The Importance and Protection of the Marine Environment – Ionian Sea

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Mediterranean Sea

The Mediterranean achieves an unparalleled combination of mild, pleasant climate, diverse coastline, rich history and an interesting mix of cultures, making it one of the most interesting places in the world. Its coastline has been the cradle of civilizations through the centuries, and its vibrant waters have been enriched by the wreckage of the most important historical periods, now eternal time capsules. Today, the Mediterranean is probably the most popular tourist destination in the world, given its size, attracting about a third of international tourists. And it makes sense: traveling to the Mediterranean is an exploration of the peoples, of history, of gastronomy, of the sea, of life itself!

But many times we forget that it is an extraordinary recreation resort, and the only cradle of life, not only for humans but for the whole ecosystem!

World Ocean

And this extraordinary importance for life that our sea holds, applies to all the seas of the world that communicate and form the largest single ecosystem on the planet.

In the Ocean, along with lakes and rivers, a large part of the total global photosynthesis takes place (36% in total). And we all know the importance of photosynthesis, which through the capture and conversion of solar energy supports biomass and therefore feeds life on the planet (directly – autotrophic, indirect – heterotrophic organisms). In addition, free (elemental) oxygen is dissolved in water and the higher the solubility the lower the water temperature. Therefore the cold ocean depths and the waters of the polar regions (with scarce and deeper zero light but with the stirring of the ocean currents) support a much higher density of life due to the higher dissolved oxygen content.

It is very important for global ecology and therefore for global food resources – and therefore for human survival, for the ocean holds 90% of the planet’s living space! In addition to the surface it occupies, let’s not forget that at sea the creatures live and move in three dimensions, that is, they are “stacked” on more levels. A similar example would be a room with a layer of boxes of the same size covering its floor (the “Dry”), compared to a room with many layers of similar boxes stacked and occupying the rest of the “vertical” space and are multiple in the same surface (the “Ocean”).

Threats to the Marine Environment

The marine environment in the Ionian Sea, especially since it is located in the area of ​​the Ionian-Adriatic maritime route linking the Eastern Mediterranean – the Suez Canal – the Indian Ocean with the Adriatic and Western Mediterranean, but also in view of the exploitation of underwater seas there are significant threats that are expected to intensify. Regarding discharges and leaks of pollutants and waste, they can generally be divided into three categories:

A) Large and systematic: refers mainly to industry which in our area fortunately is not intense. Fortunately, these threats have been mitigated by the latest technologies and measures to reduce pollution internationally.

B) Small and continuous: dumping of ammunition by amateur fishermen or boat operators, as well as various other discharges up to low-level radioactive medical waste. This threat is significant, as these discharges are estimated to be equivalent to a major accident each year! Unfortunately, there is no improvement as the introduction of new technologies and a well-developed monitoring and management system are missing.

C) Major accidents: it is the most difficult threat in terms of prevention, treatment and rehabilitation, that is, on each side. It creates a high intensity problem in a short time, with the additional difficulty that the weather conditions at the time of the accident play a large role in the diffusion of pollutants, so there is no planning but the constant monitoring of the meteorological parameters and the source is necessary. of the accident, but also the creation of scatter models!

Other wastes ending up in the surface runoff (rain-fed waters that flow over land ending up in the sea) come from:

D) old and useless fishing gear, miscellaneous litter and of course plastic packaging of all kinds, “microplastics”, microspheres of cosmetic products (and toothpaste, etc.) and any other form of plastic that ends up in the sea. Plastic litter in particular is probably the worst, as it a) breaks down into ever smaller pieces that are never fully dissolved and are not biodegradable material that remain and pollute the ecosystem for many centuries, b) absorb toxins and transport them to the algae feed (c) cause digestive problems and poison or drown out marine creatures that swallow them thinking they are their food;

Especially the plastic beads that are the first form of plastic when it is created and before it is used for the production of any products that end up in the sea by accident (either by ship or by rainfall from storage on land), and for some Cosmetic microspheres, or even small pieces of plastic that have been shaped like pebbles over time, aptly and ironically, have been called “mermaid’s tears”.

Protection of the Ionian Sea and coastal area

A conference organized by the Kefalonia & Ithaca Foundation (IKI) and the Ministry of Environment and Physical Planning (IKHEE) ​​on “Protection of the Ionian Sea and Coastal Space” took place in Argostoli in 1998 (12 September). (United Nations) of the same year as the World Year of the Oceans. The event was organized with the participation and cooperation of the Ministry of Commerce, Ministry of Development – EOT, Ionian Islands (PIN), local government bodies, non-governmental organizations.

In addition to providing general information on marine environmental problems and policies at national, Mediterranean and global level, a second aim of the conference was to present the IKI program on the protection of the Ionian Sea, “ecological, cultural and environmentally critical and important for our country, which deserves our attention and care ”as stated in the foreword to the conference proceedings.

The conclusions include the following:

Marine ecosystems are natural resources that provide food, medicine and various products (industrial or not), valuable to humans. On a global scale, they are facing increasing threats from pollution and over-exploitation of their resources.

The responsibility of the ordinary citizen

Every citizen should demand from the authorities the protection of the environment, not only in the form of policing but also in the perhaps even more important strategic planning process, that is, global, with scientific principles and with a foreseeable future, unconditional protection. But as long as the central national and international actors are concerned, we must all take care of the natural environment separately, and as we take care of the land environment, we must strive to take care of the marine environment as well, changing our daily habits.

A small change when done by many brings great results!

Telemachus Beryatos

MSc, Diploma in Civil Engineering, Member of TEE

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