Flights with Dolphins in Russian Federation

  • October 01, 2019

From 18th to 26th of September 2019 in the frame of the EMBLAS-Plus project in Russia was performed an aerial monitoring marine mammals studies on the Black Sea. Field surveys were organized by Clean Seas Foundation, FSBI “State Oceanographic Institute” in cooperation with other partners and were called “Flights with Dolphins”. This initiative is the result of the CeNoBS international project implemented by ACCOBAMS in order to perform the monitoring of marine mammals throughout the Black Sea. The main goal of the project is to assess the abundance and distribution of all three species of dolphins living in the Black Sea – the Black Sea porpoise, bottlenose dolphin and common dolphin, using the unified methods and protocols adopted for all countries.

Data analysis will take quite some time but first preliminary results of the “Flying with Dolphins” expedition have already been summed up. For four days of flying, the scientific team of the La-8 amphibious aircraft (NPO AeroVolga) met all three species of cetaceans that live in the Black Sea. Most often – bottlenose dolphins: for 120 encounters more than 400 individuals. The second place was taken by the common dolphin: for 90 encounters – about 420 individuals. Only 15 harbour porpoise were recognized. All numbers will be clarified when processing the received data taking into account the examined area, weather conditions, route design and other important factors.

Dmitry Glazov, a head of the scientific team stated: “We can definitely say that what we saw in the Black Sea now is very different from the data we received during the last aerial surveys we conducted in the early 2000s. We recorded a different distribution of groups of marine mammals in the Black Sea”. It is planned to find out by future analysis if it is connected with seasonal factors, environmental situation in the sea or something else. 

But the most unpleasant impression left on the project participants from other meetings – with marine litter.”450 times scientists and crew had recognized marine litter accumulation areas reminding islands – large and small. They sailed just like bags, packagings, individual plastic constructions, snippets of nets and buoys. Often small litter patches concentrated in huge spots over which the plane flew for several minutes,” – noted the head of the scientific group.

The scientific team included leading experts on marine mammals from A. N. Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution of the Russian Academy of Sciences. This expedition is also unique because the flights were organized on a twin-engine Russian-made La-8 amphibious aircraft. The expedition also included two famous pilots who had recently performed the first round-the-ocean flight on amphibious aircraft – Hero of Russia, an astronaut, test pilot Valery Tokarev and a private pilot, Andrei Ivanov, who became famous in the internet for flights together with the tamed bear Mansour.