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About us


LIFE PINNARCA is a European project devoted to the protection and restoration of the fan mussel Pinna nobilis populations in the Mediterranean Sea.

It is has been conducted with the contribution of the LIFE programme, the European Union’s financial instrument supporting environmental, nature conservation and climate action projects.

The main objective of LIFE PINNARCA is preventing the extinction of Pinna nobilis at the short-medium term, through public awareness and collaboration, gathering existing information on the remaining populations and developing active recovery actions.

Los buceadores en aguas profundas

Project title

Protection and restoration of Pinna nobilis populations as a response to the catastrophic pandemic started in 2016


Start date: 1 October 2021

End date: 31 December 2024

Acronym and reference


LIFE20 NAT/ES/001265


Total budget for the project: 2.249.332€

European financial contribution: 1.347.894€

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Illegal collection of mussels

Increasing awareness to a global scale, in order to reduce the possibility of vandalism and illegal collection of the remaining fan mussels, but also to call for broad public collaboration.

Gather information

Data base

Gathering all existing information on the remaining populations and resistant individuals and include it into a data-base integrated within the LIFE Pinnarca webpage. This will provide a more informed background to other countries planning mitigation and recovery actions, so their effectiveness can be fostered.

Recovery actions

Increase the probabilities

Developing active recovery actions focused both on the resistant individuals and on the remaining non-resistant populations, in order to increase the probabilities of recovery of the species.

Geographic focus

MPAs/SPA along the Spanish coastline

All selected areas host habitats appropriate for Pinna nobilis populations, including from healthy Posidonia oceanica meadows (in all of them except Columbretes Islands) to enclosed bays with gentle hydrodynamic conditions or deeper maërl beds, with optimum substrate and conditions for maintaining fan mussels. These areas also hosted dense fan mussel populations before the MME and had some permanent monitoring stations that were periodically surveyed. Therefore, a priori information about the distribution of fan mussels is available and the probability of finding resistant fan mussels in these areas is higher than in other sites not considered SAC.


Ebro Bays

The Ebro Delta is one of the largest deltas (320,000 ha) in the northwestern Mediterranean Basin and the second most important birding area in Spain. The vicinity of the Ebro River favors the development of agricultural activities, which are largely devoted to rice production that engages ca. 70% of the delta surface. The remaining 30% of the delta plain also contains numerous wetland habitats hosting diverse and abundant wildlife, which are protected by the European Union and by the Ebro Delta Natural Park and Biosphere Reserve (Natura 2000 site of UNESCO).

The population of Pinna nobilis in the Alfacs bay, has been partly affected by the parasitic disease since the summer of 2018, but it was indicated as the second largest population of the species in the Mediterranean with over 90,000 individuals (Prado et al., 2014), and there is still a large number of survivors in the middle and inner parts of the bay.

Mar Menor

The Mar Menor is characterized by a great socio-economic dynamic, with a convergence of activities such as agriculture, tourism, fishing, old mining exploitations, etc. These activities constitute driving forces generating pressures which have generated impacts for decades. The socioeconomic changes in recent years have caused loss of both natural and cultural values as well as traditional uses. The current situation of the Mar Menor urgently demands actions from an integral approach, with the ultimate goal of conserving and replenishing the natural capital and ecosystem services of the lagoon.

By the early 1980s the mollusc Pinna nobilis had appeared in the Mar Menor and rapidly became an important component of the benthos. Its rapid dispersion within the lagoon gave rise to one of the most important western Mediterranean populations of the mollusc. After this wide settlement process, in 2017 a high mortality event occurred in the

Mar Menor, due to the environmental collapse that occurred in the lagoon. This environmental collapse took place in the second half of 2015, when, after decades of nutrient and phytosanitary inputs from nearby agricultural activities, the Mar Menor underwent a Harmful Algal Bloom (HABs) event. At this point the lagoon reached a stage of serious eutrophication. In spring 2016, the high concentration of phytoplankton prevented the light from reaching the deeper areas of the lagoon, limiting photosynthesis. The vegetation below the new photic threshold died and the organic matter which accumulated on the bottom caused processes of anoxia. The absence of oxygen caused the death of the entire benthic community and more than 85% of the lagoon surface was affected.

Kalloni Gulf

Greek territorial waters are characterized by an intricate geomorphology that reflects past geologic history and recent geodynamic processes. Shallow shelves, deep basins, and troughs alternate throughout the area. Greek seas have a distinctive insular character with more than 1,400 islands or islets, while the extensive coastline comprises several landforms, including Sandy beaches, rocky shores, cliffs, coastal lagoons and deltaic systems, as well as a notable variety of coastal and marine habitat types. At many sites, Pinna nobilis used to be very abundant, e.g. in Kalloni and Gera Gulfs in Lesvos island, in Souda bay in Crete, in Evoikos and Thermaikos Gulfs, Messolongi lagoon, and in the marine Lake Vouliagmeni, in a variety of marine habitats, such as seagrass beds (mostly Posidonia oceanica and Cymodocea nodosa), algal beds (mostly Caulerpa prolifera), deltaic systems, lagoons and marine lakes.

Selected marine areas along Italian Coasts

Cilento Area, Punta Campanella and Ischia island include Marine Protected Areas and Partial Nature Reserve, Law 394/1991.

In Thyrrenum area of Campania, Pinna nobilis have been described from the north to the south of the region, on the Sorrento coast and Cilento, within AMPs of Punta Campanella and Cilento comprehending the islands of Ischia e Procida. Miseno, in the northern area of the region, extends over 40 hectares and has a perimeter of about 2,800 meters while the average depth is 2.25 meters and the maximum is 4. It is separated from the sea by a Sandy barrier about 200 meters wide but is connected with it through two foci: the first located near the town of Miliscola and the second located near the bay of Miseno.

Brusc Lagoon

The total surface of this area is 506 ha (min: -30 m, max: 8 m) with 99% of marine surface. This site is unique since it includes the only lagoon of the French metropolitan coast. This lagoon, with a surface of 42 ha and a maximum depth of 1.5 m was formerly considered as a fish nursery as it was covered with a Cymodocea meadow. During the last years, the surface covered by the Cymodocea sea grass has dramatically dropped leaving a vast area of sand and muddy bottoms. Since 2018, the site profits from a rehabilitation program led by IOPR to restore the seagrass meadow. The North part of the lagoon is a reef barrier of a shallow Posidonia oceanica meadow.

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Action Items


Preparatory actions

A1) Planning correction measures

A2) Location of optimum sites

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Conservation Actions

C1) Installation of larvae collectors

C2) Exhaustive shallow census

C3) Deep area census

C4) Translocation of individuals

C5) Comparative genomics

C6) Actions for environmental improvement in sanctuary areas

C7) Tank maintenance of healthy individuals

C8) Treatment assays and analysis

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Monitoring project actions

D1) Follow up of juvenile individuals

D2) Follow up of resistant individuals

D3) Follow up of Mar Menor sanctuary population

D4) Monitoring and evaluation of project actions

D5) Development of socioeconomic impact study

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Public awareness and dissemination of results



Project Management

F1) General project management

F2) Supervision of project development

F3) After LIFE plan

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