How Like a Reef

Partnered Initiatives

The Partnered Initiatives page showcases projects where we are forming partnerships to strengthen collective efforts. 

Presently, we are engaged in collaboration with two complementary initiatives focused on cuttlefish survival and erosion mitigation within the Venice Lagoon. These endeavours are being co-developed by marine scientists at the Stazione Umberto d’Ancona, University of Padova in collaboration with local fishers. 

As How Like a Reef, continues to evolve, we aim to broaden our collaborations to include other locale.

    Laurel tree branches retrieved after weeks underwater to check for cuttlefish egg deposition. Photo by Emily Sepe.

    Cuttlefish Survival

    Stazione Umberto d’Ancona, University of Padova
    This initiative is dedicated to addressing the decline in cuttlefish egg mortality on fishing gears, undertaken through collaboration between artisanal Lagoon and Adriatic fishers and marine biologists. Historically, cuttlefish (Sepia officinalis) have been drawn to the sheltered waters of the lagoon for egg-laying, playing an important role in local culinary traditions and economies. However, reduction in habitat complexity, particularly the disappearance of seagrass beds, has led to an increased deposition of cuttlefish eggs on fishers’ nets. This poses practical challenges and results in the loss of new generations of cuttlefish.

    The project leverages the ecological knowledge of fishers by strategically deploying submerged laurel tree branches to attract cuttlefish. Fishers have long recognised this traditional practice of using the scent of bay leaves to lure cuttlefish. The submerged bushes create an intricate habitat, with numerous nooks and recesses formed by the branching structure and leaves, facilitating egg deposition.

    By improving the survival rate of cuttlefish eggs, the initiative aims to support cuttlefish populations and ensure that artisanal fishers can sustain their practices. To encourage participation in this conservation effort, the initiative plans to offer financial incentives. These incentives will be facilitated through the creation of a label, enabling cuttlefish caught by participating fishers to command better prices at local markets.

    Cuttlefish egg deposition. Photo by Emily Sepe.
    Cuttlefish egg deposition. Photo by Emily Sepe.
    Cuttlefish egg deposition on fishing gears. Photo by Emily Sepe.

    Erosion Mitigation

    Alberto Barausse, Stazione Umberto d’Ancona, University of Padova.
    The initiative focuses on combating erosion by constructing fence-like wooden structures to safeguard the delicate edges of salt marshes from the erosive forces of waves and currents. These structures are built using biodegradable materials, ensuring minimal impact on the environment. Importantly, unlike more rigid designs that can interfere with natural processes, these structures allow for sedimentation accumulation and support vital biogeochemical cycles.

    Erosion of the lagoon, exacerbated by increased boat traffic from mass tourism and dredging activities aimed at maintaining shipping channels, significantly leads to the gradual homogenisation –deepening, and flattening of lagoon bottoms– exacerbating salt marsh erosion while contributing to the subsidence of Venice and overall reduction in life.

    Salt marshes are characterised by their unique salt-tolerant vegetation with phytodepuration properties. They play a crucial role in supporting diverse life forms by providing morphological niches and facilitating biogeochemical cycles. However, erosion poses a significant threat to the integrity of these salt marshes, disrupting these life-supporting cycles and habitats.

    Central to this initiative is the proactive engagement of local communities, leveraging their expertise and deep-rooted connection to the land and water. The initiative aims to preserve these vital coastal habitat by establishing a sustainable economic framework with the necessary resources and techniques for constructing and maintaining such fences.

    Photo by Alberto Barausse
    Photo by Alberto Barausse
    Photo by Alberto Barausse

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