Greece Bans Bottom Trawling: Leading Europe in Marine Conservation

Historic Decision Sets Precedent for Protecting Marine Ecosystems, Sparks Hope for EU Action

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Greece has emerged as a trailblazer in marine conservation within Europe, marking a historic milestone by becoming the first European nation to enact a comprehensive ban on bottom trawling in its national marine parks and protected areas. This decisive move underscores Greece’s commitment to safeguarding its rich and diverse marine ecosystems, a pledge backed by a substantial investment of €780 million.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis unveiled this groundbreaking initiative during the Our Ocean conference held in Athens on Tuesday. Addressing delegates, Mitsotakis revealed plans to establish two new marine national parks, strategically located in the Ionian and Aegean regions. These additions will significantly expand the coverage of marine protected areas, encompassing approximately one-third of the nation’s maritime territorial waters and amplifying conservation efforts by almost 80%.

Scheduled for implementation, the ban on bottom trawling within national parks is slated for completion by 2026, with a broader prohibition across all marine protected areas set for enforcement by 2030. To ensure compliance with these regulations, Mitsotakis announced the deployment of a sophisticated surveillance system, incorporating state-of-the-art technology such as drones.

The proposed Ionian marine national park, spanning nearly 12% of Greek territorial seas, holds promise for the preservation of various marine species, including sperm whales, striped dolphins, and the endangered Mediterranean monk seal. Similarly, the South Aegean Marine Protected Area (MPA) is poised to safeguard 6.61% of Greek territorial waters, fortifying conservation efforts across diverse marine habitats.

Nevertheless, Greece’s proactive stance on marine conservation has triggered diplomatic tensions with Turkey, its historical rival. Ankara’s foreign ministry recently voiced objections, citing territorial disputes and political motivations surrounding the Aegean marine park project.

Despite geopolitical challenges, environmentalists have welcomed Greece’s bold initiative, expressing hopes for a ripple effect across the European Union. Nicholas Fournier, campaign director for marine protection at Oceana, emphasized the potential influence on other EU members, highlighting the need for collective action to combat destructive fishing practices.

The ban on bottom trawling, a highly detrimental fishing technique characterized by its destructive impact on marine habitats and carbon emissions, has gained significant traction within the conservation community. Organizations such as Oceana, the Marine Conservation Society, and Seas at Risk have urged the EU to adopt stricter measures to curtail this harmful practice, citing reports indicating its prevalence in 90% of offshore MPAs within EU waters.

As Greece leads by example, Europe faces mounting pressure to prioritize marine conservation and foster collaborative efforts to mitigate the ecological impact of industrial fishing practices. With Greece setting a precedent for decisive action, the stage is set for transformative change in the management and protection of marine ecosystems across the continent.

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