Energy Observer’s stopover in Cyprus was dedicated to biodiversity and was the 17th official stop on the vessel’s world tour.
After a 3-day stop in Limassol, Cyprus, Energy Observer, the first electric vessel powered by renewable energies and hydrogen, set off once again for the Greek island of Rhodes. This stopover focused primarily on the island’s biodiversity, giving the team a chance to learn about the study and preservation of turtles as well as the effects of the lionfish population in Cypriot ecosystems. For several years now, Cyprus, like other countries in the Mediterranean, has been suffering the first consequences of climate change and human activities, with a particular impact on ecosystems and biodiversity. Initiatives devoted to study and protection have emerged, and the crew, led by Victorien Erussard and Jérôme Delafosse, went to see them.
In southern Cyprus we observed the formidable invasion of lionfish, a species that entered the Mediterranean through the Suez Canal, while in the north we met people trying to save marine turtles, an issue that crystallize all the threats that plague the entire region. This island, in itself, is truly a laboratory for studying humankind's impact on biodiversity.
The Cypriot economy is dominated by the service sector, in particular tourism, transport and finance. Urbanization, increased tourism and infrastructure such as highways and buildings have led to a fragmentation of natural areas and the loss of natural habitats. The effects of global warming that can already be felt further exacerbate the problems Cypriots face. The island’s biodiversity, one of the richest in the Mediterranean region, faces many pressures caused not only by human activities but also by the arrival of new species, which is facilitated by changing terrestrial and underwater climate conditions.
Originally from the Indo-Pacific region, lionfish appeared in Cyprus in 2012, and their growing population in the Mediterranean is worrying scientists, fishermen, and divers. The crew met with marine biologist Louis Hadjaiannou, head of the Elania Physis research center, and his team, who are studying these fish to determine their impact on the marine ecosystem and gain a better understanding of the population in order to implement containment strategies. The “exponential” increase of lionfish in the region can be explained by higher temperatures and the fact that the Suez Canal, which was widened in 2015, facilitates their arrival in Mediterranean waters. Invasive species are among the five primary causes of global biodiversity loss, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Meeting the turtles and their defenders
Volunteers and researchers have been working tirelessly for over 30 years to protect and save two species of turtle indigenous to the island: the green turtle and the loggerhead turtle. Accompanied by Julia Haywood, a doctoral student at the University of Exeter, and volunteers from SPOT association (Society for the Protection of Turtles), the team got the chance to see one of these giants of the seas laying eggs. Faced with numerous threats such as illegal capture, plastic pollution, urbanization and mass tourism, marine turtles have unfortunately become an endangered species and a veritable symbol of the fight to protect biodiversity in the Mediterranean region. Scientific studies and efforts to protect nesting sites allow for a better understanding of these direct descendants of the dinosaurs so that we can better protect them and especially preserve their habitat.
The stopover was also a good opportunity to meeth with His Excellency Mr René Troccaz , French Ambassador in Cyprus, who exchanged with the crew, discover the vessel, how it works and its mission.
I am very pleased for the chance to meet the Energy Observer team during their stopover in Cyprus. This wonderful adventure demonstrates France's commitment to environmental issues and I am convinced that Energy Observer's message will be heard in Cyprus.
Energy Observer arrived in Rhodes on June 6th, first Greek island of its journey towards the Greek capital city. News organizations are invited to joint the next press conference organized in Athens on June 19th.
SDGs, a continuous course for EO
Through its six-year world tour, making more than 100 stops in 50 countries, Energy Observer, under the high patronage of the President of the Republic, is a showcase of ecological transition initiatives. At each stop, the crew reaches out to the general public to present the technologies used on this prototype vessel and how they can be used to fight climate change, under the banner of the Sustainable Development Goals. Initiatives we have met in Cyprus are tied to SDG 14, focusing on life below water, and SDG 15, focusing on life on land.
Protecting biodiversity is at the heart of today’s international subjects: as of next July, the UN will gather all States for a global stocktake on the implementation process of the SDG on biodiversity. An inventory of SDG 15 in the world by the UN shows some encouraging progress when it comes to protected species, but underlines the relentless loss of biodiversity on the global scale. France plays its full part in these debates, and will welcome in 2019 the IPBES conference (Biodiversity’s IPCC), and in 2020, in Marseille, IUCN’s World Conservation Congress.