Provision of Marine Environmental Specialized Services for the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) and Permitting Support Services for the nearshore sections of the EastMed pipeline project

6 months (June 2021 – November 2021)

Funded by:
IGI Poseidon

Subcontracted by:
ERM Italia

Project Description:
IGI Poseidon intends to develop a gas pipeline project to transport natural gas from the south-eastern Mediterranean basin to the European Natural Gas Network, namely the EastMed-Poseidon Pipeline Project. The Eastern Mediterranean Pipeline Project (EastMed) is an offshore/onshore natural gas pipeline that will connect eastern Mediterranean energy resources (offshore gas reserves in the Levantine Basin) to mainland Greece via Cyprus and Crete. At a Cyprus level, the EastMed pipeline will consist of short onshore pipeline section that includes a landfall station, located in Zygi area, close to the Vasilikos Master Plan Area. The region (Zygi to Governor’s Beach) is not protected under a legal environmental framework, nonetheless, it hosts some species and habitats of special concern that are listed within EU’s Habitats Directive Annexes, including the Mediterranean Monk Seal (Monachus monachus), the sea turtles Caretta caretta and Chelonia mydas, cetaceans such as the common bottlenose dolphin Tursiops truncatus, Posidonia oceanica beds and semi-submerged sea caves.

The aim of this project was to gather information on the presence of sea turtles and marine mammals within the study area, to assess the water and sediment and to characterize the soft-bottom macrobenthic communities across the nearshore study area of the EastMed Pipeline.

A comprehensive survey was conducted to collected information on presence and nesting of sea turtles at Vasiliko bay. A terrestrial (coastal) survey of the 12.9 km shoreline was conducted to locate and map any nesting activity as well as, on board surveys within the proposed location of the pipeline route. Water and sediment samples were collected at 5 and 22 stations, respectively, within the study area both on the proposed pipeline route as well as reference stations >200 m away from the pipeline route. Expert support by MER was also provided on dedicated and relevant marine sections of the ESIA.

In general, few turtles were sighted during our surveys although the area is known to be used as foraging and nesting ground for seas turtles. The proposed location is characterized by hard substrata in the upper subtidal (0-6 m) with small patches of sand and seagrass P. oceanica. The seagrass forms continuous meadows from around 8-15 m and then gradually becomes patchier until its lower limits (around 25-30 m depth). The macrofaunal samples yielded ~2500 individuals assigned to ~200 taxa belonging to seven phyla and our water and sediment samples showed very little heavy metal pollution despite the heavy industrialization of the area.