Gökova Bay to Cape Gelidonya


© Zafer Kizilkaya

Restoring marine ecosystem connectivity in south western Türkiye

Where the Central Aegean and the North East Levantine Seas meet, Mediterranean waters provide critical habitat for some of its most charismatic species, including sandbar sharks, loggerhead turtles and monk seals. These waters have long provided local people with sustainable livelihoods through fishing, but this traditional way of life is being threatened by illegal and unregulated fishing activity, damage from tourism and invasive species from the Red Sea. To achieve recovery of this essential seascape for native species in the face of climate change, this project is scaling up a successful pilot project to restore approximately 700km of vulnerable marine habitat along the Turkish Mediterranean coast. This is helping to re-establish ecosystem connectivity, provide space for habitat and species recovery, and strengthen the first line of defence against invasive species.

The Turkish Mediterranean Coast

The project area straddles the meeting of two Ecologically and Biologically Sensitive Areas (EBSAs) in the Mediterranean Basin: the Central Aegean Sea and the North East Levantine Sea.

Dotted throughout this project area are important pockets of intact seagrass beds and coralligenous habitats, which provide a home for some of the Mediterranean’s rarest and most iconic species including monk seals, sandbar sharks, loggerhead turtles and sperm whales, important commercial fish species such as dusky grouper and bluefin tuna, and migratory sea birds.

Project context and opportunity

Despite its ecological interest, the Mediterranean Basin is vulnerable to irrecoverable habitat and species loss. As global sea temperatures rise, an increasing number of invasive marine species are entering the Mediterranean from the Red Sea via the Suez Canal – 900 invasive species have already been recorded. The number of native species is dwindling as unregulated fishing activity and unsustainable tourism erode ecosystem functionality and damage the habitat on which these species depend. These activities are also reducing numbers of the predatory species that currently help keep invasive species in check.

Local communities have already been seriously affected by these changes to marine life; over the last 15 years, there has been a sharp decrease in catch size and number of target species, much to the detriment of the livelihoods of nearly 70,000 people living in the area who depend on an intact marine ecosystem.

A pilot marine habitat restoration project in nearby Gökova Bay has, however, yielded exciting results. In just five years, there has been significant recovery of habitat and fish stocks, an increase in fishing incomes, reduced abundance of invasive species and the return of predatory sandbar sharks and Mediterranean monk seals. This project is scaling up this successful model along approximately 700km of vulnerable Turkish Mediterranean coast.

What the project will do

This project is removing barriers to the recovery of marine ecosystem from Gökova Bay to Cape Gelidonya, triggering the revival of healthy ecosystem processes. A fully functioning ecosystem which keeps invasive species in check will generate sustainable benefits for local people and increase resilience to climate change.

To achieve its aims, the project has:

  • Worked towards the designation of 30,749 hectares of new no fishing zones, patrolled by a team of community-based rangers to facilitate ecosystem recovery.
  • Upscaled key ecosystem monitoring from Gökova Bay to various monitoring stations across 700km of coastline, including establishment of Posidonia oceanica
  • Facilitated an increase in market value of invasive lionfish from no value to an average of US$3 per kilogram through sales at 37 restaurants, promotion at food festivals and seminars and on national television, reaching tens of thousands of members of the public.
  • Increased sightings and upgraded monitoring of rare flagship species such as sandbar sharks and Mediterranean monk seals, the latter of which have been recorded breeding in caves within the project area.
  • Engaged and collaborated with 14 coastal community-led fishing cooperatives, leading to strengthened management, data collection and sustainable fishing practices.

Watch an introduction to the Gökova Bay to Cape Gelidonya project below:

Project Partners

Fauna & Flora
Akdeniz Koruma Dernegi (AKD)
Ege University
Ministry of Interior
Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (Turkey)
Ministry of Environment and Urbanisation (Turkey)
Jena Optronik
Bangor University

Quick Facts

Project lead:

Fauna & Flora

Project location:

Gökova Bay to Cape Gelidonya, Mediterranean Coast



Landscape size:

65,000 ha

Key habitats:

Coastal marine, seagrass beds and coralligenous and macro algae habitats

Focal species:

Mediterranean monk seal, dusky grouper, sandbar sharks, and Posidonia oceanica (an endemic seagrass species)

Project Gallery

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