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Mediterranean Marine Science Research Article

Indexed in WoS (Web of Science, ISI Thomson)


The journal is available on line at http://www.medit-mar-sc.net

"Protected" marine shelled molluscs: thriving in Greek seafood restaurants

S. KATSANEVAKIS1, D. POURSANIDIS2,3, Y. ISSARIS1, A. PANOU4, D. PETZA5,


V. VASSILOPOULOU1, I. CHALDAIOU4 and M. SINI3

1
Hellenic Center for Marine Research, Institute of Marine Biological Resources,
46.7 km Athens-Sounio, 19013 Anavyssos, Greece
2
WWF Hellas, Ethnikis Antistaseos 82, Heraklion, Kriti, Greece
3
Department of Marine Sciences, University of the Aegean, 81100 Mytilini, Greece
4
Archipelagos – environment and development NGO, 14561 Kifissia, Athens
5
Ieroloxiton 6, 15342 Agia Paraskevi, Athens, Greece

Corresponding author: stelios@katsanevakis.com

Received: 17 June 2010; Accepted: 19 September 2011; Published on line: 21 September 2011

Abstract

International agreements as well as European and national legislation prohibit exploitation and
trading of a number of edible marine shelled molluscs, due to either significant declines in their
populations or destructive fishing practices. However, enforcement of existing legislation in Greece
is ineffective and many populations of ‘protected’ species continue to decline, mainly due to poach-
ing. The extent of illegal trading of protected bivalves and gastropods in Greek seafood restaurants
was investigated by interviewing owners or managers of 219 such restaurants in 92 localities. Inter-
views were based on questionnaires regarding the frequency of availability in the menus and the ori-
gin of twenty-one species or groups of species, among which eight are protected - illegally exploit-
ed. Forty-two percent of the surveyed restaurants were found to serve at least one of the protected
- illegally exploited species. Among the illegally traded species, Lithophaga lithophaga, Pecten
jacobaeus, and Pinna nobilis were served in a relatively high proportion of the surveyed restaurants
(22.8%, 19.2%, and 16.4% respectively), outrunning many commercial species. In many cases these
species were always or often available (11.4%, 4.6% and 5.0% respectively). There was substantial
spatial variation in the proportion of restaurants that illegally served protected species with differ-
ent patterns for each species; very high proportions of illegal trading were observed in some marine
regions (e.g. date mussels were served in >65% of the seafood restaurants along the coastline of
Evvoikos Gulf). In most cases the illegally traded species were of local origin, while there was no
finding of illegally imported molluscs from other countries. The strategy for enforcement of exist-
ing legislation should be greatly improved otherwise protection of shelled molluscs will remain inef-
fective.

Keywords: Marine conservation; Endangered molluscs; Habitats Directive; Enforcement;


Poaching.

Medit. Mar. Sci., 12/2, 2011, 429-438 429


Introduction Convention), and national regulations, such
as the Presidential Decrees (PD) 67/1981,
Exploitation of marine molluscs in Greece 86/98, 227/2003, and 109/2002. For species
has a history dating back to the Paleolithic included in Annex IV of the Habitats Direc-
age (SHACKLETON & VAN ANDEL, tive, all forms of deliberate capture or killing
2007; VOULTSIADOU et al., 2010; STIN- of specimens in the wild, deliberate distur-
ER & MUNRO, 2011). Aristotle was the bance, deliberate destruction or collection
first to describe the morphology, reproduc- of eggs from the wild, and deterioration or
tion and life-cycle characteristics of some destruction of breeding sites or resting places
mainly edible gastropod and bivalve species. are strictly prohibited. For species included
The works by Aristotle, Hippocrates, in Annex II of the Bern Convention, the col-
Xenocrates, Galen, Dioscorides and Athenaeus lection, keeping in captivity, killing, de-
showed that among the 35 exploited marine struction or collection of eggs, disturbance
invertebrates recorded in the texts, 20 were especially during the reproduction period,
molluscs (VOULTSIADOU et al., 2010). possession or commerce of live or dead spec-
Later on, Plenius provided information on imens are strictly prohibited (however, al-
certain molluscs that were exploited by the though Greece has ratified the Bern Con-
ancient Romans either for food or for jew- vention, invertebrates were excluded from
ellery making. The same species targeted by the relevant national law 1335/1983). For
ancient Greeks and Romans are still exploited species included in Annex II of the Proto-
today in the Mediterranean Sea, often with col of the Barcelona Convention, collection,
similar fishing practices. capture, killing, commerce, transportation
Among the ~1,100 bivalve and gastro- and disturbance especially during repro-
pod species that have been recorded from duction should be prohibited or controlled
the Greek Seas (DELAMOTTE & (however, Greece has not yet ratified the
VARDALA-THEODOROU, 2007), twen- relevant part of the protocol, including An-
ty-one are of commercial importance for nex II). The Presidential Decree (PD) 67/1981
fisheries and aquaculture (KOUTSOUBAS prohibits killing, causing injury, capturing,
et al., 2007). Apart from those species, a few collection, commerce and transportation of
other edible bivalves and gastropods used all included species. Furthermore, accord-
to be exploited in the past but their harvesting ing to the PD 86/98 (regarding shell-fishing)
is now banned due to either significant de- as reformed by the PD 227/2003, and the
clines in their populations (e.g. in the fan PD 109/2002 (regarding fishing baits), fish-
mussel Pinna nobilis) or destructive fishing ing, transportation and commerce of any
practices (e.g. the fisheries of the date mus- species of shelled molluscs not included in
sel Lithophaga lithophaga) (KATSANEVAKIS the lists of these PDs is prohibited.
et al., 2008). However, enforcement of existing legis-
The existing legislation for the conser- lation by the Greek authorities is largely lack-
vation of marine species includes the Euro- ing and many populations of “protected”
pean Habitats Directive (92/43/EC), the Bern species in Greek waters continue to decline,
Convention, the Protocol for Specially Pro- mainly due to poaching (KATSANEVAKIS
tected Areas and Biological Diversity in the et al., 2008; KATSANEVAKIS, 2009a). Re-
Mediterranean of the Barcelona Conven- creational fishing for food or shell collection
tion (hereafter: Protocol of the Barcelona are probably the two major causes of mor-

430 Medit. Mar. Sci., 12/2, 2011, 429-438


tality of many shelled molluscs. Neverthe- and the imported Mytilus edulis, Mytilus trossu-
less, many of the “protected” shelled mol- lus, Perna canaliculus, and perhaps other
luscs are still commercially exploited and il- species. Oysters served in Greece mainly be-
legally traded, ending up in seafood restau- long to the native species Ostrea edulis but
rants. The aim of this study was to investi- the alien species Crassostrea gigas is imported
gate the extent of illegal trading of protect- and served as well. Three species of abalones
ed bivalves and gastropods in Greek seafood are native of the Mediterranean Sea, Hali-
restaurants and to reveal potential spatial otis tuberculata, H. mikonosensis, and H. stom-
patterns within Greek coastal regions. atiaeformis, of which the first two are com-
mon in the Greek Seas (CROCETTA &
Materials and Methods RISMONDO, 2009). Two species of razor
clams (Solen marginatus and Ensis minor),
The survey protocol was based on struc- three species of limpets (Patella caerulea,
tured interviews of owners or managers of Patella rustica, and Patella ulyssiponensis),
seafood restaurants in Greek coastal areas. and three species of monodonts (Osilinus
A questionnaire was filled by the interviewer articulatus, Osilinus turbinatus, and Phorcus
including information on the location of the mutabilis) are present in the Greek Seas and
restaurant (marine region and locality), the have been exploited for food (KATSA-
date, the frequency of availability of the tar- NEVAKIS et al., 2008).
get species, and their origin (if known), i.e. The interviewer asked for the availabil-
the marine region where they have been ity and origin of each target species using its
fished. common name(s) and showing its picture to
Twenty species or groups of species the interviewee to avoid misidentifications.
(when identification on species level was not Five levels were used to categorize the fre-
certain) were included in the list of target quency of availability: never, rare (at least
species, consisting of both legally exploit- once in the last three years), occasionally
ed and protected species (Table 1). Alien (only on certain days, e.g. weekends, or
shelled molluscs that are exploited and served periods, e.g. during Lent), often (available
in Greek restaurants, such as Pinctada ra- during >50% of the working days), al-
diata and Conomurex persicus (ZENETOS ways/almost always (available during >80%
et al. 2010), were excluded from the analy- of the working days). The interviewees were
sis. There is a paradox in the existing legis- also given the chance to make any comments
lation concerning their exploitation: they are they wished on shelled molluscs exploitation
not included in the lists of the PDs (86/98, and trading, which was also noted in the
227/2003, and 109/2002) regulating shelled questionnaires.
molluscs exploitation and thus their ex- To reduce the possible hesitation by
ploitation is prohibited; however these in- some of the interviewees to give honest an-
vasive species should not be considered as swers: (1) we kept the questionnaires anony-
being in need of protection. mous and no personal data of the intervie-
Identification on species level was un- wee or the restaurant were asked or kept;
certain for mussels, oysters, razor clams, (2) it was stated that “the survey aimed to
abalones, limpets, and monodonts. Mussels quantify the variety of traded marine mol-
served in the Greek restaurants include the luscs in seafood restaurants” and there was
native Mytilus galloprovincialis (wild or farmed) no mention of “protected species” or “leg-

Medit. Mar. Sci., 12/2, 2011, 429-438 431


islation”; (3) the questionnaire did not fo- The survey was conducted between June
cus on protected - illegally exploited species; 2009 and June 2011 and a total of 219 in-
the majority of the included species were terviews were conducted in 92 localities. Th-
legally exploited and traded (Table 1). ese interviews were spatially distributed in

Table 1
Mollusc species included in the survey questionnaires. The legislation regulating their
exploitation (for commercially exploited species) or for their protection (for protected - illegally
exploited species) is indicated. BC = Bern Convention, PBC = Protocol for Specially
Protected Areas and Biological Diversity in the Mediterranean of the Barcelona Convention,
HD = Habitats Directive (92/43/EC), PD = Presidential Decree, B = Bivalve, G = Gastropod.

Species scientific name Greek/English common names Legislation


COMMERCIALLY Legislation regulating
EXPLOITED exploitation
Mytillus spp., Perna canaliculus B mydia/mussels PD 227/2003
Ostrea edulis, Crassostrea gigas B stridia/oysters PD 227/2003
Callista chione B gyalisteri/smooth callista PD 227/2003
Arca noae B kalognomi/Noah’s ark PD 227/2003
Solen marginatus, Ensis minor B solinas, ammosolinas/razor clam PD 109/2002
Vennus verrucosa B kydoni/warty venus PD 227/2003
Modiolus barbatus B chavaro/bearded horse mussel PD 227/2003
Flexopecten glaber B gialistero chteni/smooth scallop PD 227/2003
Solecurtus strigilatus B samari, zamponaki /sandwich PD 109/2002
Haliotis spp. G afti tis thalassas/lamellated haliotis PD 227/2003
Hexaplex trunculus G strobos/banded murex PD 227/2003
Bolinus brandaris G agathotos strobos/spined murex PD 227/2003
Patella spp. G petalides/limpets PD 109/2002
PROTECTED - ILLEGALLY EXPLOITED Legislation for
protection
Lithophaga lithophaga B petrosolinas, valanos,chourmas HD, BC, PBC, PD
/European date mussel 109/2002, PD 227/2003
Pinna nobilis B pinna /pen shell, fan shell HD, PBC, PD 67/1981,
PD 109/2002, PD 227/2003
Pholas dactylus B daktilo, ftera aggelon, folada BC, PBC, PD 227/2003,
/common piddock [PD 109/2002]*
Spondylus gaederopus B gaidouropodaro, vassiliko stridi PD 109/2002, PD 109/2002,
/European thorny oyster PD 227/2003
Pecten jacobaeus B megalo chteni /Jacob scallop PD 109/2002, PD 227/2003
Tonna galea G bouchona, kochyla /giant ton BC, PBC, PD 67/1981, PD
109/2002, PD 227/2003
Oscilinus spp., Phorcus G salingarakia/monodonts PD 109/2002, PD 227/2003
mutabilis
*Although Pholas dactylus is protected by the BC and PBC, it is included in the list of legally exploited
species for bait.

432 Medit. Mar. Sci., 12/2, 2011, 429-438


all marine regions of Greece. For the needs respectively), outrunning many commercial
of the present analysis Greek waters were species. L.lithophaga had been systemati-
divided into seven marine regions (sample cally served (i.e. reported frequencies were
size in parentheses): North Aegean (46), either often or always/almost always) in 11.4%

Fig. 1: Map of the study area, subdivided into 5 marine regions. All surveyed localities are indicated with
red dots.

South Aegean (25), Ionian Sea (30), Korinthi- of the surveyed restaurants, while for P. ja-
akos & Patraikos Gulfs (23), North & South cobaeus and P. nobilis the corresponding
Evvoikos Gulf (21), Saronikos & Argolikos percentages were 4.6% and 5.0%. One restau-
Gulfs (44), and Kriti (30) (Fig. 1). rant (in North Aegean), had often served
the gastropods Charonia lampas and Cha-
Results ronia variegata (not included in the ques-
tionnaires); these species are protected by
All target species or groups of species the Bern Convention and the Protocol of
were included among the served dishes in the Barcelona Convention.
Greek seafood restaurants with frequencies There was substantial variation in the
varying from 93% (for mussels) to 1.4% (for trading of protected molluscs through seafood
Tonna galea and Solecurtus strigilatus) (Fig. restaurants among the Greek marine regions
2). Forty-two percent of the surveyed restau- (Fig. 3). Date mussels were served in >65%
rants were found to have served (even rarely) of the seafood restaurants along the Evvoikos
at least one of the illegally exploited species. Gulfs (systematically in nearly 50% of the
Among the illegally traded species, L.lithopha- restaurants), where they are considered a
ga, P. jacobaeus, and P. nobilis were served great delicacy and there is a long standing
in a relatively high proportion of the sur- tradition of date mussel exploitation and trad-
veyed restaurants (22.8%, 19.2%, and 16.4% ing. High values were also found in the Sa-

Medit. Mar. Sci., 12/2, 2011, 429-438 433


Fig. 2: Percentage of surveyed seafood restaurants that served the target species. Blue colour indicates
commercially exploited species, while red colour indicates protected - illegally exploited species. The
filled portion of each bar corresponds to restaurants that serve the species often or always/almost always,
while the unfilled portion corresponds to restaurants that serve the species occasionally or rare.

ronikos & Argolikos Gulfs (date mussels had gally imported species from other countries.
been served in 25% of the restaurants; sys-
tematically in 16%), in North Aegean (served Discussion
in 24% of the restaurants but systematically
in just slightly over 2%), and in Korinthiakos It was evident from the questionnaires’
& Patraikos Gulfs (served in 17.4% of the results that enforcement of existing legis-
restaurants; systematically in 13%). For P. lation for the protection of marine molluscs
nobilis, P. jacobaeus, Oscilinus spp. & P. mu- is ineffective. An astonishing large percent-
tabilis the highest percentages were observed age of Greek seafood restaurants have been
in the North and South Aegean Seas. In these serving protected species. It is quite possi-
regions, P. nobilis was served in 37% and ble that this percentage is even higher, as
32% respectively of the seafood restaurants. some of the interviewees were very cautious
In almost every case the protected - il- and it is likely they did not give truthful replies
legally exploited species being served were for illegally traded species.
of local origin, i.e. they had been harvest- Continuing exploitation of protected
ed in the same marine region as the locali- species has serious implications:
ty of the restaurant. There were very few ex- (1) The populations of all protected mol-
ceptions where the illegally exploited species luscs included in this survey (with the
served had been harvested in other marine exception of monodonts for which there
regions (13% of the cases for P. jacobaeus, is no assessment) are declining in the
6.1% of the cases for L. lithophaga, 4.2% of Mediterranean and in Greek coastal ar-
the cases for P. nobilis, and 0% for all oth- eas (KATSANEVAKIS et al., 2008).
er species). There was no finding of ille- Protection through international agree-

434 Medit. Mar. Sci., 12/2, 2011, 429-438


Fig. 3: Trading of protected - illegally exploited molluscs through seafood restaurants among the Greek
marine regions (as defined in Fig. 1). The percentage of the surveyed restaurants that have been serving
the target species is given. The filled portion of each bar corresponds to restaurants that serve the species
often or always/almost always, while the unfilled portion corresponds to restaurants that serve the species
occasionally or rare. P. dactylus and T. galea were excluded due to a low sample size.

ments and European or national legis- restaurants might render the achieve-
lation was decided on the basis of a need ment of this goal unfeasible.
to reduce mortality and to allow these (2) Weak enforcement and ineffective sur-
populations to recover. Continuing in- veillance leads to an overall bad men-
tense exploitation for trading in seafood tality of non-compliance. Stakeholders

Medit. Mar. Sci., 12/2, 2011, 429-438 435


(fishermen, traders, restaurant owners) Greek legislation since the early 80s, its pop-
that complied with regulations and re- ulation keeps declining and it was recently
stricted their former range of activities assessed as vulnerable, according to the
feel deceived and adopt a sceptical or national IUCN criteria (KATSANEVAKIS,
negative attitude towards legislation for 2009b). However, as demonstrated in this
protection of marine species. Restaurant study, P. nobilis is still commercially exploit-
owners, who might not wish to illegally ed and served in Greek fish restaurants. In
serve protected species, are forced to do addition, poaching by recreational or pro-
so in order to face competition. fessional fishers and divers for personal con-
(3) The country faces the risk of defama- sumption or collection of its shell is quite sig-
tion by other European and Mediter- nificant and appears to be a major threat
ranean countries due to the infringe- to the conservation of the species (KAT-
ment of its international commitments SANEVAKIS, 2009a).
to the protection of vulnerable marine The European date mussel, Lithopha-
species and habitats. It also takes the ga lithophaga, is an endolithic species living
risk of penalties by EU for the violation inside carbonate rocks (limestone) in the
of the Habitats Directive (in the case of midlittoral and upper sublittoral zones. Date
L. lithophaga and P. nobilis). mussel harvesting is usually conducted by
The fan mussel, Pinna nobilis, is a good SCUBA divers equipped with special sledge-
example of the failure of the Greek au- hammers, who break rocky substrates re-
thorities to enforce the existing protection moving the first centimeters of rock to col-
measures. P. nobilis is an emblematic species lect the bivalves (DEVESCOVI et al., 2005).
of the Mediterranean Sea, as it is endemic Such fishing practices cause direct damages
and the largest bivalve in the region, at- to benthic assemblages by eradicating ses-
taining total anterio-posterior lengths of sile animals and algae, alter biotic interac-
up to 120 cm (KATSANEVAKIS et al., 2008). tions, and favour local increase in sea urchin
Fan mussels live with the anterior portion of population densities and the persistence
their shell partially buried, at depths between of rocky barrens (FANELLI et al., 1994;
0.5 and 60 m typically in soft-bottom areas GUIDETTI, 2011). To prevent a large scale
overgrown by seagrass or in unvegetated degradation of shallow rocky habitats, the
sandy bottoms (KATSANEVAKIS et al., date mussel fishery was banned in most
2008). Since ancient times, P. nobilis has been Mediterranean countries. However, in many
exploited for its byssus, from which an ex- areas of the Mediterranean Sea illegal date
tremely fine and valuable fabric is produced, mussel fishing is still practiced (FRASCHET-
the so-called ‘sea silk’. It has also been ex- TI et al., 2011; GUIDETTI, 2011). In the
ploited for human consumption and the col- past, L. lithophaga was extensively exploit-
lection of its shell. Due to overexploitation ed in the Greek seas and it was found in
and incidental killing by trawlers, bottom seafood markets and fish restaurants in many
nets, or anchoring, the global population locations (KATSANEVAKIS et al., 2008).
of P. nobilis has been greatly reduced during As demonstrated herein, despite its protec-
the past few decades. Consequently, it has tion status, extensive exploitation continues.
been listed as a protected species in the Recreational poaching might be diffi-
Mediterranean Sea and is under strict pro- cult to control in a country of 16,000 km of
tection (Table 1). Despite its protection by coastline, with >2,000 islands and islets, nu-

436 Medit. Mar. Sci., 12/2, 2011, 429-438


merous coastal villages, and many thousands consumption in seafood restaurants being
of recreational fishermen. However, com- one important contributing factor.
mercial exploitation, transportation, com-
merce, and supply in fish restaurants are Acknowledgements
much easier to control. The enforcement
strategy in the case of seafood restaurants We would like to thank Alexandra
may encompass a range of discursive and Michailidou, Panayotis Kritsikis, Vassilis
coercive measures, ranging from shelf-reg- Tselentis, Vasilis Gerovasileiou, Anastasia
ulation to aggressive enforcement activities. Gazi, Kaloust Paragamian, Thanos Gian-
Discursive (or preventive) enforcement nakakis, Afroditi Kardamaki, Stamatis
through environmental education and aware- Moschus, Argyro Kaiserli, Manolis Barda-
ness of both related stakeholders and the nis, Hector Giourgis, and Stamatis Kyriakidis
public (consumers) aims to increase com- for their assistance.
munity capacity, which refers to the rules,
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438 Medit. Mar. Sci., 12/2, 2011, 429-438