- The Aeolian Islands north of Sicily are under threat from unsustainable fishing and tourism.
- Marine protection would bring back threatened species such as sperm whales, dolphins and tuna and revive these extraordinary habitats.
- In 2016, the Italian government declared its intention to create a network of marine protected areas around the Aeolians. BLUE is working to build an effective model of protection in the Aeolians while working with the local fishermen to encourage sustainable fishing.
The Aeolian archipelago, north of Sicily, is under pressure from increasing tourism, vessel mooring, overfishing and habitat degradation that threaten its natural and cultural heritage.
Unregulated illegal fishing, using destructive techniques such as ‘drift-netting’ and ‘bottom dredging’ removes large, predatory fish from the food chain and destroys marine habitats. ‘Ghost nets’ (nets that have been lost or left in the ocean by fishing vessels), entangle bottlenose dolphins, loggerhead turtles and sperm whales, species that once thrived in Aeolian waters.
The Aeolian Islands have been under consideration for marine protection since the early 1990s, but no meaningful progress was made until BLUE, in collaboration with the Aeolian Island Preservation Fund, laid the foundations for a marine protected area in 2016.
A network of marine protected areas will:
- preserve biodiversity;
- stimulates the artisanal fishing industry;
- Protect fish stocks and endangered marine species;
- Safeguard significant habitats such as Poseidonia sea-grass beds and the biodiversity that they support;
- Enhance fish reproduction through site-specific protection/zoning;
- Secure the future of a local, sustainable fishing industry through increasing enforcement capacity.
In November 2016, the Ministry of Environment, Land and Sea committed to the designation of an MPA in the Aeolians and local municipalities united and announced their support. BLUE is now moving forward with projects to ensure a swift and well-placed designation.
The marine protected are (MPA) will be designed to be more efficient and effective than existing Italian models in terms of ambition of zoning, management and innovative solutions and will apply the Lyme Bay fisheries model in the Mediterranean for the first time.
BLUE has initiated a public awareness and education campaign supported by Marks & Spencer, received a grant from the Adessium Foundation and has raised funds to support the research projects essential to the designation of the MPA.
BLUE is developing innovative projects including deep sea exploration, tracking endangered marine species and creating a marine education centre to support the establishment of a well-designated MPA. In parallel, BLUE is building a working group, led by local stakeholders including fishermen, to ensure effective and enduring management of Aeolian marine resources.
‘If lobsters have eggs or are undersize, I put them back into the sea. We must give fish (and shellfish) enough time to reproduce.’ Samuele, local fisher, Salina Island
‘Over time we have had to fish deeper and for longer to catch fewer and smaller fish. We need to manage our seas effectively or we will catch only shrimp.’ Franco Puglisi, local Aeolian fisher
‘If you take away the economy from the island, the island will die. Local people must be engaged in employment created by a marine protected area.’ Antonello, local fisher, Salina Island