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SATURN to defend the Mediterranean from illegal bottom trawling

It's called SATURN - Antitrawling Structures for the Protection and Natural Restoration - and its objective is to defend the sea from illegal bottom trawling, especially in marine protected areas at less than three miles from the coast.  

The Sinis Peninsula – Mal di Ventre Island Marine Protected Area will be the first area in Sardinia to adopt a seabed defense system, designed in collaboration with the same fishermen who identified the most vulnerable areas. About sixty bollards, produced by Tecnoreef, will be positioned in the coming weeks off the coast of Sinis, barriers strategically arranged in a chessboard on a sandy bottom at a depth of about 35 metres. A positioning that prevents the advance of illegal trawling "in the most sensitive habitats, where coralligenous or Posidonia oceanica is present and where the damage can be irreversible and catastrophic for the entire marine ecosystem, to the detriment of the entire fishing sector itself, above all the artisanal and traditional one”, explained Francesca Frau, marine biologist of the MEDSEA Foundation in a recent meeting in Cabras with the fishermen and partners of the initiative. “The hours of illegal trawling in Italy – i.e. in areas where it is expressly prohibited, such as SIC areas, Marine Protected Areas and areas less than three miles from the coast – also according to recent data released by Oceana*, exceeds any other country with 5736 documented hours", highlights Frau. 

The SATURN project, coordinated by the MEDSEA Foundation in partnership with the Pescando Flag of Central Western Sardinia and the Sinis Peninsula Marine Protected Area – Mal di Ventre Island, as well as being the first example of this type on the island which aims to inhibit through underwater bollards, in support of regular checks, is also the first example of self-defense started by the fishing sector itself. The project, financed by ARGEA with EMFF 2014-2020 funds and launched in the pre-pandemic period within the Maristanis project for the integrated management of the marine-coastal wetland areas of the Oristano area, saw the active participation of the fishermen themselves and the authorities, which highlighted the vulnerability to illegal trawling of some areas off the coast of Sinis, despite the prohibition and controls.  

Subsequently, the same fishermen helped to identify the most at-risk local areas, which were then used to define the positioning of the anti-trawling structures. The authorization process was then concluded a few days ago with a public order from the Port Authority and the installation will take place in the coming weeks. 

“Clearly the installation of these barriers does not solve the problem, but it certainly addresses it - Sandro Murana, president of the Flag Pescando Association of Central Western Sardinia, says - with this project we want to give a strong signal, that there is a cohesive community here in Sardinia, which wants to culturally contrast the illegal and unpunished illegal trawling in the Mediterranean. We think that this project should be disseminated among fishermen, fishing boats, the authorities, among citizens, and to be brought to schools and among young people". 

"The Mediterranean has now reached the tipping point - explains Massimo Marras, director of the Marine Protected Area of ​​the Sinis Peninsula - due to an excessive fishing effort, including industrial and trawling: the sea is increasingly poor and this leads to violate the rules and to enter prohibited environments such as marine protected areas. SATURN helps protect us from these pressures.” 

“Despite the long times for approval and acquisition of opinions, a critical factor works of public utility Italy, I consider the project still valid and even experimental, given that I understand that it is the first example of this type of intervention in Sardinia - comments Andrea Abis, mayor of Cabras - certainly the positioning of these barriers represents a further step in tackling a problem known as that of illegal trawling in marine protected areas: we will monitor and evaluate the results over time which must be aimed at conservation of fish stocks in favor of small-scale fishing in particular". 

In parallel with the installation of the bollards, a communication and awareness-raising project will tell all the various phases of SATURN up to the monitoring activities during 2023, by the IAS-CNR Oristano. “If we record a revitalization of marine environments, the theme will be the subject of discussion for future projects”, concludes Mauro Tuzzolino, Director of the FLAG “PESCANDO – Central Western Sardinia”. 

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