Whitley Fund for Nature announces 2013 award winners

Zafer Kizilkaya, President of the Mediterranean Conservation Society (Fauna & Flora International’s partner in Turkey) has been announced as a winner at this year’s Whitley Awards.

The awards, now in their 20th year, are run by the Whitley Fund for Nature and recognise outstanding leaders in nature conservation. Zafer’s award, which is worth £35,000 (approx. US$54,000), will support his work to create Turkey’s first community-managed marine protected area.

‘No fishing zones’

The stunning Gökova Bay is recognised as a global biodiversity hotspot. Designated as a Special Environmental Protected Area in 1988, it is home to many important species including Critically Endangered Mediterranean monk seals and sandbar sharks.

Mediterranean monk seal. Credit: Zafer Kizilkaya.

Gökova Bay is an important area for the charismatic, but Critically Endangered, Mediterranean Monk Seal. Credit: Zafer Kizilkaya.

Over 200 small-scale fishers depend on the bay for their livelihoods, but the depletion of fish stocks in recent years has had a serious impact on the local economy.

In a bid to address the decline in the bay’s biodiversity and the falling catch levels, Zafer and his team have been working with local fishing communities to identify and protect key fish breeding and nursery grounds within the bay.
Video courtesy of the Whitley Fund for Nature.

In 2010, with the support of local fishers, the Turkish government officially declared six ‘no fishing zones’. The challenge is now to ensure that these zones are properly monitored and enforced to maximise the benefits for biodiversity and local fishers.

With support from Fauna & Flora International (as well as local authorities and communities), Zafer and his team are therefore working to set up a marine ranger programme, enabling local fishers to get involved in the enforcement of these no fishing zones.

Alongside this, the team is working to set up biodiversity monitoring and awareness-raising programmes (to assess the effects of the no fishing zones and help people understand how these zones can boost fish stocks), and is also working to promote sustainable livelihoods for fishers to reduce pressures on Gökova Bay’s marine environment.

The Whitley Award funding (which was donated by The William Brake Charitable Trust) will support Zafer’s important work to conserve this remarkable area and its biodiversity.

Look out for our upcoming interview with Zafer in the June 2013 issue of Fauna & Flora magazine.