The Marine Environment

Until a few decades ago, the coast, sea and sea bed of the present Protected Marine Area offered sights of rare beauty. On the sand and silt beds at a depth of between 30 and 35 metres the expanses of Posidonia oceanica which offer refuge and sustenance to a vast gamma of marine organisms, from the colourful Nudibranchi Gastropods to the characteristic seahorse (Hippocampus guttulatus), have become much reduced. The meadows of Posidonia are biosystems greatly at risk. One of the main threats and sources of damage is the indiscriminate anchorage of all kinds of boats. Nowadays in the waters around the Sorrento peninsula the stretches of posidonia are very fragmentary. Only a very, few areas have been spared, and that only in part, including the splendid rocks of Vetara and Vervece, quite rightly included in the fully protected zone.

There is an enormous variety of flora and fauna to be found here: underwater rock faces covered in the yellow antozoo Parazoanthus axinelle, known as sea daisies, expanses of green algae (Halineda tuna), marine cactus and elegant Spirographis spallanzani. Deeper down we can find forests of white, yellow and red gorgonia (Eunicella singularis, E. cavolini, Paramuricea), splendid sea fans, with pink cleats and red Anthias swimming around them. Numerous other examples of resident species such as base, squid, lobsters, stone-bass, rainbow-wrasse and scorpion fish enrich the typical Mediterranean fauna.

At the base of the rock formations in the dimly lit gorges and at the entrance to the underwater caves in surroundings of great fascination and beauty, you may be able to observe, if you are lucky, the elegant and delicate parapandal prawns (Plesionika narval) and the Alicia mirabilis, an invertebrate similar to an Actinozoa with tentacles which exude an irritant.

Another valued organism which can still be found in the waters of the Protected Marine Area of Punta Campanella is the date mussel (Litophaga litophaga). This bivalvular mollusc lives on the limestone walls from the surface to a depth of 10-15 metres. It digs itself niches in the rock gradually becoming absorbed into it. The date mussel takes between 15 and 20 years to reach a length of 5 cm, the clandestine fishing of this animal is one of the main reasons for the ecological catastrophe as it has destroyed the rock surface of many reefs. This irresponsible act alters and often eliminates entire marine ecosystems dependent on the rocky substrata; the creation of the Protected Marine Area of Punta Campanella may at last put a halt to this environmental devastation.