Over the past two days (Monday 23/05/2022 and Tuesday 24/05/2022) Naftilos’ crew of “Archipelagos” Institute of Marine Conservation recorded hundreds of explosions in the marine region of the NE Aegean. We presume that the explosions originated from the military exercises of the Turkish Navy, south of Izmir.
The wider NE Aegean marine area is a biodiversity hotspot of global importance as it hosts some of the most important marine mammals populations in the Mediterranean. During our research over the past 24 years in this region, we record, almost daily, populations of marine mammals such as sperm whales, cuvier beaked whales, and 4 dolphin species. In that same area over the years we have also recorded numerous dead stranded cetaceans.
While the explosions were happening as well as the following days, we have been noticing the absence of cetaceans species from a region that usually brims with life. Luckily, we have not found any dead or injured marine animals until now.
We have to emphasize that the main issue is not which country carries out the explosions but the dramatic impact these cause on the ecosystems. Our main goal is the conservation of marine life, especially in this area of global environmental interest, there should be no room for nationalistic approaches.
The footprint of military exercises on the marine ecosystems
Even though a few years ago the environmental footprint of Hellenic Navy military exercises was particularly intense, over the past few years, operational protocols and procedures have been in place to limit the impact of military activities in the Greek seas. Positive change is obvious since we no longer encounter dead animals or population movements during military exercises. Of course, the ecological print of the Hellenic Armed Forces can and should be limited even more. However, in seas of international importance for biodiversity, such as the wider area of the Aegean, effective protection can only be achieved when all states using the sea, whether coastal or not, agree upon and implement harmonized procedures.
“Archipelagos” Institute of Marine Conservation remains at sea in the region, where we have been working over the past 24 years and, in close cooperation with the local communities and fishing boats that are active in the area, we are searching for injured or dead marine animals.