Reconnect, a marine conservation project involving Bulgaria, Greece and Cyprus, is one of 21 finalists for this year’s Natura 2000 award.
The project – in which Cyprus’ department of fisheries and marine research was a partner — developed cross-border strategies and decision-making tools to support the sustainable management of three marine Natura 2000 sites threatened by the negative impacts of tourism and fisheries.
The three sites were Greece’s Northern Karpathos and Saria, Gradina-Zlatna ribka in Bulgaria and Cape Greco in Cyprus.
The project targeted four marine habitat types (Posidonia beds, sandbanks, reefs and mudflats) and a keystone marine species, the Mediterranean monk seal (Monachus monachus).
It used ecological and genetic methodologies for biodiversity identification and conservation status assessment, as well as socio-economic information.
The initiative also involved citizens in the removal of invasive alien fish species and in the monitoring of marine habitats by scuba divers trained under the project.
“Thanks to this project, information concerning marine habitats and species, as well as relevant socio-economic and cultural information, is now available for free through a web-based platform. With the help of scientists and the active participation of citizens, management agencies and stakeholders now have an upgraded management toolbox to support the conservation of marine areas in the Balkan-Mediterranean area,” the project partners said on their website (https://ec.europa.eu/environment/natura-2000-award/current-edition/reconnect-marine-protected-areas).
Reconnect is competing against a host of other nature conservation projects. They include Lithuania’s programme to save Europe’s rarest songbird, the aquatic warbler, through translocation, a bird scaring device fixed to fishing vessels that warns seabirds to stay away developed in Portugal and use of artificial breeding platforms and innovative decoy pelicans which has doubled the number of Dalmatian pelicans in Bulgaria.
Another competitor is a CaveLife smartphone app which allows amateur cavers to contribute to the assessment of underground habitats and species by uploading data to a centralised database. This data is then made available to nature conservation authorities across Europe.
Also competing for the award are programmes to protect Eleonora’s falcon and the Mediterranean loggerhead turtle, eco-tourism projects, communication campaigns and forest management.