In a bold attempt, the Panhellenic Middle Range Union of Fisheries Shipowners, (P.E.P.M.A) attempted to intervene in the research activities that Archipelagos is conducting in the south of Samos.
The destructive and frequently illegal fishing practices utilized by P.E.P.M.A members, mainly trawling over productive habitats, is a significant factor adding to the degradation of the Greek seas. Despite this they managed to quickly and easily mobilize the officials of the Ministry of Rural Development and Food to check the legitimacy of the work that Archipelagos was conducting.
Since early May, Archipelagos – having obtained the necessary permits from the relevant national authorities– has implemented preliminary fisheries recording and marine habitat research in the south of the Samos region. This has involved working closely with fishermen and the local communities within the region to gather data. This is part of a research project that is conducted in cooperation with the Prefecture of Samos. The Hydrographic Office of the Navy has given Archipelagos permission to conduct surveys. Whilst these surveys are being conducted a temporary exclusion zone is created, using pre-determined set spots as boundaries. This exclusion zone is purely for the safety of seafarers and prevents any large vessel entering the research field, or coming within a three-mile radius of Archipelagos research boats.
The temporary exclusion of trawlers in the region and the obvious concern about the proposed creation of the first, pilot, co-managed fisheries zone in Greece by Archipelagos (in collaboration with the coastal fishermen and the local authorities and communities of Samos), was the cause of the reaction by the P.E.P.M.A and the direct intervention of the Ministry.
Furthermore, it revealed how wide open the channels of communication are between the ship owners and the Government, as well as with the services from the Ministry.
The mobilization of the Ministry by the ship owners occurred in a year of continuous delinquency, where the commercial fishing vessels are frequently fishing much closer to the coastline than the legal limit (which in Greece is anyway too close to the shore, compared to neighboring countries and the EU legislation), destroying important and productive marine ecosystems and depleting fish stocks, even during their reproductive season. The depleted fish stocks, asides from causing noticeable reduction in coastal fisheries catches, also lead marine mammal populations closer to starvation. In seas that are emptying the competition between fishermen and marine mammals is intensified, with an unknown number of the latter being brutally slaughtered
The main problem of trawling fisheries in Greece, as well as of fisheries overall, is the complete lack of management and monitoring of their activities. Even the highly inadequate measure of the “one mile restriction” placed on trawlers – the minimum distance from the coast, as designated by Greek law – is violated almost daily. These illegal practices are rarely recorded by the authorities, and the relevant penalties are very rarely enforced, hence encouraging the destruction of the protected productive ecosystems (e.g seagrass beds and coralligene reefs).
However, we expect that from now on the decision of the EU Commissioner of Maritime Affairs & Fisheries, will prevent Greece from deviating further from the European Regulation 1967/2006
The inadequate functioning of the national vessel monitoring system (VMS), allows certain vessels to break the law officially since their position is monitored only once every two hours at a known predetermined time. In this way they have the chance to fish illegally close to the shore, causing irreversible damage to protected and highly productive marine ecosystems
Archipelagos Institute is able to witness such violations, both by cross-checking with the relevant data of the Fisheries Control Center, as well as with a series of underwater and surface photographs that have integrated GPS (satellite certification) that confirm distances from the shore and therefore the truth.
Archipelagos’ legal consultants are pursuing the progress of such violations that have been reported to the relevant authorities by Archipelagos’ members. We are also in the process of suing those vessels that not only obstructed scientific research but also created significant risk to those conducting the research.
On this basis, we really wonder about the attitude of the current and previous political leadership and the national authorities, on one hand ignore the demonstrations from the Confederation of Greek Fishermen for the implementation of the measures described in EC 1967/2006, while on the other hand they show excellent reflexes when requested by PEPMA ship owners.
Archipelagos has no intention of being a witness to the illegal destruction and continued deterioration of the Greek seas. We will use every legitimate means to reverse the situation as quickly as possible.