A biodiversity melting pot

Situated at the crossroads between Europe and Asia, Turkey is a cultural melting pot with a rich history and varied landscape that ranges from arid plains to mountains – a result of complex geological movements that have shaped the region over millennia.

Turkey is also bounded by seas on three sides: the Aegean Sea to the west, the Black Sea to the north and the Mediterranean to the south, with the Sea of Marmara enclosed within the north-west of the country.

Gökova Bay, on Turkey’s south-west coast, is located at the meeting point between the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas. This is a stunning region, where sheer mountains drop down to turquoise waters.

Its rocky coves and bays provide important nursery grounds for charismatic species like the critically endangered Mediterranean monk seal as well as many commercially valuable species. It is also the only known breeding spot for the endangered Mediterranean population of sandbar sharks.

Despite being a marine protected area, however, Gökova has historically suffered from the effects of overfishing and destructive fishing practices, as well as an invasion of non-native pufferfish and rabbitfish from the Red Sea. The result has been the destruction of seabed habitats (including an important seagrass endemic to the Mediterranean), the collapse of many of the bay’s fisheries, and a decline in the number of top predators normally found there.

Turkey facts
Country in Eurasia

Size (land & water):

783,562 km²

Population (2016 est.):

80,274,604

GDP per capita (2016 est.):

US$21,100

Turkey is bordered  by Georgia, Armenia, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Bulgaria and Greece. It encloses the Sea of Marmara, with coastlines along the Aegean Sea, Black Sea and Mediterranean Sea.

19,000

invertebrate species are found in Turkey, of which 4,000 are endemic.

73%

of all fish species known to occur in Turkey can be found in Gökova Bay.

Our work to protect Turkey’s biodiversity

Fauna & Flora International (FFI) is working with local partner Akdeniz Koruma Derneği (The Mediterranean Conservation Society) and community members to strengthen protection for threatened species and habitats within Gökova Bay marine protected area and enable the recovery of fisheries within the bay.

This project has seen the establishment of six no-fishing zones, with local fishers and other community members playing an active role in patrolling and monitoring these zones in order to minimise illegal fishing activity and promote fish stock and habitat recovery.

We have also supported ecotourism initiatives in the area, providing training and support to help fishers diversify their income by offering marine excursions to visitors, sharing traditional fishing knowledge, and communicating the importance of effective marine protected areas.

In addition, we have helped to encourage more public consumption of rabbitfish and other invasive species in order to increase their price and popularity on markets and in restaurants. In turn this encourages local fishers to target these invasive species, which have no natural predators in the Mediterranean and are causing widespread ecosystem damage such as overgrazing critical seabed habitats.

The results of this work are already being felt, with evidence of marine ecosystem recovery, increasing stocks of commercially important species such as groupers, improving fisheries income and the return of Mediterranean monk seals and other top predators to the bay.

Such has been the success of the initiative that the Turkish government has announced its willingness to support the replication of this community-based approach along the Mediterranean coastline.

"We started from the scratch in Turkey and have now created one of the most successful Marine Protected Areas in the Mediterranean. FFI's timely support for Turkish Mediterranean endangered marine life saved not only fish stocks and other marine life but also boosted the fishery in the bay where fishing communities embrace No Fishing Zones."

Zafer KizilkayaPresident, Mediterranean Conservation Society