‘Future We Want’ in Turkey’s coasts protected
Mehmet Doğan is a fisherman in Akyaka, a coastal township in southwestern Turkey. He had worries whether he or his children can continue depending on fishing for a decent life as animal species and their habitats are endangered due to over exploitation of resources and overutilization of coastal areas he is living in.
Turkey’s 8.500 km-long coastline is a living space of 4,000 plant and animal species and their habitats and it is also a source of income for a lot of people, along with it is also a living space for 30 million people.
Mehmet says there had been some efforts to protect the shores but more should be done.
‘Protection has numerous benefits, but is inadequate. If the protection system were better and more deep-seated, there would be more improvement and reproduction.’
UNDP, together with General Directorate for Protection of Natural Assets of Turkish Ministry of Environment and Urbanization and Global Environment Facility (GEF) had put a project in place to reduce such negative impacts in coastal areas that Mehmet were addressing.
“Strengthening the system of Marine and Coastal Protected Areas of Turkey” project aimed to strengthen Turkey’s national marine and coastal protection system and ensure its effective management.
Six areas in Turkey were covered namely Foça, Gökova, Datça-Bozburun, Köyceğiz, Dalyan and Fethiye Göcek Special Environmental Protection Areas and Ayvalık Adaları Nature Park.
The project achieved significant progress since 2009 until its closure in 2014. First and foremost, it increased the ratio of protected marine and coastal area to 4 percent while it was 2,8 percent in 2009. Turkey’s Marine and Coastal Protected Areas network was expanded by 100,000 hectares; which means an increase of 45 percent as compared to the baseline level.
- Before the project, 2.8 percent of Turkey’s coasts were under protection; this went up to 4 percent after the declaration of Saros Bay a Special Environmental Protection Area and expansion of Gökova Special Environmental Protection Area.
- After the declaration of 10 no-fishing zones in Gökova and Datça-Bozburun Special Environmental Protection Areas a total of 4,000-ha area is now protected.
- For the first time under the project, an environmental economic valuation was conducted for the Marine Protected Areas in Turkey.
- The Marine Protected Areas in Turkey now offer a wide range of services and products and contribute both to the individual and social welfare of the local population. Economic valuation of the project confirms that the total annual value of the marine ecosystem services amounts to 800 million TL.
- Before the declaration of the “no-fishing zones” in Gökova Special Environmental Protected Area, the monthly income generated per boat was 1,485 TL; it went up to 2,267 TL after the declaration, which means an increase of 1.5 fold.
A Training and Implementation Centre for Marine and Coastal Protected Areas was set up in the Akyaka which is located in Gökova Special Environmental Protection Area and a curriculum has been developed.
In the areas covered by the project, representatives of responsible institutions and other relevant stakeholders from Turkey and abroad continue to receive training on Marine Protected Areas, management of such areas and tourism in marine protected areas.
Sea turtles nesting safely
Marine biodiversity baseline analysis were carried out in Köyceğiz-Dalyan Special Environmental Protection Area and in Ayvalık Adaları Nature Park.
Scientific studies carried out in Köyceğiz-Dalyan Special Environmental Protection Area led to the identification of 160 macro benthic and nektonic animal species as well as 122 planktonic and macro benthic plant species.
Scientific studies carried out in Ayvalık Adaları Nature Park led to the identification of a total of 671 macroscopic species as well as 16 species in need of protection under international conventions and criteria.
As part of the sighting and protection components, sea turtle nesting and monitoring study was carried out in Fethiye-Göcek and Köyceğiz-Dalyan Special Environmental Protected Areas, which allowed for meeting the target of sighting an average number of 350 nests/year.
“A couple of years ago, when I was warning our visitors who were unscrupulously sunbathing in the nesting areas and saying ‘you are in the nesting area of sea turtles, it is forbidden to sunbath here’, they didn’t know it. They used to ask it before, but now there are a lot of people who become conscious. They show interest and say “okay, let’s not harm animals, let’s go to free areas”, Bekir Çoban, a ranger of Muğla Environment and Urbanization Provincial Directorate, says.
Works carried out in Foça Special Environmental Protection Area for sighting Mediterranean monk seal and in Gökova Special Environmental Protection Area for sighting sandbar shark allowed for meeting the target of recording respectively 70 and 25 sightings annually.
Surveillance system in Foça Special Environmental Protection Area was reactivated. The borders of no-fishing areas declared in Gökova Gulf were demarcated more visibly by planting sign boards & posts.
Marine ecosystem services amounts to 800 million TL
One of the important outputs of the project was achieving financial planning and sustainability. In order to achieve the sustainable funding of marine and coastal protected Areas, a Department of Permits and Management was set up under the Ministry of Environment and Urbanization, Directorate General of Natural Assets Protection and necessary systems were set up.
Marine protected areas offer a wide range of services and products and thereby contribute to the individual and social welfare, particularly that of the local population. Economic valuation studies carried out in the project locations for the first time in Turkey found that the total annual value of the marine ecosystem services amounts to 800 million TL.
In Foça Special Environmental Protection Area, for instance, commercial fishers earn an income of about 12 million TL annually from the marine protected area. While the monthly income generated per boat before the declaration of “no fishing areas” in Gökova Special Environmental Protected Area was 1,485 TL, it went up to 2,267 TL after the declaration, which means an increase of 1.5 fold.
“The sea is our mother. We should do our best to prevent the illegal hunting in particular. I personally think that there has been a tremendous increase in fish population within only one and a half year since the declaration of no fishing areas by law”, says Can Görgün, Head of Akyaka Fisheries Cooperative.
Responsible tourism in coastal areas
Foça and Gökova Special Environmental Protection Areas, which are closed to mass tourism, have become a different destination of attraction with their nature, clean sea and coasts and silence. As opposed to the view “no one will come when there are no touristic facilities”, areas which are not choked up with facilities seem to become a point of attraction on their own. Visitors coming to Köyceğiz-Dalyan provide the local economy with 92 million TL annually with their day-trip visits, one-day boat excursions and a diving centre.
Fisherwomen takes the lead
In order to improve fishing in protected areas, joint works were carried out with the GEF Small Grants Programme (SGP) – COMDEKS. Relevant fisheries cooperatives and national environmental associations were involved in cooperation programs. In this scope, ghost fishing gears were detected and removed from the sea in “no fishing areas” in Gökova Special Environmental Protection Area.
In Datça-Bozburun Special Environmental Protection Area, coastal fishers and fish restaurants were involved in efforts to develop responsible fishing models. About 100 fisherwomen received training on responsible fishing. Moreover, an effective surveillance was achieved in Akyaka and İngiliz Limanı through demarcation of no-fishing areas in Gökova Bay, development of information materials and through the surveillance of guards selected from among the fishers.