Greece to Expand Protected Waters, End Bottom Trawling

The waters near Antikythera, Greece will be part of a new protected area.

The waters near Antikythera, Greece will be part of a new protected area. Nikos Patsiouris via Flickr

Greece plans to create two large marine parks and end bottom trawling, it announced Tuesday. It also aims to cut the volume of plastic waste flowing into Greek waters in half.

“The ocean has paid a heavy price for its service to humankind. It has been a vital source of life and livelihood. We have not been kind to it in return,” Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotaki said at an international conference on ocean health in Athens.

One new marine park will cover 3,000 square miles of the Aegean sea, while the other will cover more than 5,000 square miles of the Ionian Sea. Together, the two parks will span an area larger than New Jersey. In total, Greece plans to safeguard around a third of its waters, putting the country on track to do its part to meet an international goal of protecting 30 percent of land and sea.

Greece will also end bottom trawling in protected waters by 2030, using drones, satellites, and artificial intelligence to patrol these areas. Bottom trawling, the practice of dragging heavy fishing nets across the ocean floor, is not only disastrous for sea life, but also stirs up buried carbon. By one estimate, bottom trawling unleashes as much carbon dioxide globally as air travel.

Notably, Greece has no plans to protect the whole of the Hellenic Trench, the deepest stretch of the Mediterranean Sea, where sperm whales give birth and raise their calves. Campaigners have railed against gas exploration in the trench, which endangers marine life.


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