Dolphin Protection: An Interview with Aylin Akkaya Baş, Director of DMAD in Montenegro

Since 2016, under the leadership of director Aylin Akkaya, the Dolphin Research Organization DMAD (Marine Mammals Research Association) has devoted itself to studying and protecting dolphins along the coast of Montenegro. Aylin shared with us her experiences, vision, and the reasons why preserving marine fauna is crucial for a sustainable future of Montenegro.

Aylin Akkaya Baş

“We started conducting research in Ulcinj, covering the entire Montenegrin coast. After a few years, we moved to Bar, then to Kotor. Now we have a local NGO, called MDR-Montenegro Dolphin Research. It’s important to understand why we need to protect dolphins. Their presence in an area means it’s a healthy environment. The aim is not only to preserve dolphins but to protect the entire environment.”

In her work, Aylin and her team use dolphins as ‘flagship species’ to draw the attention of decision-makers and the local community to the necessity of area protection. She reminds us of the global ocean protection targets which, unfortunately, are largely unmet.

“For instance, by 2020, we were supposed to have 20% of globally protected areas, but we underperformed significantly, with only 8% of global protection, and only 1% really protected. Most of these were already only ‘paper’ protections.”

Illuminating the Necessity of Nature Conservation

In her diligent research and studies, Aylin delves into the reasons why it is crucial to protect nature. While governments may often implement protected areas to portray responsibility, Aylin emphasizes that mere existence on paper holds no true significance.

For DMAD and MDR, the battle to conserve dolphins extends beyond scientific tasks—it encompasses a mission to transform mindsets. Aylin highlights the pivotal role of collaborating with local communities and authorities. She encourages individuals to recognize their capacity for making a difference.

Aylin’s rallying cry echoes with the belief that each individual possesses the power to enact change. The onus does not solely fall upon governments; rather, their goal is to engage in meaningful conversations and empower people to realize their potential as agents of change within the cycle.

Aylin and MDR use various ways to raise awareness about dolphin protection, from organizing workshops to designing posters. They also employ unconventional methods, like art workshops, where they teach children about marine life through creating art.

“We draw a dolphin, and the children leave handprints with paint as a symbol of support for dolphin protection. We also organize performances on how we can help a dolphin in trouble.”

Commitment to Community Engagement

Aylin strongly emphasizes the significance of collaborating with the local community and institutions. MDR consistently engages with local fishermen, boat owners, students, and other non-governmental organizations. They maintain a fruitful partnership with local NGOs and openly share all research data with decision-makers.

“Fishermen often perceive dolphins as adversaries: ‘Oh, the dolphin got caught in my net and ate all my fish.’ But, in reality, we are the ones disrupting their habitat.”

Despite the challenges, Aylin remains hopeful and believes in the potential for change, particularly among Montenegro’s younger generation. She envisions the possibility of a systemic shift, particularly in waste management practices.

“We aim to work with children as they can pass on their knowledge to their parents and drive meaningful transformations.”

Aylin with her son: empowering children as agents of change

“I can’t pinpoint what’s amiss, but I know that this is one of the most breathtaking countries I’ve ever experienced. That’s why I chose to reside here.”

While Aylin’s work presents its share of challenges, her unwavering passion and dedication to preserving marine creatures and their habitats fuel her mission.

“Scientific research demands immense love and passion. When you have that, it becomes effortless. However, the fire and passion required for dolphin research in Montenegro are lacking.”

Inspiring Change for Marine Fauna Conservation

Through her work, Aylin has become a role model for all those who want to contribute to the protection of marine fauna, and she also highlights the significance of other NGOs and their work, such as Naša Akcija.

“We can create change in Montenegro, as the population is small. The attitude among the youth should be such that they try to change the system.”

With her dedication and passion, Aylin and her team continue to raise awareness about the importance of marine life protection in Montenegro. Despite challenges and obstacles, their work inspires us all to recognize the role each of us can play in protecting our precious natural world.

“We want to work with children, because they can pass on what they know to their parents; they can make changes,” says Aylin.

Their vision is to create a world where dolphins and other marine creatures are safe and protected. Through their work, they remind us that each of us has a role in protecting marine fauna and our global waters.

“We design posters, we go to schools, we talk to children. But it doesn’t reach everyone. People actually don’t know about us, even though we’ve been here for 7 years. It’s really sad. We need more public art.”

Despite the numerous challenges they face, Aylin is steadfast in her mission. Regardless of the difficulties, she and her team continue to fight for dolphin protection and their habitats, while educating others on the importance of this issue.

Montenegro Dolphin Resarch Team

With their passion and commitment, the future of dolphins in Montenegro certainly looks brighter.

“We can create change in Montenegro because the population is small. The attitude among the youth should be such that they try to change the system, for example, take better care of waste disposal. We’ve had cleanup actions, but no local residents joined, although there were many foreigners.”

Through her work, Aylin demonstrates that anyone can contribute to environmental protection and the protection of marine animals. Her story inspires us all to recognize the importance of preserving our natural world and taking action to protect it.

Vision for Sustainable Economic Growth

Aylin Akkaya Baş is Founder and Scientific Director of DMAD/Montenegro Dolphin Research. Aylin’s work emphasizes the significance of preserving marine ecosystems while acknowledging the conflicting nature of economic decisions, especially in the tourism sector, when it comes to sustainable development. As a passionate advocate for dolphin protection, she firmly asserts that economic growth doesn’t always have to come at the expense of the environment.

Aylin highlights, “A tourist doesn’t necessarily choose to stay in a five-star hotel. And if they do, that luxurious establishment is often not locally owned. Consequently, the economic benefits do not remain within the country. It’s crucial for local entrepreneurs to embrace environmental consciousness. By doing so, we can attract more tourists to our country.”

Her perspective suggests that small, locally-owned businesses, cognizant of the importance of nature conservation, can play a vital role in safeguarding marine fauna. Despite prevailing challenges, Aylin envisions a future where economic growth harmonizes with nature, rather than compromising it. She firmly believes in forging a sustainable economic model that respects and protects our environment.

“We need a shift in mindset. It’s not solely about the economy; the blue economy should guide our strategy, where ecological and economic benefits align,” she affirms.

Aylin acknowledges that this transformative change will not occur overnight, but she remains dedicated to raising awareness about the importance of this issue and inspiring individuals to take steps toward a more sustainable future. Her work alongside DMAD and MDR exemplifies a significant stride in this direction.






Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *