Greek coasts, marine life at risk

Greece’s coastline and marine life face irreparable damage over the next few decades unless radical action is taken to protect the region’s unique wildlife and ecosystems, scientists are warning. No essential measures have been taken to protect dwindling species of animals living off Greece’s coasts nor the unique ecosystems that avert coastal erosion, experts agreed at a seminar in Serres. Overfishing is another key culprit, destroying Posidonia oceanica, a seagrass endemic to the Mediterranean that protects marine organisms, according to research by the Institute of Marine and Environmental Research of the Aegean Sea, also known as Archipelagos. A similar fate is befalling red algae, crucial to the protection of coral reefs, experts say. «The regions in which these two ecosystems exist have not been delineated and so it is difficult to take measures to protect them, such as the designation of fishing areas,» said Anastassia Miliou of Archipelagos. She also expressed concern about the discovery of 65 dead mammals and reptiles on the country’s coastlines this year – chiefly turtles and seals. «At a time when other countries are trying to promote their natural wealth by declaring protected areas, we are ignoring our outstanding potential in this area,» Miliou said, noting that Greece is known as «the Noah’s Ark of European seas» due to its vast marine biodiversity. The Mediterranean hosts more than 550 kinds of seaweed and thousands of invertebrates and fish. Miliou stressed the need for the creation of a new type of marine park «which benefits local communities as well as marine life.» Greece currently has two marine parks – one on the Ionian island of Zakynthos and the second in the western Aegean, the National Marine Park of Alonissos. Miliou and her colleagues are calling for the creation of a new park in the northern Dodecanese and have already approached local communities on the 87 islands in the region to discuss potential cooperation.