UNDP promotes improved shipping practices to protect native species in Turkish coastal waters

International symposium documents the environmental and economic benefits of improved ballast water and biofouling management

Antalya, 30 November 2023 – Türkiye’s turquoise coastal waters attract millions of visitors every year, but the rich fishing and tourism industries they support are threatened by an invasion of alien marine species that are crowding out native fish and aquatic creatures. More than 500 alien marine species have reached Türkiye’s coasts, undermining the biodiversity that is vital to the country’s coastal ecosystems.

How best to fight this invasion is the focus of discussion at a three-day international symposium that kicked off yesterday in Antalya, attended by 90 scientists, marine biologists and government policy makers from Türkiye and neighboring countries. Organized by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the General Directorate of Nature Conservation and National Parks of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, and the General Directorate of Maritime Affairs of the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure, this is the first symposium ever devoted to this topic to be organized in Türkiye. 

“Reducing the impact of invasive species is key to protecting biodiversity,” said UNDP Resident Representative Louisa Vinton. “Science points us to better shipping practices as a way to protect coastal ecosystems, and the livelihoods that depend on them, along the Mediterranean, Aegean and Black Seas.”

Louisa Vinton

Shipping is one of the main culprits in the rapid advance of alien species. Many intruders arrive as larvae or eggs in the ballast waters that ships take on to maintain their balance while at sea and then discharge upon arrival in port. Other alien species “hitchhike” by clinging to the hulls of shipping vessels, in some cases building up accumulations large enough to reduce the energy efficiency of ships, thereby increasing their carbon emissions. Of the 539 invasive marine species recorded in Turkish waters, 39 percent arrived in ballast waters or by clinging to the hulls of ships – something known to scientists as “biofouling.”

Once introduced into a new ecosystem, alien species such as the lionfish, pufferfish or the North Atlantic starfish prey on native species and multiply rapidly, particularly in the warming waters that are a consequence of climate change. These factors can in turn reduce the yields of local fishing industries.


Solutions are being sought through the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments, which was adopted in 2004 and entered into force in 2017. Under the management of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), signatories to the Convention are gradually tightening restrictions on how ships may use and dispose of ballast waters, for example by requiring the use of filters and other treatment tools before allowing any water discharge. Improving enforcement of the Convention and other regulatory frameworks is one focus of the symposium.

The symposium is just one of many activities organized as part of the US$3.3 million Marine Invasive Alien Species (MarIAS) project, which is funded by the Global Environment Facility. The project covers one pilot area in each of the Aegean, Black, Marmara and Mediterranean Seas, and it is particularly focused on five different invasive alien species: the lionfish, the pufferfish, the starfish, the veined rapa whelk and the water hyacinth. Project activities have included innovative fishing contests designed to encourage local communities to catch and consume edible invasive species, including the lionfish.

About İsmail Uğural

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