Press Release

First in Europe: Greece Bans Bottom Trawling—“Single Greatest Threat to Marine Habitats”—in All Marine Protected Areas by 2030

Country hosting global ocean conservation conference also commits to protecting 30% of its ocean by 2030, stepping up surveillance of its conserved areas, prioritizing protection of sea turtles and more.

Photograph by Enric Sala / National Geographic Pristine Seas

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced today at the Our Ocean Conference a historic ban on bottom trawling in the country’s marine protected areas (MPAs). The country will end the damaging practice in its three national marine parks—one of which will be the largest in the East Mediterranean Sea—by 2026 and across all of its protected ocean areas by 2030. By doing so, Greece becomes the first on the continent to ban bottom trawling, which involves dragging heavy fishing nets across the ocean floor, destroying habitats and releasing carbon into the ocean—and the atmosphere.

The country also committed to protect two large swathes of the Aegean and Ionian seas, creating:

  • The Ionian Marine National Park, which covers about 11.72% of Greek territorial waters, and will safeguard important sea mammals like sperm whales, Cuvier's beaked whales, striped dolphins and endangered monk seals.
  • The South Aegean Marine Protected Area (MPA), which covers 6.61% of Greek territorial waters, and is an important habitat for seabirds.

“This is a historic moment for conservation in Greece. We are deploying 780 million euros to protect our diverse and unique marine ecosystems,” said Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. “We are increasing the size of our marine protected areas by 80 per cent, banning harmful fishing practices and using new technologies to monitor and enforce the commitments we make here.”

The country committed to an overall goal of protecting 30% of its ocean area by 2030, of which 10% will be strictly protected—which means no damaging activities are permitted. Additional commitments include the intention to use high-tech tools to monitor MPAs and study the movement of sea turtles to better understand how to protect them. The country is also addressing plastic pollution, shipping and more.

Greece’s announcements come as the world gears up to protect 30% of the ocean by 2030. Currently, only 8% of the ocean is protected, with only 3% fully protected against damaging activities. Studies show that strictly protected areas deliver more benefits than those that allow bottom trawling, fishing and other activities that can damage the seafloor and sea life.

Enric Sala, the Founder of Pristine Seas, National Geographic Explorer in Residence and author of The Nature of Nature:

“This historic move—a first for Europe—brings the country one step closer to ensuring that its marine protected areas can deliver the full potential of their benefits, which range from protecting biodiversity and storing carbon to boosting the tourism and fishing industries.”

"The ocean floor is the world’s largest carbon storehouse. Leaving the seabed undisturbed is critical to global efforts to curb the climate crisis. Countries that are serious about keeping global temperatures at bay, conserving biodiversity and keeping their fishing industries vibrant must join Greece in ending this outdated practice in MPAs.”

More About Bottom Trawling

  • There are restrictions on bottom trawling throughout Europe, but this is the first outright ban on bottom trawling in all of one country’s marine protected areas.
  • The European Union has pledged to phase out bottom trawling in all MPAs by 2030--but this regulation is not yet binding and enforcement varies among member states.

More About Marine Protected Areas in Greece

  • Greece is a country of over 29,000 islands and islets spread across the Aegean and Ionian Seas.
  • The country’s first marine protected area of 2,260 square kilometers, National Marine Park of Alonnisos Northern Sporades (Εθνικό Θαλάσσιο Πάρκο Αλοννήσου Βορείων Σποράδων), was established in 1992. It is home to endangered species like monk seals, dolphins, and sea turtles. However, less than 1% of Greek waters are fully protected from fishing.

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