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DOLPHIN CONSERVATION

in fjord systems
Dolphins occur in a variety of coastal habitats, including fjords and close embayments. Specifically fjord basins with their singular topography represent refuge areas to several dolphin populations, where key survival activities such as resting, socializing (including all aspect s within a reproductive and nursing context) and feeding (including hunting) take place. Therefore, many of those fjords contain critical habitats for resident populations of dolphins, such as bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops sp.) in Doubtful Sound (Fjorland, New Zealand), black dolphins (Cephalorhynchus eutropia) in Chilo Island (Chile), and the dolphins inhabiting the so-called tropical fjords (semiclosed embayments with fjord-like oceanographic and morphological characteristic) such as Saco do Mamiragu (Brazil) and Golfo Dulce (Costa Rica). Those fjords sanctuaries are generally related with very isolated locations. However, even in the remoteness of these habitats the majority of threats to local dolphin populations come from anthropogenic origins. Activities such as aquaculture and tourism are a common practice within these ecosystems given the relative stability of the aquatic environment and the scenery wealth that they hold. The concept of critical habitat is yet to be fully applied in marine conservation. It has served as a crucial model in delineating core and buffer areas in Doubtful Sound (New Zealand). In this fjord, the location of critical areas for resting are intended to be isolated from boat traffic, as an effort to allocate protection to the southernmost bottlenose dolphin population with an abrupt population decline. In Golfo Dulce (Costa Rica) an on-going critical habitat assessment is intending to define the key feeding areas for two sympatric dolphin

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species; pantropical spotted dolphin (Stenella attenuata ) and bottlenose dolphin. In this tropical fjord the main threats the to dolphin population are very similar to those in Doubtful Sound; particularly the increase in boats traffic due to tourism. At the moment preliminary results show that dolphin feeding episodes are frequently interrupted by dolphin watching boats. The use of these amazing landscapes in the tourist industry is unavoidable, since a great number of people are seeking to contemplate nature, especially in these pristine ecosystems. Dolphin watching boats do not necessarily have to become detrimental to dolphin survival; management actions can prevent pervasive negative effects and can organize boat traffic. On the other hand, other human activities like aquaculture increase the alteration of environmental condition in the water column by pollution, thus modifying prey availability. More importantly aquaculture can limit spatially the required niche for dolphins, a clear example is the mussel farming in Chilo Island, this activity has limited and excluded black dolphins from areas of potential use. Fjords are complex coastal ecosystems, home of many amazing marine creatures such as dolphins. They should remain pristine, while at the same time people should have the possibility of admiring their spectacular beauty, under a main premise: the impact on important key habitats should be lessened if not completely avoided, this includes a precautionary approach in cases where the effects on the ecosystem are yet to be known.

Also Published in JMBA Oviedo L. 2007. Dolphin sympatric ecology in a tropical fjord: habitat partitioning by bathymetry and topography as a strategy to coexist. JMBA, 87, xxxxxx Ribeiro, S., Viddi, F.A., Cordeiro J.L. & Freitas, T.R.O. 2007. Finescale habitat selection of Chilean dolphins (Cephalorhynchus eutropia): interactions with aquaculture activities in southern Chilo Island, Chile. JMBA, 87, 119128 FURTHER READING Hoyt E. 2005. Marine Protected Areas for whales, dolphins and porpoises: a world handbook for cetacean habitat conservation. Earthscan, U.K. Lusseau, D. & Hinghan J.S.E. 2004. Managing the impact of dolphinbased tourism through the definition of critical habitats: the case of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops spp.) in Doubtful Sound, New Zealand, Tourism Management 25, 657667. Lenin Oviedo1,2,3,4 and Juan Diego Pacheco Polanco 2,5 1) PROCMAR: Programa de Maestra en Ciencias Marina y Costeras, Universidad Nacional (UNA), Heredia Costa Rica 863000. 2) Fundacin Vida Marina, Drake Bay, Costa Rica, www.vidamarina.org 3) Proyecto Delphinus, Isla de Margarita, Venezuela. 4) Biotropica, Caracas Venezuela. E-mail: biotropica2@yahoo.com 5) Escuela de Biologa Universidad Nacional (UNA), Heredia Costa Rica.

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