With an area of about 54 thousand hectares, the Egadi Islands Marine Protected Area encloses the archipelago made up of Favignana, Levanzo, Marettimo and the islets of Formica and Maraone and constitutes the largest marine reserve in the Mediterranean, the arrival point of several organisms carried by the ocean current, which represent an important resource for biological balance.
It was established with the aim of guarding and protecting the natural marine habitats, the reserve has an inestimable naturalistic value.
Its depths host the largest and best preserved Posidonia oceanica prairie. This habitat is essential for the balance of the marine ecosystem: considered the lung of the Mediterranean, it produces oxygen and absorbs CO2; mitigates coastal erosion thanks to the formation of banquettes, accumulations of dead leaves that beach during storm surges; it is the ideal environment for the growth of juveniles of marine organisms.
The reserve stands out for its very rich biodiversity, the result of the great variety of habitats. Of particular interest are the coral habitat and the Vermeti sidewalk.
The fish fauna is highly diversified and, among the most common species, there are the brown grouper, the sea bottom grouper, the snapper, the pharaoh bream and the amberjack. Lobsters and cephalopod molluscs such as octopuses are also very common.
In the Egadi archipelago there is also about 25% of the protected or vulnerable species of the Mediterranean. Among these, the bluefin tuna, the very rare monk seal, the Caretta caretta sea turtle, cetaceans such as dolphins, bottlenose dolphins and sperm whales, some species of sharks and manta rays, the bivalve pinna nobilis, and the ferruginea limpet.
The seabed is mainly mixed, as it is made up of sand and rock. This characteristic has allowed the formation of an unparalleled ecosystem, in which the strong sea currents represent an element of vitality for large predators.
Among the sites of interest, there are the splendid submerged and semi-submerged caves, whose walls are covered with very colorful organisms.
There also are numerous scuba diving sites, which can be superficial, deep, in caves or on marine archaeological sites, you can in fact observe finds dating back to the battle of the Egadi Islands, a famous naval battle between Romans and Carthaginians, which ended the first Punic war.
The Egadi Islands MPA is divided into four areas: A – integral reserve, B – general reserve, C – partial reserve and D – protection, which are distinguished by the level of protection and consequent usability. It is advisable to visit the official website of the MPA to check the outline of the activities allowed in the different areas.
The Sea Turtle Recovery Center of the Egadi Islands MPA is an important point of reference in the Trapani area for the care and recovery of specimens of sea turtles in difficulty, usually Caretta caretta, victims of accidental catches of fishing, plastic, in which become trapped or swallow, or, in rarer cases, collision with boats.
The Center, which is located on the island of Favignana, has two locations:
- in the semi-basement rooms of Palazzo Florio, once the Art Nouveau residence of the Florio family, there is the outpatient clinic, an area reserved for staff who offer first aid to the specimens;
- at the former Florio factory, there is the animal enclosure, a room equipped with large tanks filled with sea water in which the hospitalized specimens continue to receive treatment until complete rehabilitation. It is at this point that they will be reinserted into the sea, in compliance with the dedicated protocols. The room is open to the public, who are provided with basic notions on the biology and ecology of sea turtles and on the best practices to follow in case of sighting / recovery of specimens in difficulty.
The Monk Seal Observatory of the Egadi Islands MPA is located inside the monumental Castle of Punta Troia, on the island of Marettimo.
The project from which it was born aims to monitor the presence of specimens of Monk Seal within the perimeter of the WAP. The research and study activities of the Monk Seal are carried out alongside ISPRA researchers. Thanks to the strategically positioned camera traps, the winter presence of the rare seal has been demonstrated over the years.
The Observatory is open to the public in the summer.