Friday, 15 July 2022

Gebruder Weiss Continuing Activities to Protect Croatian Noble Pen Shells

July the 5th, 2022 - Croatian noble pen shells are a seriously endangered species, with this beautiful form of life being forced into peril across the entire Mediterranean since a disease took hold back in 2016. Efforts to preserve them here in Croatian waters are well and truly underway.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, during the height of the scorching Croatian summer season, it's more important than ever to warn people of the challenges and potential dangers facing the ecosystem of the Adriatic Sea, which is extremely rich in different plant and animal species, but also extremely sensitive due to its relative shallowness and natural position.

Mass tourism and irresponsible human behaviour have led to the fact that today, numerous species in the Adriatic have been declared endangered, are strictly protected or have been declared to be rare species and as such are protected by international treaties in addition to Croatian laws. Among them are mammals such as bottlenose dolphins or Mediterranean seals, various species of turtles, sea urchins, crabs and fish, as well as shellfish, the most famous of which is the Croatian noble pen shell, a frequent victim of illegal fishing by tourists.

Aware of the growing need to protect plant and animal species in their natural environment, the multinational company Gebrüder Weiss renewed its cooperation with the Aquarium in Pula, where with the support of the Fund for Environmental Protection and Energy Efficiency, the ''Noble Sanctuary'' was built - an innovative space where Croatian noble pen shells, a legally protected species of bivalve mollusc, are protected with the aim of restoring the condition of this native population.

The Pula Aquarium's ''Noble Sanctuary'' is currently the only institution responsible for keeping critically endangered young and adult noble penshells in ex-situ conditions in the Republic of Croatia. This continues the socially responsible cooperation between Gebrüder Weiss and the Pula Aquarium.

"The project of preserving the most endangered Adriatic endemic species is extremely important to us, and we want to return these precious Croatian noble pen shells to our waters. Unfortunately, man's harmful impact on nature and the environment is increasingly visible, and there's now no time left to wait - we're all being called to action. At Gebrüder Weiss, we foster a policy of sustainable and socially responsible business and participate in numerous environmental actions to reduce environmental pollution and work to better influence the development of biodiversity in different parts of the world," said Barbara Bujacic, the director of Gebruder Weiss Croatia.

"We're extremely pleased that the important project dedicated to the preservation of the Croatian noble pen shell (Pinna nobilis) in the Adriatic Sea is continuing through cooperation with Gebruder Weiss, and that with joint efforts, we're able to provide the necessary infrastructure to save this species from extinction. To date, we've managed to help numerous young individual pen shells to find their safe haven. With further studies and invested effort, we're sure that we'll manage to achieve the ultimate goal - the successful reproduction of these noble pen shells under quarantine conditions and the successful breeding of their descendants for the purpose of the repopulation of this species in the wild," said Marija Aleksandra Bel Dajkovic, the head of the Pula Aquarium's expert department.

This, otherwise the largest Adriatic shellfish remaining, enriches the coast and keeps the sea clean.

Since the autumn of 2016, the noble pen shell has become even more endangered. A newly discovered parasite, Haplosporidium pinnae, spread intensively throughout the Mediterranean Sea and killed over 99 percent of all noble pen shells in the world, and only about twenty living adults managed to get rid of this parasite and developed the proper resistance to its devastating influence.

New scientific discoveries stimulated by intensive international cooperation have facilitated and improved the maintenance of noble pen shells under strictly controlled conditions.

With the aim of long-term preservation of this sensitive species, the Pula Aquarium, in cooperation with the LIMIA laboratory and the Institute for the Conservation of Seas and Marine Sciences IMEDMAR-UCV in Spain, carried out a project of genome sequencing of the noble pen shells' DNA in a completely non-invasive way. The sequenced genome will help with the further understanding of this species in future research.

Croatian noble pen shells are also the largest Adriatic shellfish and an indicator of the cleanliness of the sea. It is the most famous Mediterranean endemic species and is found at all sea depths along the coast, and it most often lives on sandy and muddy seabeds full of marine flowering plants, from whose organic matter it feeds. In shallower seas, noble pen shells can filter up to 2 thousand litres of water per day in order to feed on phytoplankton. Since it is a hermaphrodite, it doesn't need either the sperm or eggs of any other shellfish individuals in order to reproduce - it releases both and thus fertilises the larvae on its own, which then develop independently in the sea.

In order for this species to continue to develop, grow and reproduce more quickly, live food cultivation was established in the sanctuary and cooperation with Croatian and international institutions was strengthened. Currently, the Pula Aquarium has ten young Croatian noble pen shells found in the period from October 2021 to June 2022 at the locations of Mali Losinj, the Brijuni National Park, Plavnik island and near Rovinj.

Guided by the goals of sustainable development and care for the community and the environment, Gebruder Weiss plans to continue with activities related to the protection of the biological diversity of the Adriatic Sea.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated lifestyle section.

Tuesday, 14 June 2022

Two Adult Noble Pen Shells Found in the Sea Near Rovinj

June 14, 2022 - In addition to two small noble pen shells, two adult noble pen shells were found in the sea near Rovinj. It is an endemic species of great importance to the marine ecosystem. In the last few years, newly discovered parasites and bacteria have spread through the Mediterranean, bringing this shellfish to its most difficult period in history.

Dr. sc. Andrej Jaklin from the Center for Marine Research of the Ruđer Bošković Institute in Rovinj says that they are in excellent condition, they have grown somewhere between 3-4 cm since last year and they react normally, writes HRT.

Periscopes are on the verge of extinction

Along with them, two small periscopes kept in the Pula Aquarium were found on collectors placed nearby. According to Aleksandra Bel Dajaković, head of the professional department of Aquarium Pula, they are in strictly controlled conditions, where in reality every parameter is controlled and they take care of them every day and watch how they progress.

This noble shellfish can grow up to one and a half meters, weigh over 3 kilograms and live up to 50 years, and is of great importance to the marine ecosystem.

"It is the largest Mediterranean shellfish that filters large amounts of water daily and thus contributes to the purification of water, eliminating excess organic matter from the water.", says Dr. sc. Andrej Jaklin.

The noble pen shells have been hit in the last 4 years by a plague of pathogens that have led them to almost extinction.

Dangers of anchors and curious tourists

In addition to searching the seabed and finding living individuals to preserve this species, various protection actions have been initiated. Protective cages are set up if it is near an anchor or there is an octopus threat.

Various education initiatives can raise public awareness in order to preserve the world of the noble pen shell - the largest shellfish in the Mediterranean.

For more, check out our lifestyle section.

Thursday, 2 June 2022

Mljet National Park Continues Plans to Care for Rare Noble Pen Shells

June the 2nd, 2022 - The tragically rare noble pen shell, of which there are believed to be only a mere twenty living speciments remaining in the Croatian Adriatic, appears to be a dying species. Mljet National Park, however, is continuing to do all it can to protect the remaining ones and encourage them to flourish in the southern part of the Croatian coast.

As Morski writes, throughout this year, the NP Mljet National Park Public Institution is firmly continuing with the project entitled "The preservation of the noble pen shell in the southern part of the Adriatic Sea", which is being co-financed by the Fund for Environmental Protection and Energy Efficiency of the Republic of Croatia.

In cooperation with the Sunce Association for Nature, Environment and Sustainable Development, collectors were set up in Veliko Jezero and the Lastovo Bay on Friday to catch young noble pen shells, should any of them be present within the general area. The collectors will be in the sea until November and will be a base on which perisha larvae can be caught.

Marine experts hope that there are still live adult noble pen shells located in relative proximity and which are close enough to each other for normal fertilisation to occur. Any noble pen shells which are found to be alive will be transported to the aquarium in Pula, where they will be taken care of and attempts at breeding in swimming pools will be made by those in the know.

The noble pen shell rescue project was created to repair the unfortunate situation in which we've seen the ongoing mass death of this strictly protected species across the Mediterranean. Back at the end of 2019, the noble pen shell was included in the Red List of critically endangered species due to a disease that affected it back in 2016 in Spain, and which by 2019, had sadly managed to spread to the Croatian Adriatic. The synergy of an aggressive parasite which causes the disease (Haplosporidium pinnae) and a type of bacteria which does the same (Mycobaterium sherrisii) has brought the noble pen shell to the very brink of extinction. Should it go over that brink, it's believed that there will be no turning back for this Mediterranean species.

If you are swimming and happen to come across a noble pen shell in Croatian waters, you'll be able to tell whether or not the specimen is alive by just gently passing your hand over. If it is alive, the shell will slowly close itself. In this case, do not touch it, but instead inform the Institute for Environmental Protection and Nature of the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development by email, explaining as best you can the shell's location: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

For more, check out our dedicated lifestyle section.

Sunday, 22 May 2022

Only 20 Croatian Noble Pen Shells Left Alive in Adriatic Sea

May the 22nd, 2022 - There are only twenty living Croatian noble pen shells left in this country's part of the Adriatic Sea. A very important project is now underway to try to stop this shellfish from entering the history books entirely, from which it would likely never return.

As Morski/Bruna Rizvanovic writes, the noble pen shell (Pinna nobilis) is a strictly protected species in the Republic of Croatia, and is on the Red List of critically endangered species due to mass deaths caused by parasites (Haplosporidium pinnae) and bacteria (Mycobacterium sp.). The first confirmation of the outbreak in the Croatian part of the Adriatic Sea was received back in 2019. The contagion spread and affected the entire Croatian part of the Adriatic. Unfortunately, the plague did not bypass Lastovo's surrounding waters either.

The goal of the project entitled "The conservation of the noble pen shell (Pinna nobilis) in the Adriatic Sea" is to preserve and save this stunning Mediterranean endemic species of shellfish from extinction, and there are very, very few living specimens of the Croatian noble pen shell left to speak of. This praiseworthy project is being coordinated by the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development of the Republic of Croatia, and is being funded by the Energy Efficiency Fund.

The project funds are intended for the implementation of in situ activities, such as setting up collectors for larvae, searching the seabed for living Croatian noble pen shell individuals and ensuring their full protection with the use of cages, shielding them from predators and anthropogenic impact, as well as further education. It also includes ex situ activities such as the placement of live individuals in controlled systems, their maintenance, and running laboratory diagnostics.

Currently, there are about 20 living Croatian noble pen shell individuals in this country's part of the Adriatic Sea, and marine searches for more are still ongoing. This week, the research team of the Croatian Veterinary Institute and the staff of the Lastovo Islands Nature Park have set up collectors to receive larvae in the waters surrounding Lastovo, which will be inspected in October. The collectors installed at six locations are located at a depth of 10 to 15 metres below the surface and are marked on with red buoys. If you spot them on your sailing route, be careful and make sure to totally avoid them.

If a Croatian noble pen shell is discovered and is potentially alive, you should very, very gently pass your hand over it through the water, and if it is alive, the shell will close itself in response to the disturbance. Care should be taken not to touch the individual and to disturb it as little as possible. You should then report your finding and its location by clicking this link.

Any intentional extraction of living or dead individuals is strictly prohibited by Croatian law.

For more, make sure to check out our lifestyle section.