20 February 2009

The troubled waters of the Amvrakikos Gulf

On February 17th, Tethys researcher Joan Gonzalvo attended a meeting at the city hall of Vonitsa, Greece, organized by the Management Body of the Amvrakikos Wetlands.

This body was established after the creation of the Amvrakikos Gulf National Park on March 21st, 2008. The meeting was attended by local authorities, a research team from the University of Patras, the Hellenic Centre for Marine Research (HCMR), the Development Agency for South Epirus and Amvrakikos (ETANAM), and local fishermen representatives.

The local fishermen proposed Joan’s participation in the event as an independent observer. A series of presentations by the participants reviewed the dramatic problems faced by the Gulf, namely increasing eutrophication and pollution. Especially alarming was the presentation by Prof. Kostas Koutsikopoulos (University of Patras) who studied the oxygen concentration on the sea floor and deep waters of the Gulf. His results show that anoxic conditions are found in waters deeper than 23 m, while twenty years ago such conditions were observed in waters 40 m deep and below. According to professor Koutsikopoulos, today approximately 70% of the Gulf is, in his own words, a dead zone.

Local fishermen did not seem surprised at all about the evidence shown. They have been claiming that the situation of the Amvrakikos Gulf is critical for several years as indicates by steadily decreasing fish captures.

Participants in the meeting acknowledged the uniqueness of the Gulf and its increasing vulnerability to human impact. The authorities promised to react and try to address the problem.

The good news are that the University of Patras, HCMR and ETANAM have manifested their interest in collaborating with Tethys. Such synergy would be important to take advantage of the intensive work done by Tethys since 2002 to document the abundance, movements and trends of bottlenose dolphins that reside year-round in the troubled waters of the Amvrakikos Gulf .

Joan Gonzalvo

For more information:

Bearzi G., Agazzi S., Bonizzoni S., Costa M., Azzellino A. 2008. Dolphins in a bottle: abundance, residency patterns and conservation of bottlenose dolphins Tursiops truncatus in the semi-closed eutrophic Amvrakikos Gulf, Greece. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 18(2):130-146.

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