Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Big ichthyologial conservation questions for Greece in 2016

Illegal fishing of Ionian Trout in Greece. This catastrophe is emptying many upland streams. Immediate attention is required.

A horizon scan of ichthyological conservation-relevant science for 2016

Here I try to identify issues that could have substantial effects on biodiversity conservation science in Greece, but are not currently widely well known or understood within conservation and natural history circles working in this country. This is rapid brain storming personal "horizon scan" and is meant to insight interest and discourse - and action for 2016!
Criteria: a) must be conservation and policy-relevant, b) must really help save and support protected areas, c) must help connect to local communities and support local economies and quality of life, d) must help science excel in Greece, especially meaningfully applied scientific approaches to environmental management.

Brain storm:
  • Complete Greece's fish taxonomy. Name all the un-named species; I reckon there are at least 10 species that need valid names - at least. 
  • Complete inventory-level work on river mapping, small-wetlands (including springs) etc. Greece still has a poor system of inventory - but it is an incredibly rich country. Icthyologically the data poor and poorly associated with the "wetland inventories". 
  • Use fish in water management: Build a nation-wide WFD-relevant index that couples and complements standardized EU methods for assessing ecological quality in rivers.
  • Do WFD-relevant index-building work on Lakes and Transitional Waters as well.
  • Review and monitor the situation of alien freshwater fishes in Greece.
  • Protect places from the spread of alien species; some sites are especially vulnerable since some angling is developing there (especially lakes and new reservoirs).
  • Protect places from the spread of translocated species. Translocated species from nearby ecoregions (even within the country) are aliens too... and they can cause destructive hybridization and other calamities in local endemic stocks and can destroy local and endemic aquatic biotas. Evidence on this problem is mounting and scientists must work together. 
  • Focus on the Trout of Greece (conservation genetics, conservation management, angling management, stock conservation status). 
  • Species re-introduction initiatives. Learn to re-introduce species in places where they are now extirpated. 
  • Find the last sturgeons in the Evros/Meric and save them. 
  • Find the Vistonis Shad. If it is extinct make an effort to explain why. Restore the lake and introduce the next most related species to take up the vacant niche. 
  • Explore the unexplored places to focus on rare and endemic species distributions.
  • Promote fish-watching; create a gazette of the 100 best places to observe freshwater fishes and advertise this. Bring fish appreciation to the forefront.
  • Protect and restore migratory fish work. Look at how barriers affect fishes. 
  • Ecological flows. Work on naturalizing the flow regime where possible and important.
  • Focus on the anadromous Shad Alosa fallax - where is it breeding, where is it concentrating in marine waters. The EU Habitats Directive process demands that Greece provide protected areas for this species. 
  • Ex situ conservation is not in my mind as a priority but it is an opportunity to learn from species and use them for re-introductions. 
  • Explain and interpret the biogeography of inland waters. Utilize the new fish taxonomy. Finalize biogeographical delineations (at a fine scale and multi-leveled approach).
  • Help promote fly fishing in Greece.
  • Promote the creation of a licencing scheme for amateur fishing in Greece - currently no licence is needed and destructive fishing is rampant.
  • Create a system to monitor and police protected areas - especially places where native trout survive. Policing and active enforcement is lacking in transitional waters as well. 
  • Promote the re-structuring of the Natura 2000 network to include new areas into the protected area system of Greece. Some proposals have already been put forward in 2015 by our team working on the Natura 2000 Fish project.
  • Work on Eels. They are IUCN Critical and vulnerable in any case. Include Eels in an index of biological integrity for small streams (even on islands). 
  • Make freshwater fishes important by displaying them in public aquaria. Currently Greece has Aquaria in Rhodes, Drama, Kerkini(Vironia), Kastoria. Make more opportunities available for poeple to come into contact. 
  • Create creative opportunities for citizen science involvement. At HCMR we are working on a "fishlist" website to inform and engage the public.
  • Promote better training of electrofishing and other sampling techniques; help standardized methods.
  • Fish in or near urban areas. Work to make people aware in urban areas - fish are present and can provide opportunities for conservation and educations. They can be conservation flagships (think of eels, mullets, rarities, oddities, aliens).
  • Work on fish parasites. Alien parasites. 
  • Protect and enhance small wetlands where opportunities exist.
  • Bring fish and fish habitat into flood-control management.
  • Work on fishes in transitional waters. WE know next to nothing and important species stocks are mismanaged and on the decline there. 
  • Build on past successes in restoration work: re-visit the Louros, Nestos, Evros, Sperchios where aquatic conservation and restoration work has succeeded to produce positive results. 
  • Ichthyologists unite! WE need better field ichthyology and to bring in amateur naturalists as well. We are still in a developing stage in this aspect in Greece.
Students of nature, take your pick - and call on us to help!  

Teaching and training is very important especially when it is practiced out-of-doors. Here Professor Martinez-Capel provides Greek students with assessment techniques in a stream near Athens.

Catch-and-Release in Greece. A small community of people are doing it - we need to promote this and to work on native trout to same endemic stocks and help local communities appreciate their rivers as recreation, tourism and scenic resources (Photo: Tolis Lachanas)
Greek Barbel (Luciobarbus graecus) and IUCN ENDANGERED species can be observed using binoculars at certain water bodies in Attika (Beletsi and Lake Marathon). The hobby of fish-watching can flourish if it is nourished.

Little studied catadromous migratory species such as the Grey Mullets are important indicators to river connectivity with the sea. Here is our catch from the tiny Achinos stream in Fthiotis Prefecture - Central Greece. These small  stream communities need study and protection.

Artemis Lagoon in Attika (Loutsa). A wetlands full of grey mullet and eel that needs protection as a Nature Park. Fish are a part of the management of small wetlands such as this coastal lagoon system (connection to the sea must be maintained; and fish support rich bird populations...). 
The Meristis Wier created in 2007 on the Sperchios River. Loss of connectivity and barriers to fish movement are a serious problem for conservation and management. New dams, small H/E schemes, and other barriers are being planned in many parts of Greece. What of the fish?

Flooding in the Evros. Catastrophic flooding is a real problem and managing to abate the destruction must go hand-in-hand with ecological restoration. Flooding is important to fish dispersal. 
Illegal fishing of Vulnerable Ionian Trout in Greece. This catastrophe is emptying many upland streams. Immediate attention is required. (Photo provided by Tolis Lachanas). 

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