A European Union-supported project to protect the Pinna Nobilis, known as the ‘noble pen shell’ or ‘fan mussel,’ a species formed 20 million years ago and now at risk of extinction due to climate change, is underway in Italian and Slovenian waters. A team of researchers, molecular biologists, divers, communicators and ordinary citizens are working together, united by the desire to inhabit Creation without causing it further harm.
In Italy, the “Life Pinna” project has gotten off the ground to do just that, aiming to reduce the risk factors that threaten its conservation; it has also launched an innovative recolonization program. The project officially kicked off last October, supported by the European Union’s LIFE financial support program for the environment, with entities such as ARPAL, the Regional Agency for Environmental Protection of Liguria, Asinara National Park, NIB – Slovenian National Institute of Biology, the Shoreline Cooperative, the University of Genoa and Sassari, and finally Triton Research, which is responsible for communications and raising awareness about the project and the need to safeguard this species. Four Italian regions are also involved in the four-year initiative, which will end in 2025: Liguria, Sardinia, Friuli-Venezia Giulia and Tuscany, as well as the Obalno-kraska region in Slovenia.
The importance of the Pinna’s ecosystem
But if this precious mussel were to disappear altogether, it would be a real tragedy for the sea. First, for the loss of biodiversity, secondly, for the role it plays in the ecosystem. The Fins are in fact “filters,” that is, they filter and clean the seawater of waste, residue, dirt, restoring its purity. They are also important to counteract seabed erosion, an unstoppable process that is increasingly extensive. Each mussel is also a micro-habitat in its own right, because with its “scaffolding,” it allows many other filtering organisms, such as sponges, crustaceans and marine worms, to enjoy an ideal location to feed. There is even a shrimp, the Pontonia Pinnophylax, that completes its entire life cycle inside the Pinna, effectively making it its home.
How to defend God’s creations
“First of all, to save the Pinna Nobilis,” explains Stefano Picchi, Executive Director of Triton Research, “it is necessary to identify resistant specimens, that is, those still alive that are not lying dead on the seabed. For this we have experienced divers who perform reconnaissance; then we need to investigate safer and more suitable places among the Posidonia Tapeweed meadows where we can reintroduce the animals, making sure that pathogens are not present. Then, and this is perhaps the most important point, we try to experiment with captive breeding with pioneering procedures, never used so far, to create nurseries where young ones can be raised. The last step in the process is to move the new mollusks to four already selected areas.
This is why we have also launched a photo contest on the lifepinna.eu website, precisely to invite everyone, young and old, to observe, portray and be fascinated by the nature hidden on our seabeds or among the rocks on the surface. Sometimes, improper behavior toward the environment comes from a lack of knowledge of it, from a kind of detachment that instead needs to be bridged by working on a new alliance between us and the world around us. One removes a coral from the seabed to decorate one’s home, without thinking about the damage that seemingly insignificant but selfish gesture can cause.”
Listening to and taking inspiration from the Pope’s words
The four-year LIFE Pinna project aims not only to protect and monitor surviving populations, but to recolonize the species in target habitats. Already in the early stages of the project in the Upper Adriatic Sea, several dozen surviving specimens were found, which, after being genetically analyzed, are now being constantly monitored. Those most exposed and threatened by human activities have been moved to safer sea areas or to laboratory aquariums where they grow in protected conditions. Also, researchers have begun careful genetic analyses to rule out the presence of pathogens at candidate sites deemed the most suitable for restocking the species. The success of these activities will not be of exclusively local interest, as the project is designed to be replicated in other contexts, while developing best practices for all stages, from monitoring to breeding in captivity, to reintroduction into the wild.
Raising awareness and getting involved
Source: Vatican News