Turkey is bordered by eight countries and the Aegean Sea is to the west, the Black Sea to the north, and the Mediterranean Sea to the south. The Bosphorus, the Sea of Marmara, and the Dardanelles, which together form the Turkish Straits System, divide Thrace and Anatolia; they also separate Europe and Asia. Turkey’s location between Europe and Asia has retained its geopolitical and strategic importance throughout history.
With its long marine and coastal areas, Turkey holds rich marine and terrestrial biodiversity values. About 346,138 hectares of marine area in Turkey, 31 Marine and coastal areas and about 4% of territorial waters are legally protected (National System of Marine Protected Areas, 2012). On the other hand, the Levantine Sea, was defined with a lesser degree of marine mammal presence, is actually home to a diverse assemblage of different cetacean species and endangered Mediterranean monk seal, that are known to be in a considerable population decline.
Marine biodiversity of Turkey is severely under human pressure. Mediterranean populations of marine mammals are classified either at risk or data deficient and subjected to anthropogenic threats. According to “National System of Marine Protected Areas, 2012”, the most basic threats are:
- Destruction of marine habitats
- Over exploitation of marine resources
- Vessel traffic
- Pollution and
- Conversion or destruction of coastal areas.
Even though the populations suffer the consequences of human impact, there is a significant scientific gap together with low awareness to create an effective conservation and management actions. Both dedicated and consistent long-term surveys are considered necessary to accurately identify the population statues, site fidelities, residency patterns and species’ abundance and distribution patterns, as this will help to determine species’ regional status. Moreover, the high human present resulted with eco-system wide damage with high rate of illegal fishing activities, marine pollution and vessel traffic.
“DMAD’s main purpose is to fill the scientific knowledge gap in hand with providing active community involvement to our research and conservation actions.”
The gained scientific knowledge on flagship species together with identified statues of north-western Levantine Sea eco-system guides us for the accurate conservation and management efforts. However, we are aware that without the involvement of stakeholders and decision makers in equal importance with our scientific activities, project outcomes will be only paper based with no real life adapted regulations. Therefore the origin of our work is to line science, stakeholder, decisionmakers involvement in equal importance for an effective in field conservation implications to conserve the north-western Levantine Sea on the ecosystem level.