Over the last few days we have seen numerous articles, publications and social media posts warning citizens about “dangerous” jellyfish and “wild” shark hordes. Just to mention one similar example, the post of a Greek American director – who states he doesn’t specialize in sea issues – managed to make many people wonder whether octopuses have brains in their 8 limbs and others contemplating whether consuming octopuses is an anti-governmental action.
Prompted by the latest viral texts, as well as other fake news that often circulates, we wonder how it is possible to be ignorant about marine life issues when we live in a country that has thousands of years of history connected with the sea.
We cannot, of course, overlook the fact that in all levels of education, no teaching time is dedicated to environmental issues or our country’s biodiversity. The younger generation is inadequately prepared, if at all, to live in the new conditions forming due to climate change. Consequently, there is a large information gap leading to ill-informed citizens, susceptible to fake news.
Seeing these types of circulated inaccuracies misleading and confusing a great percentage of citizens, we at Archipelagos Marine Conservation Institute want to clear up this confusion. Our aim is to avoid any further misperceptions and take the discussion to the next level to focus on the real issue.
As observed, jellyfish populations are increasing but the phenomenon isn’t nearly as worrying as it was presented in the local media. Greece has been systematically overfishing fish stocks, including the natural predators of jellyfish, so this upward trend shouldn’t surprise us. For decades, the state hasn’t taken measures to curb overfishing or to implement sustainable management of fishing, and at the same time, all of us either fishermen, sellers or consumers contribute to the depletion of ocean resources. If we are truly interested in improving things in the following year, the central point of the discussion should be what types of measures must be taken today.
Instead of panicking due to this upward trend, let’s use it as a catalyst to become informed of what actions we can take all year round to control our human footprint on marine ecosystems
- Even though octopus don’t “think with their 8 tentacles” as many believe, it is an intelligent species with special abilities like many other animal species. However, we live in an era where we have emptied the sea of octopus,of most species, including octopus. In Greece, during the summer months octopus-hunting seems like a national sport as both professionals and amateurs compete with each other to win the prize, which seems to be who will catch the last one. The debate however, isn’t whether it is ethical or not to consume the last remaining octopus, but to use our logic and knowledge:
Octopus have a short life span of 12-15 months and if they are left to reach adulthood, each one produces up to hundreds of thousands of eggs. It definitely doesn’t have a brain on its limbs but each tentacle has around 40 million neurons and 200 suckers that can feel, taste and smell the surroundings or move objects. As we should do with all animal species, it is important to adopt sustainable eating practices, not catching them prior to the reproduction age and of course, to not abuse them alive or use them as prizes.
▪ Imaginative myths and inaccurate information about sharks living in our seas have been spreading for several years. Around 65 shark and ray species live around Greece, which are also found in other seas all over the world, and most of them are considered protected species. Over a period of two centuries, very few shark attacks have been recorded and not all of them are actually confirmed.
It seems that once again we have chosen to forget the real dangers we are facing in our seas, most of which are anthropogenic. According to the annual report of the observatory of Safe Water Sports for water accidents in Greece, in the last five years, 1739 deaths were recorded in the Greek seas,and of those 342 happened in 2021. Consequently, what we should really worry about at this point isn’t how dangerous some sea species are but the real risks that come from us.
In a time when we recognize that our survival depends greatly on the conservation of ecosystems and the species we live together with, let’s use incidents like the above mentioned to think about why we choose ignorance. We should also wonder why we choose to leave the new generations unprepared to manage the unique, rich ecosystems that they barely know or understand so they can not even make use of for their prosperity.