FOR THE LOVE OF DOLPHINS

One of the most magical experiences to have in Ibiza is seeing dolphins play in their natural habitat. Few people cannot stop themselves from gasping in awe when witnessing a pod of these mythical creatures’ glide, jump and swim within short distance. 7Pines Resort Ibiza is proud to support a special project – Els Nostres Dofins (Our Dolphins) – designed and monitored by Dr. Txema Brotons and his team at Tursiops Marine Research. The aim of the project is to study the effects of human activity on the lives of our local dolphins.

The waters around the Balearics are home to eight different species of cetaceans but the dolphin most commonly spotted from the coast and charter boats is the Mular, commonly known as the bottlenose. Each family group of up to 15 members has its own dialect of sounds and each individual can be identified based solely on its unique clicks and whistles. “They are cultural animals,” says Dr. Brotons. “They communicate with each other through the language of sounds just like we do.” And just like human language the sounds of dolphins evolve over time and experience. “The dialect grows with the complexity of the group,” explains Dr. Brotons. “For example, when they discover a successful source of food the language they use changes and increases.”

"DR. TXEMA BROTONS AND MARGA CERDA FROM TURSIOPS MARINE RESEARCH"

Dr. Brotons monitors the activity of the bottlenose and other species via three hydrophones (underwater microphones) placed in zones of varying commotion. There is one of them outside 7Pines Resort Ibiza right now, in the waters around the islet of Ponent – one of the diminutive rock formations you can see from any of the terraces throughout the resort. The other two are in Ibiza’s north and in Es Freus Marine Reserve in Formentera. Each device takes a three-minute recording every 15 minutes and the data is transferred into a software that measures the natural sound levels of dolphins and the unnatural sound levels such as boats.

The project is still in its infancy meaning there is a lot to glean from the current collection contained in more than a thousand hard drives but some patterns are starting to show. “Interestingly, Es Freus has a lot less natural ambient sound than Ponent because of the shape of the coast,” says Dr. Brotons. “However, during the summer when there is more noise from boats, the difference is 20 decibels. It’s 100 more times noisy especially between the peak hours of 11.00 AM when boats set out on the water and at 5.00 PM when they return.”

To understand what that kind of noise level might mean for a dolphin, try to imagine living in a constant fog of pollution so thick you can’t see one foot in front of yourself. Humans are visual creatures; we attain everything we require to survive relying almost exclusively on our sense of sight. Dolphins are acoustic creatures – they see with sound. Swimming around in a fog of noise makes everything a lot more stressful. “The bottlenose dolphin has a great capacity to adapt,” explains Dr. Brotons. “They learn quickly to adjust their behaviours. In some cases, they keep a similar timetable to the fishing activities of humans because they know there will be fish to eat. But it’s a lot of noise to endure and it can make finding food very difficult.” Where there is stress, there is less procreation and so a negative cycle persists.

"dolphins can communicate with each other though the language of sounds just like we do." 

Dr. Brotons is optimistic about the health of the Balearic’s cetaceans, noting that the sea in this region is cleaner when compared to other parts of the Mediterranean Sea. “That’s not to say they don’t need protection,” he warns. “There are still a lot of threats that need to be controlled or eliminated.” The data his team is collecting and analysing will be used to not only measure and catalogue the health of the Balearic’s dolphin communities, but also to provide a rich primary resource for other scientists.

Marga Cerda, a marine biologist in the Tursiops team, will be using the data to identify different family groups and study their movements across the region and beyond. The purity of the recordings will allow her to pick out individual dolphins and trace their routes and behaviours over a long period of time. Relationships have already been established with scientists in Washington, Seattle and Hawaii, and both Brotons and Cerda predict their data will find all sorts of uses. “We can use this material to analyse whole ecosystems,” says Cerda. “There might be a scientist who is studying the sounds of plankton. Our collection can provide a lot of information.”

"TURSIOPS MONITORS THE ACTIVITY OF THE DOLPHINS VIA THREE UNDERWATER MICROPHONES. "

Tursiops offers regular study trips for enthusiasts and environmentalists. Groups of up to six people can join a weeklong expedition, becoming part of the crew on the Tursipos yacht. The experience is so transforming that volunteers come back time after time. A small ring hung with various special mementos swings above Dr. Brotons’ work nook on the boat – a phial of sand from one volunteer’s homeland, a hand crocheted stingray, a beloved bracelet cut from the wrist of another long-term volunteer. It’s a shrine of sorts to the work of these intrepid scientists and to the marine life they study.

The volunteer program helps fund some of the team’s projects and has been a successful part of the Tursiops outreach program encompassing at-risk groups, providing them with an opportunity to build self-esteem and be part of a community. “Everyone benefits from being on the sea,” says Cerda. “Working on the boat and being in this environment is hugely satisfying. It brings a lot of personal growth.”

"THERE’S NO RUSH. YOU ARE ON THE MEDITERRANEAN, GO SLOW AND ENJOY IT.”

The effects of human activity on the water are far reaching, putting pressure on delicate ecosystems and wildlife. However, Dr Bretons thinks that the beauty of the sea and the islands should be enjoyed but our impact should not go unnoticed. He uses the term ‘slow-sea’, referencing the trends towards slowing down the usual frantic pace of life. “Just turning the throttle down a little bit makes a huge difference to the marine life below,” he says before reminding us all: “There’s no rush. You are on the Mediterranean, go slow and enjoy it.”

To find out more about the Els Nostres Dofins project and the work of Dr Brotons and his team ask our Guests Services team to arrange a meet-up with our on-staff Dolphin Ambassador, Jacobo, when you’re next at 7Pines Resort Ibiza.

Comments


No comments yet. Be the first!

Related Articles

Mind, Body and Soul with Suraj Varma

03.06.2019

Mind, body and soul with Suraj Varma This season, we have invited one of the world’s leading Ayurvedic practitioners to 7Pines Resort Ibiza as part of our Visiting Practitioners Program. From June 17 to 29, 2019, Suraj Varma will host clinics at Pure Seven…

Read more >

New Menu Magic at The View

31.05.2019

We present an all-new, Asian-inspired menu flecked with contemporary touches, with each dish made using only the finest ingredients, designed for the 2019 summer season.

Read more >

Your home away from home

31.05.2019

We are extremely proud to have created a series of suites designed with our guests’ needs in mind, and we are sure that once you’ve set foot on the property, you’ll feel exactly the same way.

Read more >