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Turkey moves to protect seas from invasive species


A surge in invasive species in Turkish seas has prompted the government to take action to eradicate and prevent their migration. The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, which oversees fisheries, launched a project against invasion threats to maritime biodiversity of the country littoral to the Aegean Sea, Black Sea and Mediterranean Sea. It is endorsed by the Global Environment Facility (GEF).

Since the 2016 opening of an expansion to the Suez Canal, more invasive species started emerging in Turkish waters. The expansion, along with an increase in seawater temperatures and increasing maritime traffic and other factors, took its toll on the ecosystem according to experts. Scientists say a large number of non-indigenous species in the Mediterranean Sea stem from the opening of the canal in the 19th century and a new wave of invasive species are now seen since the expansion.

Invasive species threaten not only biodiversity but also the economy through its impact on fisheries as well as human health. Turkey aims to curb their entry into its seas or at least to control their population and decrease their impact. Apart from the Mediterranean, Turkey monitors invasive species in the Black Sea, Aegean Sea and Marmara Sea. Still, the Mediterranean invasion poses a major threat, as there are now over 1,000 species non-indigenous to the sea now. In Turkish waters, more than 500 new invasive species have been discovered and figures show there is no decline in their population.

Among the invasive species are venomous toadfish that pose a major risk for fishermen. Marine wildlife originating from the Red Sea and Indian Ocean include venomous lionfish, jellyfish with venomous tentacles, caulerpa or seaweed and dusky spinefoot feeding on marine flora.

The project, supported by other ministries, including the Health Ministry, the Culture and Tourism Ministry, as well as the Turkish Coast Guard, universities and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), aims to detect the species and increase the resistance of the ecosystem to invasive species. It also includes an awareness campaign for fishermen and others in the sector against the dangers of invasive species.

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