With over 18,000 km of coastline and one of the largest fishing fleets in Europe, the monitoring of marine activities in Greece is not a simple task. The Aegean Sea supports exceptional biodiversity, including rare and protected marine habitats and species. For over a decade, Archipelagos has been collecting data and monitoring important ecosystems of the region, assessing habitats and populations as well as the different factors impacting them. Knowledge acquired in this way enables us to develop successful, targeted management and conservation plans.
Fisheries have been an activity of vital importance to the island and Greek coastal communities for thousands of years. However, over the past couple of decades, marine resources have become overexploited, frequently through the use of destructive practices. If drastic measures are not introduced, the fishing industry will face the risk of collapse. Archipelagos’ work to prevent this threat includes a combination of the following projects:
Monitoring the Posidonia Meadows
Posidonia oceanica seagrass of the Mediterranean is believed to be the oldest living organism on Earth. It can be over 100,000 years old. The eastern Aegean still supports extensive meadows of Posidonia, while in other parts of the Aegean they have been damaged or destroyed as a result of urbanization of the coastal areas, marine pollution and climate change. The EU and national legislation protecting this priority habitat is not enforced in many parts of the Mediterranean, therefore mapping, monitoring and protecting the Posidonia meadows is of the utmost importance. Our current work includes the following activities:
- Mapping Posidonia seagrass meadows with a combination of boat, kayak and drone-based surveys.
- Assessing the impact caused by illegal trawling activity and invasive species.
- Monitoring fishing activities and promoting sustainability.
- Experimental installation of sustainable mooring systems over seagrass meadows.
- Environmental campaigns about Posidonia meadows and coralligenous reefs to enlist public support for their protection.
Coralligenous reefs are frequently referred to as the best kept secret of the Mediterranean. Because of the lack of awareness, they have been greatly overlooked in terms of conservation, partially due to the lack of efficient research on these habitats in the Aegean. In cooperation with UNEPMAP-RAC/SPA, we are confirming the location of coralligenous reefs based on a combination of data acquired from fishermen and boat-based surveys. By producing maps and putting pressure on the authorities, we strive to enforce EU legislation that bans trawling over reefs which causes their irreversible destruction. Our work includes:
- Participatory GIS surveys and boat-based surveys with the use of a cartographic camera, structure scanner and an ROV.
- Creating a map of coralligenous reefs in the eastern Aegean.
For over 15 years, Archipelagos has been monitoring the biodiversity of shallow, littoral zone ecosystems of the eastern Aegean Sea. The data collected enables us to get an understanding of local conditions, ecosystem changes, processes and threats. Surveys have a wide range of focus, including:
- Conducting biodiversity assessments (fish, invertebrates and algae) and analyzing the spread of invasive species.
- Determining impacts of the factors threatening protected species and ecosystems, as well as colonization rates.
- Experimenting on sustainable mooring systems and artificial reefs.
For decades, fishermen and scientists have observed an increased influx of invasive species into the Aegean Sea that originates from both the Red Sea and from ballast waters of cargo ships. This sometimes causes important ecosystem changes, affecting both habitats and fisheries’ production. Aiming to understand the extent of the problem in the Aegean, Archipelagos monitors the interaction of invasive species within the coastal zone ecosystems and fisheries landings. This includes:
- The collection of data regarding invasive species via underwater visual census (UVC) surveys, questionnaires and recordings of fisheries’ landings.
- The creation of GIS maps which provide an overview of alien species distribution.
Shipping Risk Analysis
The Mediterranean is considered to be of high risk for major spills from large cargo ships and tankers. However, only a medium level of preparedness to deal with such accidents exists. The main shipping areas in the Aegean Sea have largely unmonitored shipping traffic and are considered to be of even higher risk, as over 75% of all Mediterranean maritime accidents have been recorded in this region. Research in this field focuses on:
- Assessing and analyzing the shipping risk.
- Developing prevention measures.
The increasing demand for seafood, along with continued overfishing, have resulted in intensified aquaculture production in the Mediterranean. Recent aquaculture developments have been carried out with a focus on market demand, creating strong impacts on coastal ecosystems, wild fish stocks and local communities. Archipelagos strives to implement more sustainable aquaculture practices and to assess the impacts of units operating over intensively. Work in this field includes:
- Analyzing the impact of aquaculture on coastal habitats and the accuracy of existing EIAs.
- Collecting preliminary data to identify the impacts on biodiversity caused by different aquaculture practices and creating models of more sustainable approaches to aquaculture.
- Cooperating with a medium sized aquaculture company on Leros island to modify its practices in order to create an eco-friendly model that respects the carrying capacity of the area.