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Gökova Bay


Conservation benefit: Restoration of high-value marine ecosystem by controlling invasive species
Community benefit: Improved livelihoods for marginalized fishing communities

Date Approved: 06.2024


This project protects ocean ecosystems, making coastal communities more economically and physically secure in the face of climate change.

The lionfish, with its spiny mane, is strikingly beautiful—but when it leaves its native Pacific Ocean waters, it’s also a menace. For a decade, lionfish have been pouring through the warming waters of the Suez Canal into the Mediterranean Sea. One biologist reported that from just 2018 to 2020, lionfish numbers increased 400% in areas off Cyprus.

In the Mediterranean, lionfish found a predator-free paradise (those venomous spines deter would-be predators). They and other invasive fish eat or outcompete native fish, reducing biodiversity. The ecological damage also affects species such as the Mediterranean monk seal (one of the rarest mammals in the world) and the sandbar shark, which is endangered in the Mediterranean.

It’s also disastrous for small-scale fishers. Invasives now account for at least 30% of their catch—80% in some areas, but there is not much of a market for this catch. Many small fishers have seen their incomes drop so much they can no longer support their families. This has encouraged overfishing, as fishers search for catch they can sell.

European researchers have concluded that one way to help control lionfish is to create a supply chain from fishers to businesses and consumers. This project aims to do that in an area of southwest Turkey, where there are dozens of uninhabited islands. More fishing will help reduce the populations of invasive fish. At the same time, it will help fishers whose livelihoods have been seriously disrupted. Our partner, the Mediterranean Conservation Society, will give members of local fishermen’s cooperatives training and equipment adapted to catching invasives. It will also fund posters, brochures, and a lionfish festival, to encourage public adoption of these fish as desirable foods.

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