Some 220 bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) are living in the Croatian part of the Adriatic Sea. After the extinction of the Mediterranean monk seal (Monachus monachus) and the common dolphin (Delphinus delphis), bottlenose dolphins are the only marine mammals still living in the Adriatic Sea.
Its small size makes this population vulnerable even to minor disturbances of the ecological balance. Moreover, the dolphins are facing threats from entanglement in fishing nets, overfishing, deliberate killing, and high-speed watercraft.
In 1999, GRD founded the project to "Save the Last Adriatic Dolphins" together with veterinary faculty members of Zagreb University. Our German-Croatian project is carried out under the auspices of the Croatian Ministry of Environmental Protection, Physical Planning and Construction within the framework of the Agreement on the Conservation of Cetaceans of the Black Sea, Mediterranean Sea and Contiguous Atlantic Area (ACCOBAMS).
The Croatian team members have been actively engaged in dolphin conservation for decades. Thanks to their efforts, dolphins have been under legal protection since 1995. But laws alone cannot prevent the extinction of the Adriatic dolphins. 50 per cent of the dead cetaceans found along Croatian coasts die from human impacts.
What We Do
We are working to save the dolphins in the Adriatic Sea from extinction and ensure their long-term survival in this habitat. Important objects of our project include the establishment of protected areas. To this end, regular field work, including boat surveys and photo-identification of the individual animals, is carried out to identify vital feeding and breeding grounds of the Adriatic dolphins and determine the health of the population. Continuous awareness raising activities, including informative events and the distribution of leaflets and posters, are to sensitize the public at large about the threatened marine mammals and the need to protect them.
Our new Dolphin Conservation Center
The Center is located on the island of Molat. Opening times in 2016 (as of July 1, 2016):
July 4 through August 13, and September 9 through September 19
The daily operating hours are from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm and from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm.
because it may happen any time that the Center's staff must go out for a sudden marine mammal/animal rescue action.
If you cannot make it during the daily operating hours specified you can arrange for an individual visit with Martina Đuras.
Dates and hours are subject to change. Make sure to check our website regularly for the most updated information.
How to find us
The Dolphin Conservation Center is located on the island of Molat in northern Dalmatia. To reach the island you can take car or speed ferries leaving from the port of Zadar, or you use your own boat. The Dolphin Conservation Center is situated in the middle of the village of Molat, within 10-minute walking distance from the harbor. There are no street names and house numbers on Molat. The Center is signposted from the harbor. The GPS coordinates are as follows: 44°12'49" N, 14° 52'44" E.
The Dolphin Conservation Center was inaugurated in July 2013. It serves as a permanent base for the systematic research and field work, allowing fast action in the case of emergency situations (entanglement of dolphins in nets, stranding of dolphins on land, etc.). It will also provide research and training opportunities for students, researchers, and volunteers, and play a key role in promoting ecological awareness through exhibitions, lectures and presentations.
Owing to its shape and markings, a dolphin’s dorsal fin is unique like the human fingerprint.
Scientists take pictures of the dorsal fin to build up photo-identification catalogues, allowing them to recognize individuals and to gain valuable insight into the development of a population, the cetaceans’ migrations, or their preferred feeding or breeding grounds.
Several dolphins have been identified by now using this technique. Eight of them are part of our adopt-a-dolphin program. These dolphins are given names based on particular physical features or certain behavior, like for example "Veseljak". Its Croatian name means "jester" and stems from its playful character and enthusiasm for acrobatic leaps.
Adopting a "Croatian" dolphin is a way of supporting our efforts to save the Adriatic dolphins from extinction.
Please report your dolphin/whale sighting in the Adriatic Sea
We encourage holidaymakers in Croatia to notify us if they see a marine mammal.
Here you can find our Dolphin Sighting Recording Form (PDF) as download. Please fill in and return to us:
Here you can find the Code of Conduct for watching whales and dolphins in the wild:
Further articles in English on our project to "Save the Last Adriatic Dolphins" can be found in our member magazine Delphinpost (English concise versions).