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Greece to spend €780m to protect marine biodiversity: PM

the 9th our ocean conference, in athens
Former United States Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during the 9th Our Ocean Conference in Athens

By Renee Maltezou

Greece is pushing ahead with 21 initiatives worth 780 million euros to protect marine biodiversity and tackle coastal pollution, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Monday ahead of an international conference.

Greece, which includes thousands of islands and which has the longest Mediterranean coastline of any littoral state, said last week it plans to create two marine parks, one in the Ionian Sea and one in the Aegean Sea, as part of the initiatives.

“Quietly but methodically, Greece is playing a leading role in the defence against dramatic climate changes, which are proven to affect every region and every activity,” Mitsotakis said in an article published in Kathimerini newspaper.

Greece plans to present its national strategy on marine biodiversity protection at the “Our Ocean” conference, which Athens will host this year and which will be attended by about 120 countries.

More than 400 new commitments amounting to $10 billion will be announced during the conference, said a government official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service said last month that ocean temperatures hit a record high in February, in a dataset that goes back to 1979. Overfishing and plastic pollution are also major threats to oceans.

Plastics entering the world’s oceans could nearly triple by 2040 if no further action is taken, research has shown.

Greece wants to reduce plastic litter in the water by 50 per cent and microplastics by 30 per cent by 2030, the government official said.

The Greek marine parks, whose boundaries will be defined after scientific research by early 2025, will cover 32 per cent of Greece’s waters, Mitsotakis said. Greece has legislated the expansion of marine protected areas to 30 per cent of its territorial waters by 2030.

The plan for a marine park in the Aegean Sea has irritated neighbouring Turkey, which said last week that it was not willing to accept a possible “fait accompli on geographical features whose status is disputed”. In response, Greece accused Turkey of “politicising a purely environmental issue”.

Nato allies Greece and Turkey have long been at odds over a range of issues including maritime boundaries and claims over their continental shelves in the Mediterranean.

Mitsotakis said other initiatives underway include campaigns to curb plastic pollution, constructing charging stations at 12 ports for electric vessels and setting up a monitoring system for protected marine areas because fishing practices that damage the seabed will be banned. Greece wants to ban bottom trawling in all marine protected areas by 2030, the official said.

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