The Gialova lagoon, in the Peloponnese in south-west Greece, is one of 10 major lagoons in Greece. It hosts a rich and varied fauna, not least because the Gialova wetland is an important stopover for many bird species on their way to and from Africa.
Reeds and water plants grow luxuriantly in its freshwater marshes. Its shallow waters which are full of fish, attract a great many waterbirds that pass the winter there.
The Gialova lagoon has long been considered as a specially valuable wetland, not least least because of its splendid situation adjoining the magnificant and historic Navarino bay.
It is close to the ancient city of Pylos, where legend has it that the Mycenean fleet, led by Agamemnon, left to reclaim Helen, wife of Menelaus, who had fled to Troy with her lover Paris.
Navarino Bay has always been a staging post between the Middle East and the Mediterranean, or between the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea. In its depths are still hidden the sunken vessels of the Ottoman armada after their historic defeat in the Battle of Navarino Bay in 1821.
At the present time, huge oil tankers cross the Bay, en route from oil-rich Middle eastern countries to the oil-hungry countries of Europe. And on the way, they stop at Pilos harbour in order to refuel, and sometimes oil is discharged into the Bay, which may enter the protected lagoon. Such oil discharges and spills have undoubtedly caused the Bay and the adjacent Gialova lagoon to deteriorate.
In Navarino Bay over the last 15 years three serious oil spill incidents have taken place. In 1980, the IRENESE SERENADE sank inside the Bay and discharged almost six million gallons of crude oil into the surrounding waters.
In 1987, the oil tanker HAPPY LEADER spilled another large amount of crude oil inside the Bay, which suffered the same fate.
In October 1993, the oil tanker ILIAD went aground and leaked 74000 gallons of crude oil into the Bay. On each occasion, the cargo of oil spread from the Bay into the lagoon. The oil spills caused serious environmental problems in the marine and the lagoon ecosystems and affected fish production both of the wild and the farmed stock in Navarino Bay.
Land reclamation has had a devastating effect on the lagoon: reclamation begun in the 1950s has reduced its area from 7 and a half square kilometres to just 2 and a half square kilometers. In spite of this reduction, there is still a thriving fishing industry in the Gialova lagoon. Its shoals of fish still attract fishermen who use shallow draft fishing boats with a distinctive structure, which has not changed very much over many years.