The marine environment is a precious heritage that must be protected and restored. iSea works to maintain the biodiversity in vulnerable marine habitats, contributing to the overall diversity of our oceans. It is our hope to restore and protect these environments and return them to a healthy and productive state. Our mission is twofold: Firstly, to contribute to the protection of aquatic ecosystems by sensitizing the state, managers, and public opinion, to take measures where there are gaps in environmental legislation and public sensitivity. And secondly, to look out for and inform on the impact of climate change on aquatic ecosystems.
What we do:
We use a four pillar assessment method to evaluate the state of aquatic ecosystems:
1. Fisheries Sustainable resource exploitation
Fisheries and aquaculture should be environmentally, economically, and socially sustainable, perpetually ensuring healthy food, as well as the welfare of fishing communities. The application of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries leads to the Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries (EAF), which entails risk based management plans. This process covers the principles of sustainable development, mainly considering ecological and environmental parameters, while also including human and social aspects. According to the FAO, the purpose of an ecosystem approach to fisheries is to plan, develop, and manage fisheries in a manner that addresses the multiple needs and desires of societies, without jeopardizing the options for future generations to benefit from the full range of goods and services provided by marine ecosystems. In practice, the Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries ensures partnerships and defines priorities, using a precautionary approach first and an adaptive one later; thus, it leads to the best possible decisions based on existing data. The majority of fish stocks in the Mediterranean are overfished. Urgent measures are required, therefore, in order to restore stocks to a healthy status.
Our target is to collaborate with scientific institutions and contribute to reinforcing public opinion on the need to take appropriate measures
Discarding and the landing obligation
Discarding is the practice of returning unwanted catches to the sea, dead or alive, either because they are too small, the fisherman has no quota, or because of certain catch composition rules. The new CFP does away with the wasteful practice of discarding through the introduction of a landing obligation. This obligation will be enforced gradually between 2015 and 2019. The new regime in the Mediterranean concerns small and large pelagics, as well as catches from industrial fisheries; it has, however, been controversial and caused upheaval to both the scientific and professional community.
Our target is to disseminate the new regulations by following up their application, as well as to record problems and socio-economic effects that may arise.
Recreational fishing in the Mediterranean, but also in Greece, is increasing rapidly. This has raised concerns about the effects it may have on fish stocks and aquatic ecosystems in general. The most common method of stock assessment is based on landings data, which, among other things, does not include data coming from recreational fisheries. This fact has caused a worldwide debate regarding the reliability of such estimates. Greece has an extensive coastline with a complex morphology; this makes the surveillance of recreational fisheries too demanding, if not impossible. It has been noted that recreational fishing in some other Mediterranean countries is quite intense; mainly referring to overfishing (higher catches than those permitted), this incurs important socio-economic effects on the professional fishermen. The unreported recreational fishing (IUU) means that there is little information, either on target species or on the biomass which is removed from the sea. Therefore, we believe it is urgent to monitor this fishery, aiming at its inclusion in traditional stock assessment methods. Our target will be the dissemination of the recreational fishery regulations to the fishers, as well as to sensitize them regarding sustainable fisheries. This will include their collaboration with the responsible bodies (Ministries, Research Institutes etc.). iSea’s aim is to contribute to the establishment of a National Program for the Surveillance and Control of Recreational Fisheries in Greece.
2. Alien species
Alien species are species that have been transported outside the natural ecological range, with which they have historically been linked, and are introduced to new niches, frequently causing biological imbalance. Alien species pose a variety of threats to the endemic biodiversity, affecting the structure and function of the ecosystems through changes in the habitat, predators, competition, transmission of diseases, replacement of the endemic species, as well as through genetic impacts (hybridization). Alien species may also affect human health. However, it must be noted that some species have naturally migrated as a reaction to environmental changes (e.g. lessepsian species). The European Union has introduced Regulation No 1143/2014, according to which the member states are called to take measures that focus on the following three types of intervention:
- early detection and rapid eradication
- and management
Our goal, in collaboration with the scientific community, is to record the presence and distribution of alien species (including lessepsian migrants) in the Greek seas, as well as to inform public opinion. In addition, we will endeavor to explain, describe, and give suggestions on how to benefit from those species that have been transported to the Greek seas due to environmental changes (e.g. lessepsians).
3. Human and Aquatic ecosystems
Water is the source of all life on Earth. Aquatic ecosystems are an integral piece of human history for survival and evolution, contributing a significant part to the creation of societies by the way it is known. The connection between humans and the marine ecosystem is one that is evolving abreast and changing through time. The investigation of all these connections through time is a new scientific sector, which contributes effectively to the detection of solutions for today. In iSea we believe that the research of the historical interactions of local Greek communities and aquatic ecosystems could conduce a better understanding of social factors associated to protection, management and the application of better practices.
4. Aquatic litter
Over the last few decades, many human-induced changes have occurred on the planet. Marine ecosystems, in particular, are subjected to very heavy pressures; the most evident of these is the intense presence and abundance of litter in the marine environment. The Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD, 2008/56/EC) introduces a framework within the European Union, according to which the member states should take measures to achieve and preserve a good environmental status (GES) of their marine waters by 2020. The good environmental status is based on eleven descriptors, which are listed in the annex of the MSFD. Descriptor No 10 (D10) refers to marine litter and determines that, in order to achieve a good environmental status, the introduction of additional marine litter to marine ecosystems must be minimized and, in general, the total amount of litter within the marine environment must be reduced. The framework also determines the research needs, the priorities, and the strategies for supporting the application of descriptor No 10 (D10). A basic element of this strategy is to improve knowledge and conduct specialized surveys that will collect data on the abundance of plastics and microplastics in marine ecosystems.
Part of iSea’s policy and actions focuses on surveying marine litter and determining its abundance and origins. Moreover, iSea aims to better understand the full impact of litter on marine ecosystems, by carrying out research activities in collaboration with scientific bodies. An additional goal of iSea is to organize informative programs for the public and to collaborate with governmental and local authorities for the joint handling of the problem.