Site details

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5 stars - Fully protected as a national park or Natura 2000 site by national legislation
Normal Focal Site

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Panorama of Ustica Island. Photo:

Extensive description of site:

Ustica is a volcanic island of about 8 km2 situated 36 nautical miles off the NW Sicilian coast. The water is highly transparent (Secchi Disk range: 20-40 m) and oligotrophic. There are no river discharges nor agricultural runoff affecting the quality of coastal water.

Habitats present:
Littoral XX
Sublittoral XX
Seagrass bedsX

Description of fauna and flora:

Thus far the known marine biota consists of 783 species of Macrozoobenthos, 395 Seaweeds and 2 Seagrasses. This includes several endemic species (e.g. Nereis usticensis, Polychaeta) along with a number of threatened species protected by both Italian and European laws. In addition, several thermophilic species currently expanding northward in the Mediterranean have settled on the Island.

Human impact:

Sewage produced by the 1,330 resident population plus that produced by about 15,000 summer visitors is treated in situ in a primary treatment plant and discharged to the sea. Garbage on land is 100% sorted and transported to Palermo. There is a management plan for a fishery fleet of 7 licensed local boats; only traditional artisanal selective fishing is allowed.


The Island is accessible by boat from Palermo, Naples and Trapani. A marine research Laboratory managed by the University of Palermo and the MPA management office is available on the Island, including housing for up to 6-7 people within the laboratory building. Two MPA office boats may eventually be available for researchers on request. Several diving centres on the island provide hyperbaric chamber and compressor facilities.

Available database and website:

Currently there are no marine biodiversity on-line databases available on the site. The Italian Ministry for the Environment’s website offers some information on the Marine Reserve (


Commitment and ongoing research:

Several Italian research institutions (University of Palermo, IRMA-CNR, ICRAM) are currently undertaking marine biodiversity research in the area. Funding for this research is provided by the Italian Ministry of Environment via the MPA management office.