Marmara sea southern coasts survey completed

Original article published in YeşilİZ in December 2008 in Turkish

Marmara Sea is a unique area in the world surrounded by the lands of only one country. It is  a sea with its unique marine and coastal biodiversity, long sandy beaches and dunes, coastal deltas and rocky coasts & cliffs and still undiscovered values. 

Marmara Sea is also under a huge human use pressure. The most industrialized region of Turkey; İstanbul, İzmit, Yalova, Gemlik, Mudanya, Bandırma, Erdek, Karabiga, Lapseki, Tekirdağ and Silivri. These settlements are among the most crowded places in Türkiye. İzmit Bay hosts approximately 40 ports and piers, a big port area where the highest maritime traffic and cargo handling happens in the country. The large-size vessels including oil tankers passing from Çanakkale and İstanbul Straits commuting between Blacks Sea and Mediterannean (and therefore with the rest of the world) -approx. 50.000 ships/year- makes this inner sea more “crowded” and “polluted”. In spite of such immense human activities and an industrial pressure, is it still possible to mention about wild life, biodiversity and coastal habitats worth to be protected in the Marmara Sea? Maybe it will be surprising for you, but, yes, it is…

The other side of the coin…  During coastal habitat survey that only includes the southern coasts of Marmara, lasting for 4 days including interviews with artisanal fishermen, we have clearly seen and documented wild side of the Marmara Sea in its remote parts. SAD-AFAG has surveyed the majority of coastline between Şahmelek on the west and Trilye on the east, coastal villages, untouched bays, rocky shores and sandy beaches and documented these by video and photography. Hundreds of shags Phalacrocorax aristotelis desmarestii including youngs, which are also an endangered bird species, have been observed. Beside; some raptor species, ravens and passerines have been observed. The small scale (coastal) fishermen have repeatedly stated that they have seen different dolphin species in groups of 10 -20 whenever they go for fishing.  The existence of Mediterranean monk seal Monachus monachus has been confirmed by the fishermen. The photographs belonging to two different monk seal observation had been reached us in 2008 taken recently in Armutlu Peninsula and İstanbul regions respectively.  There are important Key Biodiversity Areas in Marmara’s south coasts and these are given in a publication called “Türkiye’s Key Biodiversity Areas” of Doğa Derneği (the Nature Society). Based on this book, there are vast natural areas having rich biodiversity inKapıdağ Peninsula, Kocaçay Delta and Armutlu Peninsula.
In a way, some parts of the south Marmara coasts (Yalova to Lapseki), Marmara Islands and Mola Islands  succeded to remain untouched; therefore, by making industrialization remain in the existing limited field, we should deal with these islands very meticulously and also we should make a marine & coastal zone integrated management plans. The development plans shouldn’t damage the natural beatuies, landscape, biological diversity and natural habitats.

Certainly, the management plans should include fishery issues. Ironically, (as we knew the truth before) with no exception all the fishermen we interviewed reported that although trawling is fully prohibited in Marmara Sea, trawlers have been fishing illegally for many years!..  Moreover, some fishermen admitted that they have been practicing trawling illegaly themselves here in this sea!.. The coasts of Marmara Sea have been densely populated with the fishermen. At the end of the study, based on our interview results, the most underlined problem stated by the fishermen is the damage that dolphins make to their nets. The second ranked problem is trawling, though it is illegal trawlers dredge the sea bottom, collect sea creatures regardless of species or their size. Thirdly, they complain of marine pollution; the source of this problem is based on the factories in Bandırma discharging their wastes without any treatment. Pollution might be the biggest factor for the decrease of the fish stocks.

Marine pollution is clearly observed at the whole study areas. Many fishermen have stated that as a result of the decrease in the fish stocks, fishery is becoming not feasible from economic point of view. Only bonito, bluefish, grey mullet, horse mackerel and pilchard have the economical value. Brown meagre, sea bass, gilthead seabream are rare and the red mullet is very rare. Lastly, they have been complaining of the red algae seen on Marmara Sea in 2007-2008 season. All the fishermen using purse-seiners, set-nets and small scale purse-seiners have been affected negatively. All the equipment have become “muddy” in a short time and have been useless. Some of the fishermen have become unable to fish because of the damage given to the gears by red-algae bloom. Hence, they have got into debt and they have been squeezed under the bank credits; if the problem repeats, they will go bankruptcy one by one.  Yet, the case occurred ten years ago lastly so they think that it periodically takes place  and  they know that it is not very probable to repeat this natural disaster soon. Nevertheless, the economical concern persists.

In addition to this, fishermen have given very interesting information. They mention of the live dolphin hunting with the aim of selling to dolphinariums, which has been widely discussed and received reactions in Turkiye nowadays. Fishermen of Bandırma have claimed that a few times ago, at different times, couple of dozens of dolphins of Kapıdağ Peninsula and Mola islands area were trapped alive and taken to the fishermen boat. These are of course an observation and information suggested by many fishermen in the region.
Marmara sea and coasts are still alive… It is not difficult to conserve the remaining values and convey them to the next generations!

Source: Kıraç, C.O. 2008. Marmara Denizi ve Kıyıları Hala Yaşıyor. Yeşiliz Dergisi. Sayı 12. Kasım-Aralık 2008, İstanbul.

Translated by Elif Tertemiz – SAD-AFAG Ankara Office

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