Reef Restoration Project Portofino

Marine Ecosystem Restoration in changing European Seas

Reef Restoration Project Portofino

The Marine Strategy Framework Directive constitutes the environmental pillar of the new European Integrated Maritime Policy. The new directive calls on EU Member States to ensure the “good environmental status” (GES) of Europe’s marine regions and sub-regions focusing on eleven indicators.

Ensuring good environmental status involves protecting marine ecosystems. When GES is not present, actions must be taken to restore pristine conditions.
The EU project “Marine Ecosystem Restoration in changing European Seas” (MERCES) is very ambitious, having as main objectives:

i) the test of new and existing restoration practices/protocols and tools on different marine ecosystems and habitats,

ii) provide best practice protocols and new policy guidelines, and

iii) advise on practical steps for administrations, private and public stakeholders in marine restoration. The Polytechnic University of Marche (Ancona, Italy) is coordinating the 28 partners of the project (http://

Reef Restoration Project Portofino
Scientific divers implanting colonies of Corallium rubrum at -70 meters of depth © Bruno Borelli

At Portofino Promontory there is one of the most important population of Corallium rubrum of the Mediterranean Sea. In the past, this species has been strongly impacted by harvesting and nowadays, thanks to presence of the Marine Protected Area (MPA), the population is recovering very fast. Anyway only in shallow population the increase of the density and the size of colonies is occurring. Deep population are no more present or with few and scattered colonies. MERCES will restore deep populations. To accomplish this goal, a group of GUE divers, leaded by Prof. Carlo Cerrano, have experienced over the years different breeding techniques (

Reef Restoration Project Portofino
Coral larva trap © Bruno Borelli

Also several species of sponges are decreasing or are disappeared from the Promontory. The causes of their regression are due to thermal stress triggered by global warming and to mechanical stress (artisanal and recreational fishing, anchorage). The species that will be considered for restoration include sponges such as the bath sponge Spongia officinalis and the elephant ear sponge Spongia lamella. The restoration will be performed at different depth ranges depending on the ecology of the species.

Reef Restoration Project Portofino
Scientific divers working on Spongia lamella at -70 meters of depth

The main stakeholder category that will be involved is that of recreational divers. Portofino Divers is supporting the actions scheduled in the MPA of Portofino. In particular, being the divers adequately trained, the collaboration supports the field activities and will guarantee the continuity, with customers as volunteers, of the monitoring of the restored areas also after the end of the project.

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