases, calves showed learning behaviour adapting to collective hunting (Gladilina, 2012; Gladilina and Gol’din, 2016; Gladilina, 2018).
Sub-criterion C2: Feeding Areas
This IMMA area has a high concentration of fish, including whiting, horse mackerels, sprat, picarel, thornback rays and red mullets which are important prey species of bottlenose dolphins (State of Biological Resources, 1995; Gladilina et al., 2012; Gladilina and Gol’din, 2014). The main behavioural activity recorded for bottlenose dolphins in the IMMA area was foraging (Gladilina, 2012a, 2018). Also, mixed groups of bottlenose dolphins and common dolphins are frequently observed interacting with sprat trawling fisheries in the warm season (Gladilina, 2012b). Spectacular hunting by bottlenose dolphins on mullets is commonly observed in the coastal waters of the IMMA during the mullet migration. This includes beaching, a rare hunting strategy for bottlenose dolphins (Gladilina, 2018).
Criterion D: Special Attributes
Sub-criterion D1: Distinctiveness
In the Karadag and Opug IMMA the Black Sea bottlenose dolphins have distinct external morphology: a high prevalence of partially white (piebald) individuals. A total of 11% of photo identified bottlenose dolphins in this area are piebald which is the highest reported percentage in a local population of Tursiops. Several partially white dolphins were repeatedly recorded during photo ID surveys on several years each, including one fully white animal which was regularly observed in the Sudak region between 2007 and 2013 (Gladilina et al., 2012; Gladilina et al., 2019). In addition, in the eastern part of cIMMA several (ca. 10) individuals demonstrate beaching during foraging, the rare behaviour for Tursiops in general and unique for the Black Sea region (Gladilina, 2018): this hunting type is shared by several photo identified individuals seen in the same area during several consecutive years.
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Birkun, A. 2012. Tursiops truncatus ssp. ponticus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2012: e.T133714A17771698. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2012.RLTS.T133714A17771698.en.
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