Over the past week, there have been continuous incidents of Turkish trawlers found fishing in Greek waters, not only beyond their territorial boundaries but also deep in the Aegean Sea, approaching up to 100 meters from the Greek islands. This illegal fishing activity has been occurring not only during the night but also continues throughout the day and close to touristic areas such as Patmos and Arki islands, as recorded by the research boat of Archipelagos Institute!

Even more provocative than the attitude of the Turkish fishing vessels is the indifference and inefficiency of the Greek authorities. Despite repeated reports received over this week from citizens, fishermen, tourist boats and the Archipelagos Institute, the authorities have failed to deter Turkish trawlers from Greek territorial waters.

It is also important to note that in some cases where this illegal activity is reported by Greek fishermen, port authorities make these Greek fishermen the target of inspection rather than making use of the information provided and responding to the violations by the Turkish fishing boats.
The illegal Turkish trawlers remain in Greek waters for multiple days and only return to Turkey to unload their catch. All of this occurs in a region where Greek trawlers are forbidden to fish during this season and artisanal Greek fishermen can hardly make a living due to the overexploitation of the local fish stocks.

When Archipelagos’ research boat approached these illegal trawlers, we received verbal threats, as well as the feeling that as the years go by these pirate fishermen are taking advantage of the lack of enforcement and take for granted fishing in Greek waters without consequences. The fact that the national authorities are incapable of addressing these incidents even during the busy summer months creates a dangerous precedent. What should we expect during the harsh sea conditions of the Aegean in winter, which is forgotten when the last tourists depart?

To address this problem, it is fundamental that our national policy is clearly defined. This is not one isolated incident, but an issue that is regularly observed throughout the eastern Aegean over the past years. It is not only a violation of the Greek territory, but also a clear theft of our marine resources and destruction of our fishing grounds. The tolerance of this situation could lead to far greater consequences in the future.

For years Archipelagos Institute has been making a great effort to work towards the solution of this complex environmental-political problem, which is causing depletion of our already overexploited fish stocks and the destruction of productive marine ecosystems.

Thodoris Tsimpidis
Director, Archipelagos Institute of Marine Conservation