Delphinariums and dolphin shows have been popular attractions around the world. However, increasing concerns have been voiced related to the well-being of dolphins which live in captivity.
Dolphins are trained under conditions of constant food deprivation. They undergo invasive operations as tubing, they often develop depression or self-aggressive behaviour, and they suffer poor health and limited lifespan due to their living conditions.
Anti-captivity legislation is getting enforced in more and more places around the world, but the (almost 3000) dolphins than live today in captivity cannot return directly to their natural environment.
International laws acknowledge that captive dolphins need rehabilitation to gradually get re-accustomed to living in the wild and to survive in open seas. As dolphin shows are gradually shut down, more and more dolphins face the lack of facilities that would allow them to safely return to the sea.
The first such facility in the world was recently established in the small Greek island of Lipsi, at the Northern part of Dodecanisa in the Aegean sea. Archipelagos Institute of Marine Conservation, which initiated the effort, has been active in marine conservation in the Aegean for some 20 years.
The location of the Aegean Marine Life Sanctuary (AMLS) in the elongated, fjord-like gulf of Vroulia Bay provides safe shelter, natural waters of high biodiversity, shallow and deeper (40m) locations within an area multiple times as large as the largest dolphin pool, and minimal human intervention.
The local community has welcomed the project, which involves not only the protected part of the bay but also a centre providing veterinary medical care, research facilities and an environmental information centre. The project is supported byinstitutional, academic and private funds, including a donation from Booking.com who also banned the sales of dolphin shows through their platform.
Veterinary care will be provided to more marine species, when found stranded or injured. The Aegean Sea is of utmost importance for marine mammals, including several endangered species of dolphins and whales.