Rome, 20-24 June 2007. Stelle di Mare Lungo il Fiume ('Seastars along the River: Marine Reserves and parks'), an annual event organised by Italian conservation group Marevivo, featured an events programme on Italy's Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), including a plan to protect Italy's dwindling shark populations.
First organised by Marevivo in 2001, 'Seastars along the River' has become an annual event devoted to Italian Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) with funding from the Italian Ministry for the Environment and Territory. The overall focus of this year's event was sustainable energy with the programme on MPAs looking at MPAs and biodiversity, and the interaction between MPAs and human activities (fishing, boating and tourism), their mutual development and complexity.
Marevivo hosts the event at its floating national headquarters on the banks of the river Tevere that winds through the centre of Rome. For the occasion, the Marevivo barge metamorphoses into an open-air exhibition with stands, projections, concerts, tastings and lectures featuring famous personalities and providing informative and educational events.
Marevivo's office has long been a focal point for marine and nature protection issues, and has seen thousands of people participate in the event since its 2001 launch.
This year, a celebrity took the stage each night to present a lecture on various environmental issues related to the sea and sustainable marine management in general. On the first night dedicated to shark management and protection, Alberto Luca Recchi, presented part of his theatrical show on sharks and different human approaches towards them.
Mr. Silvio Greco, a marine biologist from ICRAM (Italy's Central Institute for Scientific and Technological Research for the Marine Environment), who is also research director and consultant to the Italian Ministry for the Environment, presented a plan to protect Italy's dwindling shark population drafted by ICRAM.
The plan had been discussed with the Italian environment minister, Alfonso Pecoraro Scanio during a press conference held by Marevivo and the Shark Alliance in May, only weeks after the Shark Alliance sounded the alarm over Italy's growing taste for shark meat. Italy is now Europe's second-biggest importer of shark meat and the fourth biggest in the world after Spain, South Korea and Hong Kong.
"It is crucial we send out a concrete signal that protects those species threatened with extinction," Minister Pecoraro Scanio said, speaking at the presentation of the plan in May.
"We have the responsibility to protect the balance of the Mediterranean, which is far too often overexploited. It covers just 0.8% of the planet's surface yet carries 30% of its maritime traffic", Pecoraro Scanio said. (1)
"It is hoped that the plan will shortly be endorsed and implemented by the environment ministry and ICRAM," said Serena Maso from Marevivo.
As a member of FAO, the European Union agreed to develop plans of action for sharks in 1999. Despite repeated commitments since then, there are currently no EU plans of action for sharks.
"If Italy adopts a national shark action plan, this would be a very important first step," said Domitilla Senni, Shark Alliance policy advisor. "But an EU-wide initiative is still urgently needed to conserve these migratory species and regulate the fishing fleets that pursue them," Senni emphasised.
Notes to editors:
(1) New plan to protect Italy's sharks, ANSA, 21 June 2007