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Mediterranean is turning into a "sea of hell"

Climate change has filled the sea with alien species such as poisonous puffer fish while algae is coating the seabed with slime, the environmental organisation said.

But some experts said the picture painted by Greenpeace was alarmist.

''It's wrong to give in to alarmism,'' said Fabrizio Serena, head of the Livorno marine section of Tuscany's environmental protection agency ARPAT.

However, Serena stressed that it was ''important as never before'' to step up research into biodiversity and climate change to assess the Med's real state of health.

In its new report, Greenpeace said it had scientifically documented the emergency in the Med for the first time, showing how the waters are heating up, attracting species from warmer seas and altering the native fish stock.

''Until now we have only traced... individual alarms for the Mediterranean, but now we finally have the complete picture of what's happening in tourism and the environment,'' said Greenpeace's Alessandro Gianni, who compiled the dossier.

While the Med represents less than 1% of the world's oceans, it hosts between 5-15% of the marine species known to man, making it of strategic importance, Greenpeace said.

The organisation said the sea's deep waters were showing an annual temperature increase of 0.004 degrees, while surface waters and those along the coast were registering much greater increases.

''The average increase registered in the north-eastern basin is one degree in the last 30 years,'' the report said, while a heatwave in 2003 was the hottest event recorded underwater in the last 500 years.

The warmer waters are having consequences on fish as well as sponges and corals, according to the report.

Increasing water temperatures, rainfall variation and overfishing are among factors causing a drop in commercially important fish species such as anchovies, Greenpeace said.

The organisation said a fall in anchovy stocks in the Adriatic in the 1980s from 640,000 to 16,000 tonnes can largely be explained by climate change.

by S. C.
01 july 2009, Food & Fun > Nature