Heraklion (Greece), 11 December – Representatives of fisheries, local and regional authorities in Crete met conservation bodies in Greece for the first time to discuss measures to protect the marine environment. The Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) which participated in the Conference together with its regional agreement on the conservation of whales and dolphins in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, ACCOBAMS, had facilitated the meeting as a further - and final - step forward in the Year of the Dolphin. The International Summit on the Marine Environment, held 9-11 December in Heraklion, Crete, was organised by Essence consulting, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as well as the Port and Municipality of Heraklion. WDCS, as founding partner of the Year of the Dolphin, Ocean Care and the Chair of the ACCOBAMS Scientific Committee also participated in the conference.
CMS Executive Secretary Robert Hepworth said: "CMS supports the implementation of sustainable fisheries regulations that reconcile the protection of the marine ecosystems in Greece with the livelihoods of local communities. We need to halt the decline of these marine mammals so typical of Greece such as the Common Dolphin and the Mediterranean Monk Seal before they become extinct."
Greece with its huge marine biodiversity can be considered as the most important habitat for marine mammals in the ACCOBAMS agreement area. ACCOBAMS Executive Secretary Marie-Christine Grillo Compulsione said: "Participation of local communities is essential to implement conservation measures. Their collaboration with the ACCOBAMS Scientific Committee will guarantee the achievement of our common objectives." However, the once abundant Common Dolphins have been driven to the brink of extinction by overfishing and the subsequent depletion of prey. Their numbers have decreased from 150 to only 15 animals in the last ten years.
Conference participants agreed on first steps to take urgent measures to stop the further degradation of marine ecosystems caused by overfishing in Greek waters. Draft recommendations to conserve marine biodiversity, in particular the Common Dolphin and its habitat, maintain viable fishstocks and protect spawning grounds will be submitted to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for implementation.
The president of the professional coastal fishermen's association called for a ban on unsustainable fishing practices such as trawlers and purse seiners. He emphasized that better legal enforcement of existing EU regulations could stop further damage. Juvenile fish are caught before they reach maturity. The current practice in Greece prevents the heavily depleted fish stocks from recovering. Industrial fisheries operate 290 trawlers and 300 purse seiners compared to 17000 boats belonging to artisanal fisheries. Small scale fisheries' contribution amount to 40 percent of the total fish production in Greece.
Research is being undertaken to find the main causes of mortality among dolphins. In a scientific round table, ACCOBAMS provided advice regarding the establishment of a stranding network for whales and dolphins. Scientists and NGOs recommended that compliance with existing law such as the EU Habitats Directive could reverse the impact of unsustainable fisheries. Comprehensive research and monitoring to generate population estimates and extend the survey to the entire Mediterranean basin needs to be supported by authorities, ship owners, tourists and local communities. Fisheries and the Port of Heraklion agreed to support this initiative by collecting data. ACCOBAMS provides the framework that is being supported by 21 states.
The Port of Heraklion inaugurated a fountain with a sculpture of three dolphins as a permanent legacy of the Year of the Dolphin and as a symbol of its firm commitment towards protecting marine mammals and their fragile ecosystems.
Notes to Editors:
For more information please contact:
Nick Nuttall, UNEP Spokesperson/Head of Media, on Tel +41 79 596 57 37, or E-mail: email@example.com
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Marie-Christine Grillo-Compulsione, ACCOBAMS Executive Secretary, T. +37798988010/2078,
e-mail: email@example.com, www.accobams.org