Ischia Island and the ASD Diving Agency lies just 30km off the coast of mainland Italy and, with a Mediterranean climate, is a tourist hotspot. It is a volcanic island, so almost entirely mountainous and well known for its thermal waters and spas that have used to heal the body and restore the spirit since ancient times.
Because of its rocky terrain the island is popular with snorkelers and divers and ASD Diving Agency sits at the heart of this community. It offers a variety of PADI courses including the Naturalist Diver which gives divers a better understanding of the aquatic world and how to interact with it responsibly.
Project Manaia connected with ASD Diving Agency when looking for partners to support our seagrass replanting project. ASD help us replant seeds and ripped off plants and to monitor changes to the condition of the water. We wanted to catch up with diving instructor, marine biologist and school teacher, Sara Fioretti to find out how the season and the project had been this year.
‘I’m a marine biologist, so I know very well the importance and the fundamental role of seagrass. I’ve noticed that something is changing. During the winter I often do my swimming practice in the sea water, wearing a swimming wetsuit, or I go with a stand up paddle board around the coasts. I tested the seawater temperature all year… the temperature is higher than the last years.
Also, it seems that algae is growing much faster. During the summer the seawater is full of mucilage, so the upper layer of the seawater is generally not so clear. However, we need scientific data about the different organism species to fully understand the situation.’
Sara reminded us how we met and updated us on the work we’ve done together.
‘I met the amazing Project Manaia at the Diving Agency in Ischia. The Diving Agency staff are very careful with the environment and promote good environmental practices and I enjoyed a “planting dive” in the early summer with the Project Manaia team.
Unfortunately, the seeds we planted didn’t grow. When we found the seeds, we stored them in the fridge at a temperature of 4° for some weeks before planting them. The seawater temperature was not cold enough when we planted the seeds, so maybe the difference in temperature created a stress condition’ and they couldn’t survive.’
Life on the Island
We asked Sara what life has been like on the island and the challenges they face to work sustainably.
‘Being so close to Naples means Ischia is far too touristy. Too many people, generally from April to November, arrive in the island every year. In summer the population triples. From this year politicians have banned disposable plastic, but it’s not enough. It’s very difficult to adopt a sustainable life. Too many people! Too many boats. Too many anchors on the seabed. People generally don’t know that if they drop the anchor on the Posidonia oceanica meadow, they do serious damage.
In Ischia we are very far from eco tourism. However, compared to past years, more people are interested in nature particularly for trekking and for snorkelling and diving too. I’m optimistic for the coming years. Interest in the “natural world” is growing up!’
Can divers or visitors to the island do anything to help the seagrass replanting project?
‘Divers can plant the seagrass seeds or small plants and help us monitor the new baby plants. Non-divers, and obviously the divers too, can collect seeds, but can also spread knowledge about the seeds, the seagrass and their fundamental roll in the ocean ecosystem.’
The Importance of Education
Sara shares our view that education is important to help people understand the importance of the sea and inspire them to protect it.
‘I strongly believe that education is the only useful tool to protect the sea. It’s obvious that not everyone knows the mechanisms that regulate oceans and the amazing marine organisms. Everyone as his job, everyone has his knowledge, but we all enjoy the benefits of the oceans. Only by knowing the ocean and understanding the importance of the ecosystem we all enjoy, can we adopt behaviours that are useful for its protection.
I have been collaborating for over 10 years with Marevivo, an association that for decades taught in schools the importance of protecting the sea. with an engaging and playful teaching style. I worked as a marine biologist in a marine research centre and I’m now a teacher in the high school. I think that knowledge is a very important and powerful tool.’
Interview with Sara Fioretti from ASD Diving Agency, written by Caroline Anderson for Project Manaia, December 2022