Synoptic description of site:
Marine Park of Alonnisos. Situated in the Northern part of Sporades Archipelagos. Three small islands are included: Piperi, Youra and Kyra Panagia (Pelagos).
Extensive description of site:
The only inhabited island included in the Marine Park is the island of Alonnisos. Additionally, more than 25 other uninhabited small islands and many rocks are included in the area. It is widely believed that this area is representative of the entire northern Aegean coastal environment because it is located centrally in the Aegean and almost the entire spectrum of the Aegean coastal habitats can be found there. The coastal environment of the Aegean is considered to be of importance since it hosts a rich flora and fauna, although it is located further from the straits of Gibraltar, which is the main species source for the Mediterranean Areas. Also, many of the Lessepsian migrant species have been recently found in the Aegean and some of them have already reached the area considered here. The area is characterized by a lack of freshwater runoff, and little variation in salinity. Posidonia oceanica meadows dominate many of the soft-substrate bottoms included in the Park. Habitat diversity within the archipelago is considered to be high, and many sites have a complex array of habitat types in a small area. Wave exposure varies from extremely exposed to very sheltered, often within a short distance. All types of habitats within the region of Eastern Mediterranean are present, except for pure muddy intertidal and subtidal sediments. Sublittoral sediments range from coarse sand and gravel to fine sand to muddy gravel.
Description of fauna and flora:
The discussion for the development of the National Marine Park of Alonnisos – North Sporades has been initiated aiming at providing a reserve for the Aegean population of the endangered monk seal (Monachus monachus). The area hosts a high number of macrobenthic species, perhaps the highest in the Aegean. Comprehensive studies have been published for many groups of organisms such as Annelida, Polychaeta, Mollusca, Echinodermata, Crustacea, Fish and phytobentic species. Ecological studies have also been published for the area covered by the National Park. Also, a number of publications on the description of the population and on the population dynamics of the monk seal have been appeared in the literature.
No people live on the islands. They are situated in a distance more than one hour (by small fishing boat) from the nearest inhabited island (Alonnisos). Trawling is prohibited.
The islands included in the area are not populated. The only inhabitant of the entire area is the keeper of the old abandoned monastery, situated in the island of Kyra Panagia. The closest populated islands to the Marine Park are Skiathos, Scopelos and Alonnisos. Their population is 11,000 in total. There is no sewage inside the Marine Park Area. The Island of Scopelos is the only island close to the Park where there is a sewage pipeline. The pipeline is located about 10 nautical miles away from the Park. The sewage receives no treatment at all. It is estimated that about 3,200 m3 of sewage flow into the sea during the summer (high tourist season) and about 480 m3, during winter (no tourist activities). Only coastal fisheries (seine nets, long lines with less than 100 hooks) and angling are allowed inside the Park area. Yachting is allowed in the Park area. There are three sites for anchorage. It is forbidden to spend the night in the Park. Sailors are allowed to swim but they cannot visit the islands. Visits to the islands are scheduled through one-day excursions by small boats, from Skiathos, Scopelos and Alonnisos. Visitors go to the old monastery of Kyra Panagia and to the light of the Psathoura island.
The Marine Park is located 7 nautical miles from the port of the Alonnisos island. With an ordinary fishing boat, it takes about 0.5-1 hour to reach the Park from Alonnisos. Special permission from the Ministry of planning and public works is required to carry out any research activities. The Ministry freely gives this permission to Marine Research Institutes. Although the dominant winds are northerly they are not so strong (not more than 7 Beaufort) to cause navigational problems in the area. The distance from the laboratory facilities is a few km from the port of Alonnisos and a few metres from the port of Gerakas (smaller port installations, mainly for fishing boats). In the Station for the protection of the Mediterranean Monk, there is space for Laboratory facilities (two laboratories), for exhibitions, for the reception and communication of the main activities taking place in the Marine Park for visitors and tourists. Also, there are two small boats, suitably modified for small-scale scientific research. There is plenty of space for housing 10 scientists.
Available database and website:
Information exists only for the activities carried out in the area for the protection of the monk seal (Monachus monachus), its population dynamics, fisheries data, and for site-seeing. Most of them exist in electronic form (Excel) and can be requested from individual scientists.
Some information primarily on sightseeing is available from: ; .
Commitment and ongoing research:
Funding for the Marine Park comes from the Ministry of Planning and Public Works and is directed primarily to the protection of monk seals. Also, a substantial amount from the Ministry of Agriculture is directed to the collection of fisheries data from the area. A special legal status is foreseen by the Presidential decree No1, published in the Official Gazette, Issue 4, No. 519, Athens, 28-5-1992. According to the Presidential Decree, there are no time limitations for the legal protection of the Marine Park. The local authorities (mayor and coast guard officers) are charged with the implementation of the Presidential Decree in the Marine Park. A second Decree is to be signed, during autumn 2002, which will create the management authority of the Marine Park. According to the new Presidential Decree, Marine Biodiversity is defined as the key-component of the ecosystem to be continuously monitored. The management authority will release calls for 20 scientist positions as soon as the Presidential Decree has been signed
The General Secretariat of Research and Technology of the Greek Ministry of Development has already signed a letter of intent, where the significance of Marine Biodiversity studies for the economy and the environmental conservation is particularly acknowledged. Also, the Greek Ministry of Environment, Planning and Public Works has statutory responsibility for monitoring NATURA 2000 habitats, included in the area of the Park.