UNDP Turkey Director of “Combating Marine Invasive Alien Species” Mehmet Shadow made an assessment on invasive species in the oceans and seas and their effects on the ecosystem.

Shadow stated that the species that go out of their natural habitat and start living in the place they have just moved out of their natural habitat due to various human-induced factors are called “alien species”. .

Explaining that there are many invasive alien species in the oceans and seas, from microscopic to visible and palpable sizes, Shadow noted that once these species enter their new habitat, they spread depending on the effects of the environment.

“When it finds suitable conditions, it can go further north”

“To give an example from the puffer fish, there is a certain warming in our seas, there are suitable climatic conditions and a suitable environment for puffer fish to feed, and most importantly, there is no predator. Therefore, it can reproduce excessively. This species can go further north when it finds suitable conditions. At the moment, pufferfish are rarely reported in the Black Sea, but this does not mean that they cannot live further north in cold areas. said.

“The temperature of the water creates a suitable environment for the species to live”

Sharing the view that climate change is effective in the arrival of invasive alien species to the seas surrounding Turkey, Shadow said:

“As the glaciers melt, shorter sea routes are formed and the ships using these routes can cause the transport of these species. Again, the species hidden in the glaciers settle in different areas with the melting. The temperature of the water creates a suitable environment for the species to live. “Unfortunately, as long as the negative effects of climate change continue in this way, we expect the spread of species to accelerate and they become invasive by settling in the environments they go to.”

105 invasive marine species threaten ecosystem

Explaining that the concept of “climate refugee” is used for people who had to migrate due to climate change, however, it is valid for all living things, and stated that every living thing wants to move towards suitable living conditions and that the species in the sea can perform these movements much more easily.

Most invasive species in Mediterranean

Emphasizing that invasive alien species damage the ecosystem they entered, Shadow continued as follows:

“They can destroy native species in the environment they enter. For example, a lionfish can consume around 4 percent of its body weight in prey in a day, its stomach can expand up to 30 times to grind its food, and it can feed on 167 different species. This reveals the pressure on native species. “One of the main characteristics of invasive alien species is their rapid reproduction and easy predation. So they definitely threaten the ecosystem.”

Shadow stated that invasive alien species also threaten fisheries economically, causing fishermen not to catch enough and damaging their fishing gear.

105 invasive marine species threaten ecosystem

Pointing out that a new species enters the marine environment every 9 weeks around the world, Shadow; He mentioned that they carry out studies on these species in 4 pilot regions in the Mediterranean, Aegean, Marmara and Black Sea regions surrounding Turkey. Shadow shared the following information:

“There are 413 alien species in the Mediterranean, 253 in the Aegean, 124 in the Marmara and 28 in the Black Sea. 105 of them are invasive. As we move from the Mediterranean to the north, towards the Black Sea, the number of alien species begins to decrease. 72 percent of the species in the Red Sea originate from the Suez Canal, 54 percent of the species in the Aegean originate from the Suez Canal and 41 percent from the ship ballast water. 71 percent of the species in the Marmara are from ballast water. “The number of foreign species in the Black Sea is 78 percent from ship ballast water, 11 percent from the Suez Canal. There are also species from aquaculture or unknown origin.”

“Ecosystem, like the human body”

Stating that it is very difficult, even near impossible, to deal with a foreign species after it enters the sea and becomes invasive, Shadow emphasized that these species should be prevented from entering the sea if possible.

“We need to strictly comply with the ballast water rules, and its control is also important. A measure can be taken to the Suez Canal because over time, the natural barriers there have deteriorated and species can enter more easily. Here, perhaps, governments can intervene and put pressure on Egypt,” he said. he said.

Talking about the importance of protecting the ecosystem, Shadow concluded his words as follows:

“Like the human body, the better you take care of it, the better its durability, the harder it is for a microbe or disease to come from outside. We can protect our ecosystem by declaring various marine protected areas and preventing pollution. The weaker our ecosystem, the more likely it is for another species to come and settle there. It will be easy. It is also important to increase our awareness as citizens.”

Call for cooperation from UNDP

UNDP Turkey Resident Representative Louisa Vinton stated that there would be no healthy planet without healthy oceans and made the following assessments:

“As the world celebrates World Oceans Day on 8 June, UNDP Turkey underlines the critical importance of marine ecosystems, reaching the 14th article of the Sustainable Development Goals, Life in the Water, and protecting 30 percent of our blue planet by 2030. “Governments, non-governmental organizations and the private sector must work collaboratively to reduce pollution, promote sustainable fishing practices and mitigate the effects of climate change.”

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