A serious incident took place on June 30th, in the marine area between Samos and Fournoi. Members of Archipelagos tried to stop illegal fishing activities carried out by Turkish fishing boats, within the Greek territorial waters.

Transporting of bluefin tuna and attempts to carry out illegal fishing activities were being made by the Turkish vessels: Aboulkerim(34.18.TG.2699) and Masallah.Refik.Usta (10.03.TG.0123) in the area with the coordinates 37ο39’49’’ Β, 26ο34’32’’Α.

The first observation was made by Archipelagos’ research sailing boat, ‘Nireas’, at 19:00 (while it was conducting oceanographic sightings), two miles south-west from the Samos coastline.

One of the Turkish vessels (Masallah.Refik.Usta) was dragging a cage customized for carrying live fish (most probably tuna fish), while the other vessel (Aboulkerim) was sailing nearby ready to use its fishing equipment.

At 19:30 some preparations for illegal fishing activity were observed, but ‘Nireas’ sailed away because it was having difficulties manoeuvring. ‘Archipelagos’ returned to the same point with its speed boat, ‘Okeanos’, and the Archipelagos crew found that there had been fishing equipment used in the area between Fournoi and Samos, at a distance of 1.5 miles from Samos coastline.

During their presence in the area, Archipelagos crew faced aggressive behaviour by the Turkish fishing crew, which progressed into a direct threat, when some of the Archipelagos members tried to cut the fishing cages and release the fish. One of them (Aboulkerim) turned its bow toward “Okeanos’ and tried

The negative development of this incident caused the Turkish vessels to sail away from Greek territorial waters.

Right from the start of the incident, Archipelagos’ members had informed the Greek port police and continued doing so as the incident unfolded. However, the port police did not act to control the foreign boats and their illegal activities. After speaking with the Center of Fishing Monitoring, Archipelagos learned that the Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) was not able to spot the Turkish vessels, despite the fact that, according to Regulation (EC) 1224/2009, vessels of third countries should have appropriate electronic equipment (and should have the equipment turned on) when sailing in Greek territorial waters so that they can be spotted and identified by VMS.

The Greek authorities absolutely failed to comply with Regulation (ΕC) 1224/2009, resulting in foreign fishing vessels, which are part of a gang that traffics very expensive fishing goods, to act freely and illegally in Greek waters. These illegal fishing operations are taking control over crucial and important areas of the Aegean Sea, stopping and threatening anybody that tries to stop them from doing so.

We are convinced that the national control and safety systems for the Greek Seas are unfortunately corrupt to a point where the protection of fisheries, as well as important national interests and dignity, are in serious danger.

Furthermore, considering that the areas where the fishing nets are dropped (circular nets of 10-12km length) are inhabited by sea mammals, the danger of trapping and killing such sea mammals is great. (It is also common that carcasses of such mammals and turtles are being eaten by passing tuna that are being carried in cages by the fishing boats).

Archipelagos’ members will keep monitoring key spots of the Aegean Sea to work to prevent similar events from occurring.