The search for the last Salaria in Cyprus

The Aim

We will work with authorities and in line with EU regulations and water framework directives to establish at least one natural flowing river in the Lemesos district of Cyprus, which as part of a comprehensive restoration program in cooperation with local people and businesses, can be the site of a re-introduction project for the only indigenous, exclusively freshwater dwelling fish species of Cyprus, Salaria fluviatilis – a species presumed extinct after 111 years absent since it’s discovery.

The Objectives

Complete an island wide search-find survey which includes the Northern territory to determine for certain the absence or presence of the species.

Before any re-introduction is considered we must first complete a comprehensive search to determine that Salaria is indeed extinct and not hidden in remote places unnoticed

Complete genetic sequencing of diagnostic material from Cypriot Salaria to identify its correct taxonomy and therefore its closest living relative.

By learning the exact genetic make-up of the extinct Salaria specimens we can identify if they are a new species or not and find out which closest living Salaria species could replace it in Cyprus

Conduct a feasibility study and Ecological Impact Assessment (EcIA)

After 111 years, it is possible that habitats may have changed to such a degree that they may no longer support a species that once lived there. We need to identify and assess the present environmental issues such as local construction, pollution (including effluent drainage) and dams against the likelihood of successful re-introduction of Salaria.   

Engage with stakeholders

In order to ensure the long term success of the project, we will collaborate with local authorities, established NGO’s, residents and local businesses to ensure the project is supported and likely to succeed long term.

Community support

We will support local authorities and businesses to implement improvements in areas such as effluent and waste disposal and actively engage with community members through person-to-person discussion, effective sign-posting and habitat partitioning.

Establish a captive breeding program for Salaria in Cyprus

Existing successful projects to re-introduce Salaria into it’s native rivers have been closely tied with captive breeding efforts to ensure habitat is well stocked and fish introduced over a measured time frame. We will replicate the most effective methodologies to secure the best chances of success.

Post-project monitoring

In order to have the greatest success after re-introduction, it is crucial that pre-project assessments are followed by ongoing monitoring of the health, density, abundance and impacts on the species and environment. This is how we will measure the expected positive effects of the project and be able to quantify and justify our efforts.

 

Why is this Important?

Salaria sp. “Cyprus” is the only known indigenous fish species to have exclusively inhabited the islands freshwater ecosystems, re-discovery or re-introduction of the species to its native waters would help Cyprus to once again have native fish swimming in its rivers. We expect that it will also provide a renewed interest and incentive to support nature conservation in Cyprus and help to mitigate past blunders (DDT campaigning, non-native species introductions and poor enforcement of environmental legislation).

Salaria fluviatilis from a successful re-introduction program on the Ebro River in Spain.

The Costs

We estimate costs to be generated in the following areas in order to complete this project in four phases.

Phase 1 | Scientific Research

Surveying
Genetic Research
Feasibility Study

Phase 2 |  Engagement, Education & Support

Surveying & Consultation
Stakeholder Support
Educational Materials
Community Engagement

Phase 3 | Habitat Restoration

Signposting
Habitat Partitioning
River Clean-Up

Phase 4 | Captive Breeding & Re-Introduction

Ex-Situ Captive Breeding Program
Re-Introduction
Monitoring

Ongoing Monitoring

Ongoing efforts to monitor the success of the project post-completion, would be required in four distinct parts

  1. Monitoring of fish health, population density / abundance, behaviour and reproduction
  2. Monitoring comparative changes to habitat after restoration efforts
  3. Monitoring success of local education and local business support initiatives
  4. Monitoring implementation of appropriate action by local authorities for environmental infringements

 

October 2018 field trip to Cyprus to search for Salaria; volunteers recorded water parameters and took eDNA samples

Why should we act now?

European Commission Obligations

Implementation of this project would enable Cyprus to fulfil its obligations to the European Commission as agreed in the bilateral meeting on 16th September 2013 and as part of the Water Framework Directive. By supporting the carefully considered completion of this project, Cyprus would no longer have no indigenous freshwater fish species in its rivers, an issue it accepts under action point 3.a.1 of the bilateral meeting minutes reflects negatively on the classification status of its rivers.

Local People & Businesses

Cyprus under-performed in the 2011 EU impact assessment for presence of the toxic herbicide Trifluralin in its water ways. Cyprus was the worst performer for lake pollution and 3rd worst performer for river pollution. Agriculture is an important source of income for many Cypriot people and presents the largest pull on water resources. Responsible and sustainable practices with alternative farming practices should be included in a comprehensive education program for local residents and encouraged as part of good agri-practice protocols for implementation by local agricultural businesses. The financial benefits of organic farming over farming with the use of chemical pesticides can also be campaigned for with direct economic incentive for farmers and quantifiable positive effects on their local ecosystems, the results of which can be used in advertising to demonstrate the passion of the local businesses for the environment at the local and wider levels.

Rewilding

Re-introducing the only native exclusively freshwater fish of Cyprus to the islands waterways would restore natural functionality to those ecosystems and remediate the errors of the 1949-1950 DDT campaign (initiated by the government in order to eradicate malaria) which most likely resulted in the extirpation of Salaria.

The Conclusion

The potential re-introduction of Salaria fluviatilis to the inland waters of Cyprus would be an immense success for the nation and would demonstrate a renewed passion by authorities for the native fauna of the island and redeem the errors of the past. It would enable Cyprus to demonstrate environmental efforts in line with EU standards and set an example as a progressive, forward-thinking nation which prioritises environmental policy. The project has potential to provide opportunities for local people and businesses and mitigate effects of climate change. The species is protected under Annex III of the Bern Convention and should be offered some obligatory habitat protections in the instance of its re-discovery or re-introduction

 

by

Chris is an aquatic researcher and naturalist primarily interested in freshwater teleosts, crustacea and macrophytes. A specialist in fish nutrition, his background includes the establishment of his own business where he develops specially formulated feeds for ornamental & farmed fish and other aquatic species closely based on their natural diets. His personal research includes the freshwater and coastal habitats on the island of Cyprus and the ecological impacts of unsustainable practices occurring in the Amazon and Orinoco basins; he is also an avid collector and cultivator of rare and endangered rainforest plants.