Pinna nobilis in the Greek seas (NE Mediterranean): on the brink of extinction?

Published: Sep 15, 2020
Pinnidae pen shell population assessment abundance critically endangered Haplosporidium pinnae conservation status mass mortality events.
The Mediterranean endemic fan mussel Pinna nobilis is suffering an ongoing basin-scale mass mortality event (MME) since 2016. As most Mediterranean populations have collapsed, the species has been declared as Critically Endangered in the IUCN Red List of threatened species. In an effort to track the progress of the MME and provide updated information on the status of the species in the Greek seas, data collected through dedicated surveys and opportunistic assessments during 2019 and 2020 have been compiled. During surveys conducted at 258 sites, a total of 14,589 fan mussels were recorded, of which 81.1% were dead. Of the remaining 2,762 live individuals, 256 were juveniles. Two marine areas that still sustain living populations were identified, namely Kalloni Gulf (Lesvos Island), and Laganas Bay (Zakynthos Island). The inner part of Kalloni Gulf appears to maintain the largest surviving population of the species in the eastern Mediterranean, with an abundance estimate of 684,000 individuals (95% confidence interval: 322,000-1,453,000). Solitary, potentially resistant, scattered individuals were recorded at several sites. Other previously abundant populations that had been assessed in the past, specifically those of Lake Vouliagmeni (Korinthiakos Gulf), Souda Bay (Crete) and Gera Gulf (Lesvos Island) with a total of ~350,000 individuals, have now been wiped out. Our results document the collapse of most P. nobilis populations throughout the Greek seas. The MME has progressed substantially between early 2019 and mid-2020, as indicated by the increase in mortality at sites consecutively monitored multiple times. This work highlights the urgent need for continuous monitoring of surviving populations and calls for immediate implementation of an effective protection and management strategy that will ensure the persistence of surviving individuals and the production of resistant offspring.
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