The first step has been taken for battling invasive alien species that have entered the Seas of Turkey in various ways and are expected to cause a major amount of damage to the ecosystem.
Danger in our Seas
Turkey has a rich diversity due to being surrounded by three seas, which have different characteristics. As a result of various factors, species, which have shifted from their natural habitat to other areas, are called alien species. On the other hand, species that harm other species, nature, human health and economy by its invasion and settlement in the area are called invasive alien species.
While the number of alien species that are located in the Mediterranean Sea exceeds 1000, the number of alien species located in the Seas of Turkey is almost 500. While 74% of the alien species came to the Mediterranean Sea through the Suez Canal, 80% of the alien species, which arrived in the Black Sea, came due to ships’ ballast water. Some of these invasive alien species also come via aquaculture, releasement of fish and aquarium handling.
These alien species carry parasites to the marine ecosystem, marine biodiversity, marine species and habitats, spreads diseases, causes genetic deterioration, rivalry, and destroys and endangers native species’ generation by draining them. These species also threaten human health because they can cause diseases, poisoning and injuries. On top of this, it has a negative impact on fishery and tourism, which leads to an unfavourable national economy.
“Marine ecosystems are of major importance.”
Together with financial support from the Global Environmental Finance (GEF) and the coordination of the General Directorate for Nature Conservation and National Parks of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, the United Nations Development Programme is starting a new project to battle these species in the Seas of Turkey. The opening meeting for the “Utilizing Invasive Alien Species’ Threats at Key Marine Biodiversity Areas” project was held in Ankara on the 22nd of November 2018.
UNDP Deputy Country Director Sukhrob Khojimatov stated that marine ecosystems are of major importance in terms of climate change, fresh water cycle and biodiversity.
"This project will implement the development of legal and institutional infrastructure, capacity enhancement and raising the awareness of public as well as marine restoration and battling invasive alien species all together.”
As the only marine project of the GEF VI period in the world, the project will continue being implemented in the pilot areas of İğneada Floodplain Forests National Park (Nautical) (Black Sea), Ayvalık Islands Nature Park (Aegean Sea), Marmara Islands (Marmara Sea) and Hatay-Samandağ Seal Living Space as well as the Sea Turtle Nesting and Egg Laying area (Mediterranean Sea), with the objective of preventing the entry of alien species to Turkish seas, eliminating the existing alien species, and taking measures to protect native species and habitats.
By battling invasive alien species in the scope of the project, the protection of biological diversity as well as marine ecosystems will be ensured, and this will contribute to the AICHI goals along with the Sustainable Development Goals, which are aimed to be achieved by 2030.