July 5, 2022 – Croatian noble shells are a critically endangered species, with this beautiful life form being put at risk across the Mediterranean since disease took hold in 2016. Efforts to preserve them here in Croatian waters are well and truly underway.
As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, at the height of the scorching Croatian summer season, it is more important than ever to warn people about the challenges and potential dangers facing the ecosystem of the Adriatic Sea, which is extremely rich in different plant and animal species, but also extremely sensitive due to its relatively shallow depth and natural position.
Mass tourism and irresponsible human behavior have led to the fact that today many Adriatic species have been declared endangered, are strictly protected or have been declared rare species and as such are protected by international treaties in addition to Croatian laws. Among them are mammals such as bottlenose dolphins or Mediterranean seals, various species of turtles, sea urchins, crabs and fish, as well as shellfish, the most famous of which is the Croatian noble pen shell, frequently the victim of illegal fishing by the tourists.
Aware of the growing need to protect plant and animal species in their natural environment, the multinational Gebrüder Weiss has renewed its cooperation with the Pula Aquarium, where, with the support of the Fund for Environmental Protection and Energy Efficiency energy, the ”Noble Sanctuary” was built – an innovative space where Croatian noble shells, a legally protected species of bivalve mollusc, are protected with the aim of restoring the status of this native population.
The ”Noble Sanctuary” of the Pula Aquarium is currently the only institution responsible for the conservation of critically endangered young and adult noble shells in ex situ conditions in the Republic of Croatia. This continues the socially responsible cooperation between Gebrüder Weiss and the Pula Aquarium.
“The project of preservation of the most endangered Adriatic endemic species is extremely important to us, and we want to return these precious Croatian noble shells to our waters. Unfortunately, the harmful impact of man on nature and the environment is to more and more visible, and there is no time left to wait – we are all called to action At Gebrüder Weiss, we promote a sustainable and socially responsible business policy and participate in numerous environmental actions to reduce environmental pollution and work to better influence the development of biodiversity in different regions of the world,” said Barbara Bujacic, Director of Gebruder Weiss Croatia.
“We are extremely pleased that the important project devoted to the preservation of the Croatian noble shell (Pinna nobilis) in the Adriatic Sea is continuing through cooperation with Gebruder Weiss, and that with joint efforts we are able to provide the necessary infrastructure to save this species from extinction. To date, we have been successful in helping many young individual pen shells find refuge. With further study and invested effort, we are sure that we we will achieve the ultimate goal – the successful reproduction of these noble pen shells under quarantine conditions and the successful breeding of their offspring with the aim of repopulating this species in the wild,” said Marija Aleksandra Bel Dajkovic, head of the expert department of the Pula Aquarium.
This, if not the largest remaining seashell in the Adriatic, enriches the coast and keeps the sea clean.
Since autumn 2016, the noble shell of the pen has become even more threatened. A newly discovered parasite, Haplosporidium pinnae, has spread extensively throughout the Mediterranean Sea and has killed more than 99% of all noble shells worldwide, and only about 20 living adults have managed to get rid of them. this parasite and have developed the appropriate resistance to its devastating influence. .
New scientific discoveries stimulated by intensive international cooperation have facilitated and improved the maintenance of fine pen shells under strictly controlled conditions.
With the aim of preserving this sensitive species in the long term, the Aquarium of Pula, in cooperation with the LIMIA laboratory and the Institute for the Conservation of the Seas and Marine Sciences IMEDMAR-UCV in Spain, carried out a sequencing project of the genome of the noble pen shells DNA in a completely non-invasive way. The sequenced genome will help to better understand this species in future research.
The Croatian noble shells are also the largest shells in the Adriatic and an indicator of the cleanliness of the sea. It is the best known Mediterranean endemic species and is found at all sea depths along the coast, and it most often lives on sandy, muddy seabeds teeming with flowering sea plants, on which it feeds on organic matter. In shallower seas, the noble pen shells can filter up to 2,000 liters of water per day in order to feed on phytoplankton. As it is a hermaphrodite, it needs neither the sperm nor the eggs of other shellfish individuals to reproduce – it releases both and thus fertilizes the larvae on its own, which then develop independently in the sea. .
In order for this species to continue to develop, grow and reproduce faster, a culture of live food has been established in the sanctuary and cooperation with Croatian and international institutions has been strengthened. Currently, the Pula Aquarium has ten young Croatian noble shells found between October 2021 and June 2022 at the locations of Mali Losinj, Brijuni National Park, Plavnik Island and near Rovinj.
Guided by the goals of sustainable development and respect for the community and the environment, Gebruder Weiss plans to continue activities related to the protection of the biological diversity of the Adriatic Sea.
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