Experts join forces to fight marine invasive alien species in Turkish seas

November 25, 2022
Photo: Mustafa Umut Dulun / UNDP Türkiye

Solutions to protect marine biodiversity were discussed at Antalya conference

Antalya, 24 November 2022 – Under the joint initiative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Ministry of Agriculture and the Forestry-General Directorate of Nature Conservation and National Parks, a scientific conference was organized between 21-23 November 2022 in Antalya to discuss how to overcome the adverse impact of marine invasive alien species on ecology, livelihoods, economy and public health in Türkiye.

The conference was one of the crucial activities of a US$3.3 million project funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) to combat invasive species and preserve the health of key marine biodiversity areas. The initiative is being implemented at four sites: İğneada, Kırklareli; Marmara Islands and Ayvalık Islands, Balıkesir; and Samandağ, Hatay.

Bringing together all the stakeholders working in this field, the conference served as a platform to share information on the ecological and economic effects of marine invasive species and the activities to eradicate, mitigate and control them in the country and at a global level. Presentations by renowned experts focused on the destruction caused by lionfish, water hyacinth, rapa whelk and other species.  

The conference gathered scientists and experts as well as representatives from the public sector, universities, the private sector and civil society. It provided an opportunity for knowledge exchanges between the representatives of biodiversity, climate change and sustainable development authorities. The conference findings are expected to support risk assessment, prevention, detection, surveillance, monitoring and management activities.

“One of our key objectives within this project is to conserve significant marine biodiversity by improving the country’s legal and institutional infrastructure to counter the threat of invasive alien species,” said UNDP Project Manager Mehmet Gölge. “Therefore, with this conference, we aimed to form the basis for the development of a national strategy and action plan through the studies made at the national and international scale in addition to the ones conducted within our project.”

Marine invasive alien species are defined by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry as one of the main threats to Türkiye's marine biodiversity. As of the end of 2020, 105 of 539 alien species detected in Turkish seas were determined to be invasive. While two out of three of such species enter the Mediterranean from the Red Sea via the Suez Canal, the others are introduced by maritime transportation and aquaculture activities. Mitigating the impact of these species, controlling their spread and preventing their introduction are vital for the future of native species and habitats.

“Capacity building, knowledge and information sharing to address the marine invasive alien species threats are of major importance in terms of protecting marine ecosystems,” said Mustafa Tuğrul Şahin, General Director of the General Directorate of Nature Conservation and National Parks. “This conference is one of our significant steps towards developing a national policy in combating these species. We believe effective solutions discussed in this conference will stand out to guide enhancing the resilience of marine and coastal ecosystems.”

Invasive alien species destroy marine ecosystems, damage the food chain and lead to the extinction of native species. The most effective ways to control them include prevention before establishment and spread, early detection and response, keeping them under control and reducing the rate of spread if they are established in a certain area.

For more information:

Esra Özçeşmeci, Communications Assistant for UNDP in Türkiye,