It was largely believed that the Delphinus delphis, a rare dolphin species, was regionally extinct from the Adriatic Sea. But according to recent research by marine scientists at the University of St Andrews, the rare dolphin has been observed multiple times off the coasts of Italy and Slovenia.
The decline in Delphinus delphis numbers in the Adriatic Sea can be traced back to misinformed policies put in place by Italy and the former Yugoslavia in the mid-20th century. At the time, this species of dolphin was considered a pest to the fishing industry. The two countries encouraged people to kill these dolphins for monetary rewards to reduce competition for fish.
In the 1970s, the number of Delphinus delphis dropped significantly, leading to the species being listed as endangered. Besides the direct killing of the species, increased fishing activities have also led to a reduction in the number of dolphins in the Adriatic Sea.
Over the past 30 years, Delphinus delphis have been very rare in this area, leading to speculations that they might be regionally extinct. However, the recent findings show that Delphinus delphis are showing up more regularly, with four animals spotted repeatedly over a 4-year span. The research, conducted through photo-identification, also shows that some of the dolphins spotted in the Adriatic Sea had traveled as far as 1,000 kilometers.
While this doesn’t necessarily mean that the species will make a comeback to the Adriatic Sea, the rare dolphin sightings can “serve as a baseline and encourage potential future cases to be reported.”