A U.N.-funded project started on Jan. 12 in the Ayvalık district of the northwestern province of Balıkesir against the ghost nets and other illegal fishing gear threatening seagrass that preserve ecological balance.
“With the support of the U.N. Global Environment Facility, we have started the project to map the seagrass in the Ayvalık Islands Nature Park,” said Koray Gerçe, the project coordinator of a local organization called Aegean Ecotourism Society.
The Ayvalık Islands Nature Park is a region that consists of 19 islands and hosts around 700 marine species.
Taking the first step, volunteers of the project dived into the depths of the park region and got rid of pieces of fishing equipment entangled in the seagrass, cleaning the area completely.
“Seagrass is mostly found in the Aegean Sea. They provide 10 liters of oxygen per square meter. In other words, they are the forests of the seas,” Gerçe said, underlining the importance of the seagrass.
Ayvalık is home to a variety of sea creatures due to the presence of seagrass, Gerçe said, adding that until the project started, the organization worked with academics and conducted around 93 dives into the park region.
“When we dived, we saw counts of equipments of illegal fishing or fishing nets stuck on the seagrass. These nets are what we call ‘ghost nets,’ or ‘dead nets.’ These are the nets that fishermen leave in waters as waste,” he said.
The ghost or dead nets damage the coral reefs and pose threat to seafloor habitat, Gerçe said, adding that they witnessed a lot of marine creatures stuck inside these nets.
Speaking to reporters about the project, Gerçe also made a call to local authorities.
“Yes, we get support from the U.N., but we expect support from local administrations too,” Gerçe said.
“We want to add the Ayvalık and Balıkesir municipalities into the project in the near future,” he noted.
Hurriyet Daily News