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© Kelvin Trautman

WWF Mediterranean Initiative bulletin: Issue 7 / Summer 2014

Lewis Pugh swimming in the Kornati Islands, Croatia, as part of his 15km swim in the Adriatic Sea.
New model MPA to protect monk seals

The Mediterranean Monk Seal, once plentiful, is now the rarest of all 33 seal species on the planet, with no more than 600 individuals surviving, half of which find shelter in the Greek Seas. Just as Lewis Pugh dedicated his swim in the Aegean to the plight of this animal, the CYCLADES LIFE project is working to protect the most important monk seal population in the Mediterranean, with a new MPA around Gyaros island. Implemented by WWF Greece with partners and with the support of the European Union and Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, the project is part of the ongoing Mediterranean Initiative commitment to develop model MPAs in the region, as a key conservation tool.

The Mediterranean Monk Seal, one of the most endangered mammals in the world.

© MOm / P. Dendrinos

Emotional encounters at sea
WWF France's 2014 edition of the Cap Cétacés campaign has just ended, and results will be in the next issue. This summer the team celebrated the 100th sperm whale biopsy. Since 2006, WWF France has evaluated the level of contamination of several pollutants in fin whales, sperm whales and pilot whales, and since 2010 has analysed the pregnancy rate and juvenile numbers of fin whales.

Cap Cétacés 2014: facts and figures

2,730 nautical miles covered.
91 biopsies made.
Observations of:
88 fin whales
62 pilot whales
32 sperm whales
971 striped dolphins
20 Risso's dolphins.

Greece legislates for coastal over-development
Rocked by massive public outcry and political confrontation, the Greek Government now looks to water down a controversial draft law on coastal development announced last April. The law aims to reduce the no-construction beach zone from 50 to 10m, reduce the number of lakes with a legally protected shoreline, legalise existing illegal coastline developments, and encourage permanent constructions on the beach. WWF has mobilized hundreds of thousands of concerned citizens across Europe. There is also a petition calling on the Greek Government to withdraw the draft law.
Kefallinia Island, Greece

© Michel Gunther / WWF

A taste of summer fieldwork around the Mediterranean

Helping marine turtles reach the sea
Akyatan beach, Turkey

Green turtle hatchling and volunteer in Akyatan, Turkey rel= © Yorgo Kayadelen / WWF Turkey

The day starts at 05.00am at the camp. The team emerges from their tents as the day breaks at Akyatan. Everybody is ready to go to the beach with their gear and bottles of water in their bags as they will walk an average of 15km every day. They take notes of marine turtle tracks, nests, hatchlings and predation as they walk on the long beach. The main problem in the area is consumption of the eggs by wild boar and jackals, so new nests are caged to protect them from these predators. The team then regularly checks the nests as wild boars are able to remove the cages and destroy the eggs inside. Control diggings of the nests are done after the hatchlings head to the sea, to rescue any live hatchlings trapped in these nests.

The team then returns to the camp before noon depending on the amount of work on the beach. Following their midday rest, they fill in data forms and share important observations with other members of the team. The nearby beaches of Tuzla, Ağyatan and Yumurtalık Nature Reserve are visited every 15 days and assessment for these sites is done regularly. From time to time the team also monitors bird, mammal and reptile populations in the forest and lagoon behind the beach. Sometimes photo traps are installed near the water holes from which wild animals drink, to get even more information on the wildlife in the region.

The day ends as the team prepares their dinner together and shares stories of the day. Night falls with the howling of the jackals.
Ayşe Oruc, WWF Turkey


"…I walked on the beach and helped baby marine turtles to reach to the sea. I am grateful that I came here. I believe my courage doubled here."
(Beyza Türkozan, Age 13, Student)

"… In fact, for me this trip has been a fast learning experience although I did not have any knowledge on nature conservation nor on biology."
(Serkan Bayraktaroğlu, Industrial Designer)

"… We realized how long and beautiful the days are when you are far away from technology. The sound of the waves, birds, howling of the jackals and rattle of the lizards."
(Handan Karamahmutoğlu Can, Metehan Can and Bilgehan Can)

Monitoring marine turtles, Akyatan beach, Turkey 
© WWF-Turkey / T. Unsun
Monitoring marine turtles, Akyatan beach, Turkey
© WWF-Turkey / T. Unsun

Akyatan, located near Adana, is one of the officially recognized 21 marine turtle nesting beaches on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey. It has the largest number of green turtle (Chelonia mydas) nests in the whole Mediterranean. WWF Turkey's site-based monitoring activities have highlighted the strong impact of jackal predation on the turtle nests. More than 350 volunteers participated in the fieldwork and conservation activities during nesting seasons since 2006, a good example of cooperation between government, NGOs and universities.

An ocean expedition to map the seabed
Gyaros, in the northern Cyclades, Greece
Sunrise, at the port of Ermoupolis, the capital of the Cyclades: cameras, big, small, underwater ones, diving suits and equipment, notepads, some food and a lot of water are all quickly stored tidily on board the Gioura, the new speedboat of the CYCLADES LIFE team. With us, we have two photographers and WWF Greece’s press officer. Our mission: to meet the team from the Marine Geology and Physical Oceanography Laboratory of the University of Patras who are mapping the seabed around Gyaros. The small islet in the middle of the Aegean archipelago hides precious treasures in its underwater embrace – posidonia sea beds and coralligenous formations, indispensable for the health of the marine environment and the organisms that live within it.

The Gioura glides smoothly on the surface of the Aegean. It takes us about 30 minutes to get to Gyaros. St.George, an old traditional kaiki, is slowly carrying the side-scan sonar in the calm waters at the western side of Gyaros. We jump on board. All the scientists from Patras are hooked to the monitors connected to the sonar. The findings sound promising:  “Oooh look at that coralligenous reef, I've never seen anything like that”. The rest of us, together with the professional divers who carry out the underwater verification for the scientists, set off for an in-situ observation of the island’s posidonia.

We lose sight of the divers. Cameras, above and below the water constantly click to capture the moment, other team members are frantically keeping notes, while the captain of the Gioura coordinates the expedition. Mission accomplished, we leave Gyaros and continue towards Syros on board the Gioura that gently carries all of us under the bright colors of the Greek sun.
Maria Livanou, WWF Greece


Expedition to map the seabed around Gyaros 
© WWF Greece / G.Rigoutsos
Expedition to map the seabed around Gyaros
© WWF Greece / G.Rigoutsos

The CYCLADES LIFE project (Integrated monk seal conservation of Northern Cyclades), coordinated by WWF Greece, will contribute to the conservation of the endangered monk seal population in Gyaros, protecting their habitat as part of the integrated management of the island. Co-management with the local fishing and tourism sectors will contribute to the sustainable development of the region as a whole.

The great bluefin tuna chase
Llançà, north of Barcelona, Spain
As a marine biologist I have the privilege of doing field work out on the ocean. I spend most of my days in the office, of course, like most people, but my field work allows me some special expeditions tagging bluefin tuna. These are the most exciting days of my job.

We meet the recreational fishermen at the port early in the morning and have breakfast together to explain to them the proper way to deal with a bluefin tuna when they catch one for tagging. Afterwards all the boats (it can vary from 6 to 15 vessels) leave the port to go to a pre-identified position where they know they can find tuna. Once we are all there (and the boats have been anchored) the fishermen start setting up their rods, all with their own different techniques and wisdom. And once this is done…the waiting game begins! We wait until either we hear the sound of one of the rods of the boat we are on, or we hear from the radio someone saying “XXX is fighting”. If the second happens, we need to get to that boat as soon as possible, as sometimes the fight can take as little as 15-20 min (or it can go up to 2-3hours). Once on board we need to start disinfecting and setting up all our tagging material.

Once the tuna is on board, the whole procedure needs to be as fast as possible (so the tuna doesn’t get too stressed), but at the same time as precise as possible. Usually the pop-up tagging lasts less than 3 minutes. Once the tuna is close to the boat, we set a slippery mat on the floor of the boat (so the skin of the tuna doesn’t get damaged), we take the tuna on board, put a hose of salt water in its mouth (to allow it to keep breathing) and a wet cloth over its eyes (so it calms down)… it’s impressive to see how most of them remain calm, even when deploying the tag. Then we deploy the pop-up tag (below the second dorsal fin), the conventional tag (ventrally), take a clip of fin (for future DNA analyses), measure the length of the tuna (which afterwards can be converted into weight) ...and then we take it back to the sea. This is MOST DEFINITIVELY  the best time of the day: when after releasing the tuna into the sea, you can watch it swimming fast into the depths of the ocean –  that’s an amazing feeling!
Gemma Quilez-Badia, WWF Mediterranean
Gemma and Susana Sainz-Trapaga prepare for the tagging expedition. 
© WWF Mediterranean / C. Menard
Gemma and Susana Sainz-Trapaga prepare for the tagging expedition.
© WWF Mediterranean / C. Menard

Learn more about tagging - see the results and watch the video.

Working with fishermen in the Balearic Islands
Cala Ratjada, Mallorca
WWF Spain’s solar boat is sailing through the Balearic Islands this summer, stopping at the main seaports to promote marine conservation and sustainable fishing. One of our main activities is a series of workshops with local fishermen.

We ask the fishermen to tell us about their latest achievements and their ideas to turn their activities towards sustainability in the future. The fishermen themselves lead the workshops, taking care to ensure that everyone has a chance to speak, avoid personal discussions, and aim for progress in the proposed topics. The fishermen are looking for solutions to trigger substantial changes, rather than getting stuck in useless criticism. They talk about their ideal future for fishing, and what they can do together to make it happen.

An environment of confidence and cooperation is created, and in a few minutes initial reluctance disappears. The fishermen tell personal stories, such as the captain of a trawler talking about his children coming back from school, angry with him because he kills all the fish and destroys the bottom of the sea. You could feel the emotion in his voice when he told this story, and like him, other trawling captains have said that they don’t want to be seen as “predators” by society – they would like to change things. All of us have to learn to listen to each other with curiosity and respect – to achieve the future of fishing we dream about.
Jose Rios, WWF Spain
Workshop with fishermen in Cala Ratjada, Mallorca. 
© Miguel Murcia / WWF Spain
Workshop with fishermen in Cala Ratjada, Mallorca.
© Miguel Murcia / WWF Spain


These workshops are the perfect environment to practice the principles and abilities needed for fishing co-management. As stakeholders involved in the management of marine resources and ecosystems, we have to build together the path towards real solutions.

Jose Rios, WWF Spain