The award was presented to the President of the Mediterranean Conservation Society who implemented a project under the Civil Society Dialogue Programme.
Zafer Kızılkaya, the president of the Mediterranean Conservation Society which is the Turkish partner of the Implementation of EU Common Fisheries Policy in Gökova Project, won the highly prestigious Whitley Gold Award given by Whitley Fund for Nature to individuals in recognition of their work regarding nature production. Kızılkaya, who was also invited to the 2017 Whitley Jury, took part in the selection of 6 successful projects among 150 finalists. Sir David Attenborough narrated the project’s promotional video which was presented during the award ceremony.
Award presented by the Royal Family
The reason why Kızılkaya is awarded with this award which is known in London as the “Green Oscars” by the HRH Princess Royal, is the “Marine Protected Areas Management Project”, which has been conducted by the Mediterranean Conservation Society in Gökova Bay for years. This project was initially supported by the Whitley Fund for Nature, Fauna Flora International, and the deceased businessman Mustafa V. Koç; and in the last year by the Implementation of EU Common Fisheries Policy in Gökova Project implemented under the Civil Society Dialogue Programme of the Ministry for EU Affairs.
Kızılkaya, who acts as the president of the Mediterranean Conservation Society, an NGO which aims to conserve natural habitats and improve the damaged coastal ecosystems, will use the £50,000 award to replicate the Gökova Bay sample in Fethiye Bay and for the continuation of the activities in Gökova.
The Gökova Bay hosts many endangered species including monk seals and sandbar sharks. Almost 200 small scale fishermen (including female worker) depend on the Gökova Bay for their livelihood. In 2010, six No Fishing Zones were declared to restore declining fish stocks and to protect fish breeding and nursery grounds.
The protection of these areas, which are of great importance in terms of sustainable fisheries, with the marine guard system under the support of the Coast Guard Command and the Muğla Provincial Directorate of Agriculture and Livestock, constitutes the frame of the Marine Protection Areas Management project, which was initiated by the Mediterranean Conservation Society. Zafer Kızılkaya had won the Whitley Award in 2013 in recognition of his successful work in the area protected through “Marine Guardians” system.
As a result of the scientific surveillance studies conducted by the Mediterranean Conservation Society in the region, protected areas were expanded by the General Directorate of Fisheries and Aquaculture in 2016. The project, which was carried out under the Civil Society Dialogue throughout 2016, developed an electronic monitoring and protection system called SMART for the detection of illegal fishing activities in Gökova Bay and the system was used in Turkey for the first time.
Following a campaign promoting the consumption of invasive species and due to region-specifics fisheries management, local fisher income has risen by 400% in the last 5 years and the project has become the most successful project in the Mediterranean Region.