BEIRUT: A gathering of ministers, scientists and media celebrated the 5th anniversary of the marine data-collecting ship the Cana on Monday at Beirut’s port. The new conference took place on the Cana and celebrated coordination between the Italian Foreign Ministry and the Lebanese government in collecting data along Lebanon’s coastline and further out into the Mediterranean Sea. For the past five years research conducted aboard Cana is directly overseen by Lebanon's National Council for Scientific Research.
"We are a small but very efficient team," said NCSR head Mouin Hamzeh. "The results of our maritime research will directly affect Lebanon's public sector."
A group of Lebanese scientists and one Italian, specializing in subjects related to marine biology and other maritime sciences, presented data collected over the last five years that focused on topics such as pollution, coastal wildlife, hydrobiology, fishing practices, bottlenose dolphin sightings and others. The scientists that presented, including the Director at the National Centre for Marine Sciences in Lebanon Dr. Gaby Khalaf, stressed that a high level of environmental pollution is currently found off the Lebanese shoreline, largely due to waste mismanagement. The scientist collective are also working on mapping wildlife along the Lebanese coast.
A joint Italian-Lebanese initiative called Pesca Libano provides technical assistance to the Ministry of Agriculture in the field of fishery development. Its findings suggest that the famous and coveted Sultan Ibrahim fish (Red Mullet) is most prevalent off the central Lebanese coast while giant shrimp are also widely found off the coast in shallow water but are largely unfarmed due to fishermen not possessing the correct equipment. The Lagocephalus sceleratus, much feared by Lebanese fishermen, was also pinpointed as a poisonous puffer fish that wrecks gear and is mainly found living off the southern Lebanese coast. The next step according to Pesca Libano is to validate data over the coming years in order to make comparisons and provide reliable information that would reflect positively of Lebanon’s fishing community.
Following the presentations, a few of the present ministers gave brief comments on Cana’s achievements over the last half decade. “We will base all our decisions on the correct information and scientific data,” said Environment Minister Mohammad Mashnouk, emphasizing the importance of Cana ongoing data collection. The ministers of Industry, Labor, Agriculture, and Energy were also present aboard the scientific ship as was Italian Ambassador to Lebanon Giuseppe Morabito.
Morabito described the marine biology research done by the Cana as "crucial" and said the data would aid Lebanon in finding a "more responsible approach" toward managing its coastline.
"It's a pleasure to be here today," Morabito added. "I am proud to witness [that] Italy and Lebanon...achieved an important goal."