© Markos Mant / Unsplash
MARINE

The sea is our history, our survival, and our summers. It is the home we share with unique species, such as the Caretta caretta turtle, which has been a Mediterranean denizen since before antiquity, and has found the ideal nesting ground in our country, and the impressive sperm whales, which swim in underwater canyons that reach depths of 5,100 meters. Beaches and tourist destinations for every taste, underwater vistas, sailing trips, and Greek fishermen who have kept our tradition alive for centuries. This is just a sample of the rich mosaic that makes up the Greek seas.

At the same time Greek seas are crowded… The number of human activities are seriously threatening the health of the sea and the local communities directly connected to it. Climate change on top of that worsens the picture. According to the available data, over 80% of fish populations in the Mediterranean have been overfished. In other words, their population cannot reproduce and maintain a viable size, while favored by climate change and warming waters, alien species have started to expand, shifting the balance. Our sea is becoming an overheated desert, while plastic pollution has the potential to turn the Mediterranean into an enormous 'plastic trap', and on top of that, the Greek government's plans to extract hydrocarbons lie ahead of us.

IMPORTANT FACTS

Sperm whales are the animal with the largest brain ever recorded.

Greek coasts account for approximately 30% of the Mediterranean coastline.

In Greece, approximately 14,000 fishermen – over 95% of whom are small-scale fishermen – make a living from the sea.

WHAT WE DO

We join forces with our colleagues in the Mediterranean, local coastal communities, fishermen, the supply chain, the scientific community, and the local and central administration to keep our sea alive, despite the enormous challenges it faces, and to promote joint solutions that concern us all. As WWF Greece, we are part of the WWF Mediterranean Marine Initiative (MMI) and we collaborate with the other WWF national offices in the region to protect our common home, the Mediterranean. With just 1.27% of the Mediterranean under protection, we promote proposals and advocate the authorities for the increased management efficiency and the coherence of the network of the protected areas, and a more sustainable development of blue economy activities, such as fisheries, tourism, and shipping, as they all compete for marine space.

In northern Cyclades we work with fishermen to ensure that the sea will keep on having fish and that their nets will be full. We aim to transform small scale fisheries through the promotion of a co-management approach, bringing fishers into the decision-making process and providing them with the opportunity to craft solutions that result in sustainable stocks and support livelihoods.

We protect Greece’s biodiversity in different locations: on the island of Gyaros, where 12% of the global population of the endangered Mediterranean monk seal lives, in 2019 we created a model marine protected area in partnership with all the stakeholders and the fishermen, while our team in the region has been working tirelessly on a daily basis to protect this unique ecosystem. Until recently, an unknown environmental paradise, which, besides being home to the Mediterranean monk seal, also provides shelter for the largest colony of Yelkouan shearwater, a rare seabird, while the seabed is full of Posidonia meadows and coral formations.

We engage with national authorities, the shipping sector, and other stakeholders to mitigate ship strikes, the number one threat to the endangered sperm whale population in the Hellenic Trench, its core habitat in the eastern part of the Mediterranean Sea. As a direct outcome of our joint effort, the Greek Navy, following the request from the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Insular Policy, the Ministry of Environment and the Hellenic Chamber of Shipping, has issued an official notice informing mariners about the presence of the marine mammals in the Hellenic Trench. The new Navigational Telex (NAVTEX) warning instructs mariners to look out for marine mammals as well as to avoid collisions. For almost 30 years we are present at Sekania, one of the most protected habitats in the world for Caretta caretta where thousands of turtle eggs are nested each year.

Greece hosts an important number of species of marine megafauna. Greek waters are also productive fishing grounds, and fishing often results in direct or indirect conflicts with the marine megafauna, with serious impacts on the preservation and well-being of keystone species such as cetaceans, monk seals, sea turtles, seabirds, sharks, and rays on one hand, and economic consequences for fishermen. Through our scientific research we provide for the first time robust data on the impact of fishing activities on marine megafauna which will contribute to the development of mitigation proposals including the establishment of a fair national compensatory system for small-scale fishers and incidental reduction measures.

We bring to the fore the real data on the irrational extractions that are being planned, while we propose solutions for plastic, through management, raising awareness, engagement for the changing of our everyday habits.

Theory of change

  • We want to use our influence from our field programmes and our involvement with communities and competent agencies (including policy-making agencies and the business sector) to create the political will required for the protection of the marine environment and sustainable development.
  • Mobilisation of civil society for the same purpose.
  • Development of tools that will impact political will, emphasising the benefits the protection of the marine environment provides for coastal and island communities.
  • Promotion of policies that will support sustainable development and socio-economic benefits, improving the condition of marine ecosystems.