Archaeological data show that lush forests once grew abundantly across the Mediterranean basin. Now just 17 per cent of the original forest cover is left. Fires, excessive agriculture and timber use have all taken their toll. Every day, we are losing habitat, degrading rivers and streams, exploiting marine life, polluting the seas and losing unique species that are found only in Mediterranean countries.
The average depth of the Mediterranean Sea is 1,500m (4,920 ft); the deepest recorded point is 5,267m (about 3.27 miles) in the Calypso Deep in the Ionian Sea. The coastline extends for 46,000km (28,600 miles). Large islands in the Mediterranean include Cyprus, Crete, Rhodes, Corfu, Sardinia, Corsica, Sicily and Majorca. Only less than 1% of the Sea is protected.
It is known that over 7 million tonnes of litter reaches the oceans every year. The Mediterranean Sea is a fragile ecosystem which is under immense pressure of human civilization – notably the greatest sources of all marine litter are dump-sites near rivers and beaches, tourism, fishing industry activities – the same applies to the Mediterranean Sea which is surrounded by dense human population and accounts for about 30% of all the world’s tourists, more than 220 million tourists visit the region each year.
Although the disposal of garbage in the Mediterranean Sea has been prohibited since 2009 (MARPOL Annex V) the problem of marine litter has not gone away from the region. Like many other parts of the world, much of the sewage flows untreated, or under-treated, into the ocean. For example, 80% of urban sewage discharged into the Mediterranean Sea is untreated.
Plastic marine debris has been found in the stomach of loggerhead sea turtles and there have been many other findings that suggest direct threat to marine wildlife. An awareness and research campaign that started to collect water samples along the sea’s northern coast has found that at least 100,000 marine mammals, turtles and birds are killed every year.
Around 80% of all marine litter is plastic which is known to exude many dangerous toxins and biodegrade extremely slowly. Usage of plastic is said rise about 5% per year. Some 250 billion microscopic pieces of plastic are floating in the Mediterranean, creating a biological hazard that reverberates up the food chain, according to research supported by green campaigners.
New survey released in the end of April 2014 uncovers the litter situation of Europe’s seafloor – it’s already covered with trash! There has been a lot discussion on the chemical weapons disposal in the Mediterranean Sea – you can read more about it in the Let’s Do It! World’s newsfeed!