One of the biggest bivalve molluscs in the Mediterranean Sea, Pinna nobilis, is in now in danger of extinction, and for that reason, on January the 15th, 2020, it was recently listed as «Critically Endangered» on the Red List of Threatened Species of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Pinna nobilis is a long-lived Mediterranean endemic species. Due to a pathogen, named Haplosporidium pinnae, various events of mass mortality of the impressive mollusk have been recorded in different parts of the Mediterranean, leading to its population shrinking up to 80-100%. The parasite was first identified off the coasts of Spain in 2016 and has already eradicated many populations of Pinna nobilis in the western Mediterranean.
In the Greek seas, the phenomenon of mass deaths of the species was first observed in summer 2019. Various events of mass mortality have been reported across the Ionian Sea, in the Peloponnese and the Saronic Gulf), while 90% of certain Pinna nobilis populations in the north Aegean have been destroyed. According to the Archipelagos Institute, which contacts research in collaboration with scientists from the University of the West of England, Bristol, fortunately, so far healthy populations of the species remain in the northern Dodecanese.
Pinna nobilis is also found in marine protected areas which are under the responsibility of the Thermaikos Gulf Protected Areas Management Authority, in the Thermaikos gulf and in Chalkidiki. As the status of the species in these areas is unknown, the Management Authority has included two actions in the forthcoming YMEPERAA programme to evaluate the current status of Pinna nobilis population and to take the necessary management measures.
Pinna nobilis is threatened by Haplosporidum pinnae parasite, which it is thought to have been introduced in the Meditteranen through invasive species. According to the Archipelagos Institute, this problem is adding to numerous human-induced threats (illegal fishing with towed gear, habitat destruction etc.). Pinna nobilis looks like a big mussel, can reach lengths of up to 1,20m and is promoted as a gourmet dish in many restaurants with aphrodisiac qualities.
We should all be aware that deliberate capture or killing of Pinna nobilis is prohibited throughout the European Union, by the European Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC). Responsible consumers should deny consumption and denounce criminal illegality!
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