LIFE MareNatura - The largest marine biodiversity program in Greece

Aiming to prevent the threats faced by nine important but also vulnerable species of the Greek marine fauna (the Mediterranean Monk seal, the Loggerhead turtle, the Green turtle, the Sperm whale, the Harbour porpoise, the Cuvier's beaked whale, the Common dolphin, the Yelkouan shearwater and the Audouin’s gull), the environmental program "LIFE MareNatura - Conservation of priority species of marine megafauna in Greece and Italy" started its actions in July 2023 and is expected to be completed in June 2029. The ultimate goal of the program is the effective protection of these species and their marine habitats, through the declaration of new marine protected areas, which will expand the Natura 2000 network of Greece. In this way, the program will make a decisive contribution to Greece achieving the implementation of the European Union's biodiversity strategy, which stipulates that at least 30% of the sea and land in Europe must be protected by 2030. A such a perspective is absolutely consistent with the goals of the 9th OUR OCEAN CONFERENCE, hosted in our country in April 2024.

The LIFE MareNatura program, with a total budget of almost 11 million euros, is 75% co-financed by the European Union and will cover an extensive marine area from the Aegean to the Ionian Sea and the Southern Adriatic, being the largest program for the protection of marine life of biodiversity that has ever been prepared in Greece.


The program is implemented by a broad consortium of experienced bodies (research and academic institutions, public bodies, environmental non-governmental organizations and private environmental consulting companies), coordinated by the Hellenic Centre for Marine Research (HCMR) while the main partner is the Natural Environment and Climate Change Agency (NECCA), body responsible for the protected areas of Greece. The other institutions participating are the University of the Aegean, the University of Crete - Natural History Museum of Crete (UoC - NHMC), the National Observatory of Athens (NOA), the Hellenic Ornithological Society (HOS), the Society for the Study and Protection of the Monk Seal (MOm), ARCHELON, MEDASSET, Nature Conservation Consultants (NCC), the Italian National Institute for Environmental Protection and Research (ISPRA), and Waterproof Marine Consultancy & Services. Also, the project's special policy partner is The Green Tank.

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Initially, the program will fill important knowledge and ecological information gaps, especially in offshore areas that are understudied and used for foraging, breeding or as migratory corridors by target species. For this purpose, modern biomonitoring techniques will be used such as telemetry (using satellite transmitters that will be placed on the animals), visual recordings from floating and aerial vehicles, recordings with hydrophones for the sound detection of whales and dolphins, and detection of species through environmental DNA, in order to determine the most important areas for these species. At the same time, economic activities that can have a negative impact on the target species, such as commercial fishing, energy production and transport, tourism development and maritime traffic, will be mapped throughout the study area. By combining the above data with the impact of climate change and using modern spatial planning methods, areas will be defined to be proposed for inclusion in the Natura 2000 network of protected areas, expanding the existing network and implementing the European Biodiversity Strategy.

In addition, within the framework of the LIFE MareNatura program a system will be developed for the comprehensive monitoring of marine protected areas and target species after the end of the program, which will include early warning tools for the regular assessment of their conservation status so that immediate protective measures can be taken when needed.

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At the same time, policy actions will be carried out for optimal information and effective interaction with the competent authorities, the agencies involved and the interested parties. With a set of actions to exert pressure on national and European decision-makers, the program will aim not only to institutionalize new marine protected areas, but also to secure sufficient resources for their effective management. Also, through information and awareness actions, the program aspires to mobilize the public, as well as specific target groups, for the protection of marine biodiversity.

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The program coordinator and HCMR researcher Dr. Panagiotis Kasapidis, said: "In a time of enormous environmental challenges, but also increasing expansion of economic activities (offshore wind farms, hydrocarbon and ore mining, tourism) in relatively intact marine areas, the LIFE MareNatura program aspires to offer an example of sound spatial planning for the protection of the marine environment, based on solid scientific data, for a balanced economic development with respect for the environment"

For more information, clarifications and interviews contact: Dr. Panagiotis Kasapidis, Researcher, Hellenic Center for Marine Research, coordinator of the LIFE MareNatura program, (Tel.: 2810337718, email: kasapidi@hcmr.gr) Co-funded by the European Union, NATURA 2000



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