Conservation group World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Hellas yesterday called on authorities to take the necessary measures to protect the so-called common dolphin (Delphinus delphis). The population of the species is seriously dwindling in the Mediterranean due to overfishing, chiefly with trawler vessels, whose large nets often entrap the mammal. According to data made public yesterday by WWF, the number of these dolphins off the coasts of Lefkada and Kalamos in the Ionian Sea has dwindled from some 150 to just 15 over the past decade. Marine biologists have said that this rapid decline - particularly in the western and eastern Mediterranean, parts of which are theoretically protected under the European Union's Natura program - cannot be attributed purely to the migration of the dolphins. The ecological significance of this area has been recognized by many groups, including the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. WWF has also secured the backing of several other conservation and environmental protection groups, including the Alnitak Marine Environment Research and Education Center, MOm, Delphis and Blue World. The conservationists have called on the Agricultural Development Ministry and the Environment and Public Works Ministry to immediately enforce EU legislation aimed at curbing illegal fishing and to restrict the use of large trawler nets, particularly in EU-protected areas. «We are asking for the enforcement of measures that can be funded by the European Union,» Giorgos Paximadis, WWF's marine program representative, told Kathimerini. The common dolphin, which includes long-beaked and short-beaked species, is to be found all over the world. There are hundreds of thousands in the North Atlantic. But the population in the Mediterranean has been seriously depleted due to overfishing and the deterioration of their natural habitat. There have also been incidents of the dolphins being hunted for their meat.