Fisheries have been an activity of vital importance for the communities of the island and coastal regions of Greece for thousands of years. Archeozoological studies have shown that the species of fish caught by the Aegean fishermen 10,000 years ago, are largely the same as the species targeted by small-scale coastal fisheries today.

Over the past couple of decades, however, marine resources have been over-exploited, often due to destructive practices. If drastic measures are not taken, the fishing industry faces the risk of collapse, which would have major socio-economic and ecological consequences for Greece's island and coastal communities.

The primary causes of the drastic declines in fish stocks are overfishing, habitat destruction, the increasingly common use of destructive and illegal techniques, pollution, and climate change. The Mediterranean Sea is among the most overfished bodies of water in the world. According to the European Environment Agency, over 65% of the region's fish stocks are below the safe ecological limits

Catch levels in the Mediterranean have declined by 30% in the last 10 years. Although stock and catch assessments regarding the Greek seas are limited, research from Archipelagos in the eastern Aegean Sea has indicated a decline of up to 50% in catch levels of small-scale fisheries just between 2009 and 20111.

As a result of decades of unsustainable national and EU fishing policies, fisherman are now using larger and faster boats, employing greatly improved methods for finding and catching various species, using longer-ranged equipment, and traveling over larger distances. Despite all this increased effort, small-fishery catch levels continue to decline.


Research, management, and conservation of fisheries are among the most important fields of action at Archipelagos. We are a member of the EU Mediterannean Advisory Council for Fisheries (MEDAC) and cooperate with the Mediterranean Science Commision (CIESM) to implement research related to the impact of climate change on fish stocks and marine ecosystems.

Concerning the promotion of sustainable policies and actions about fisheries, Archipelagos is a member of the international NGO coalition Seas at Risk, a founding member of MedReAct, and was the Greek country coordinator of the EU NGO coalition Ocean2012 until its mission was completed with the reform of the EU Common Fisheries Policy.

EU Mediterranean Advisory Council for Fisheries

The Mediterranean Science Commission

Organization for the protection & restoration of the marine environment

Mediterranean Recovery Action


The sustainable management of fisheries activities is imperative not only for the conservation of marine species and habitats, but also to combat the overexploitation of marine resources for human use. Responsible management can make our seas more productive, ensuring that fisheries will continue to provide a viable profession for fishermen as they have been doing for thousands of years.

Fisheries in the Greek seas can be grouped into two large categories:

Small-scale artisanal fisheries

Small-scale fisheries use nets, long lines, and traps. They are fundamental parts of the Greek island and coastal economy and culture, representing 97% of the Greek fishing fleet, and providing 50% of the total national catch.

Large-scale fisheries

Large-scale fisheries use gear such as benthic trawling and purse seine nets. They make up approximately 3% of the Greek fishing fleet, but provide 50% of the total fish catch. When deployed unsustainably, they can cause extensive damage to marine ecosystems.

Main problems with fisheries management in Greece:

fishing-nets1.Minimal number of areas where fishing is managed or restricted

According to the EU legislation (Regulation 1967/2006 concerning management measures for the sustainable exploitation of fishery resources in the Mediterranean Sea), by 2008 Greece was supposed to have created a network of “fishing protected areas”. Unfortunately, this was never enforced and we fear that the same lack of political willpower will inhibit the enforcement of new Common Fisheries Policy of the EU (Regulation 2015/812).

There are very few marine areas with applied fisheries management measures, all of which were established decades ago. These have proven to be insufficient in both size and number to combat the decline in species production and fisheries productivity.


2.Lack of conservation of protected habitats

According to the EU legislation it is forbidden to fish with towed fishing gear in the areas marked as protected habitats, including Posidonia seagrass meadows and coralligene reefs. By the EU regulation 1967/2006, Greece is obligated to collect scientific data on the location of these protected habitats and map their distribution. However, the official mapping of Posidonia meadows is highly inefficient and there has been no mapping of coralligene reefs at all. As a result, the enforcement of all management measures necessary to protect these vital habitats as defined by the national and EU legislation is virtually impossible.

Illegal fishing practices practices have led to the destruction of Posidonia meadows, while the current “legal” activities cause irreversible damage to the fragile ecosystems of coralligene reefs (since coralligenous reefs have not been mapped, the areas where they are located cannot be defined as no-trawling zones).

This is a violation of the existing EU environmental legislation protecting these priority marine habitats, which can take hundreds to thousands of years to recover from the damage caused by illegal and destructive fisheries practices.

3.Lack of species protection

The Greek seas support a large number of rare, protected and endangered species, including marine mammals, turtles, several species of sharks, fish and invertebrates. Many of these species have been defined as protected and/or threatened by the EU legislation and a number of international conventions. Consequently, Greece is obligated to enforce their protection. Despite the current international and national legislation, many of these species are still being caught (deliberately or as by-catch), retained on board, shipped, landed, transferred or sold, and the relevant authorities are rarely informed. Several illegal species, such as Pinna nobilis, Charonia tritonis and Lithophaga lithophaga, can be bought in restaurants and fish markets around Greece, and some of them are even offered in menus of takeaway restaurants. It is of utmost importance that efficient actions are taken in order to put an end to this illegal trade.

small-fishes4.Fishing and selling of undersized marine organisms

The EU has introduced legislation defining the legal size of fish that can be caught by fisheries, yet this laws are often disregarded and undersized organisms are still being captured. The major problem is that there are no efficient control mechanisms to enforce the current minimum catch size criteria. Large quantities of undersized marine organisms are sold in the Greek fish markets, including many protected species.

Another issue is that the current Greek and EU legislations use minimum sizes for many species of fish that are smaller than the common reproductive sizes. This endangers the sustainability of these species' populations since many individual fish are caught long before they have had a chance to reproduce.


5.Inefficient control via the Vessel Monitoring System (VMS)

The National Fishing Monitoring Centre receives information on the location of fishing fleets through the satellite-based EU Vessel Monitoring System, which helps reporting and controlling illegal fishing. Unfortunately, this very expensive system is frequently violated and as a result illegal fishing often occurs, but remains unreported.


Archipelagos works in close cooperation with local fishermen’s associations and local authorities of various islands and coastal areas, aiming to collect data on fisheries productivity, main threat factors and the ongoing Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported (IUU) fishery practices. There are two main strategies that Archipelagos employs to promote sustainable fishing practices:

Record local knowledge:

Archipelagos is aware of the vast knowledge that the local fishermen have acquired through many years of hands-on experience in the sea. Their knowledge and conservation concerns are fundamental to the work of the Archipelagos’ marine research team.

Promote sustainable management:

We work in close cooperation with the local fishing communities and authorities to develop and enforce new, efficient and sustainable fisheries management schemes, as well as methods for combating IUU fisheries.

Archipelagos fisheries actions focus on the following:


1. Fishery Observatory - Action against Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing Activity

With the aim of combating IUU fisheries in the Greek seas, Archipelagos has formed a network of local communities and fishermen who provide valuable, confidential information about IUU activities in their area. These data are verified by competent scientists and authorities. Reports are later compiled and sent to the relevant Greek and EU authorities.

Any information we receive concerning incidents of destructive or illegal fishing is checked for its validity as well as for the type and magnitude of the problem. When necessary, Archipelagos will make use of all available legal means while also informing national and EU authorities, particularly in the case of destructive fishing practices that lead to severe environmental impacts. There is sometimes a reluctance to report such activities, especially if they occur in a small community, so it is important to note that during all stages of this process we keep the source of our information confidential.

This increased community engagement shows a developing sense of responsibility for the health of the seas and fish stocks, and is requisite for the sustainable use of marine resources to ensure viable fisheries for the future.

We need YOUR help!

Destructive and illegal fisheries can no longer be tolerated. Their actions constitute the theft of common resources from both local communities and future generations. These practices cause honest, sustainable fishermen to go out of business, dolphins and seals to starve, certain fish stocks to approach the risk of collapse, and consumers to soon find it too expensive to affort local and sustainable fish products.

iuu fisheriesWhat to report?

  • Trawlers fishing illegally close to the shore
  • Dynamite fishing
  • Spear gun and scuba gear (including during the night using lights)
  • Illegal fishing practices by vessels from other countries
  • Selling protected and undersized species, as well as selling fish from recreational/spear gun fisheries for consumption.

Don’t ignore it, report it!

If you see or hear about any IUU incident taking place, please contact us directly.



2.Creation of the first co-managed Fisheries Protected Area in Greece (FPA)

In order to create a model for efficient fisheries management in the Greek Seas, Archipelagos is working to establish the first “co-managed Fisheries Protected Area (FPA)” in Greece, in the region of the Fourni island complex in the eastern Aegean Sea. Over the last few years, Archipelagos has been closely cooperating with the local fishing community and authorities, collecting necessary scientific data on the local fish stocks and fishing methods. We have created a foundation for successful collaboration with the community, allowing fish stocks to recover. The Fourni FPA aims to produce legal framework and necessary scientific background for the community to actively co-manage the local fisheries and control numerous illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing activities.


3. Assessment of Fishing Catch

We analyze the current status of Aegean fisheries via surveys conducted in small-scale fishing ports assessing the species and size compositions of fishing catches, making sure that this information does not remain undocumented. From this data we can extrapolate changes in fish stocks over time. The data gathered from long-term catch composition studies are necessary for the development of sustainable management strategies for multi-geared, small-scale fisheries of the Greek seas.


fisherman-interview4.Interview-based surveys

Archipelagos is collecting information from fishing communities in order to understand:

  • Current fishing techniques and practices.
  • Historical productivity data and trends.
  • The socio-economic importance of fisheries for local island communities.
  • Damage to fishing gear caused by protected marine species such as dolphins and monk seals.
  • How to reduce the impacts of fishing practices to marine ecosystems and fish stocks.


5.Assessing the biodiversity of littoral zone habitats

In order to thoroughly understand the local fish stocks, research on the catch brought in by fishermen is complemented with visual census surveys assessing the biodiversity (fish, invertebrates, and algae) of littoral zone ecosystems. These biodiversity surveys, coupled with records of the physical and chemical parameters of littoral habitats, provide invaluable information about how the ecosystem changes over time.


6.Analysis of fish stock ecology

Fish samples are being taken from a selection of fish caught in the region. These samples undergo otolith analysis, geometric morphometrics and ecotoxicological assessment. In all cases, fish are sampled immediately post capture and have their length, weight, sex and maturity determined. Selected samples are later sent to laboratories specializing in ecotoxological research for further analysis.


7.Lobbying Activities

Archipelagos’ multidisciplinary scientific research fortifies both the conservation and policy work we do. Armed with scientific data, we are able to advocate at the national and EU level for the survival of species and ecosystems, as well as press for the necessary legislature which will protect them.


8.Awareness raising activities

Archipelagos works diligently to engage local, coastal communities and develop a strong common cause for healthy, sustainable future. Through dialogue, shared experiences, observations and research we aim to communicate the increasing threats to the health of our seas and islands. We greatly respect and encourage the positive role that these communities have to play as stewards of wild habitats and species.


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The Guide for Sustainable Seafood Consumption in Greece

The Fish4Life application will tell the consumers how to make sustainable choices regarding seafood, giving them an opportunity to join the growing movement for the preservation of our seas.

The species included in this app have been categorized according to the following information:

  • Even if a species is legally fished, it does not necessarily mean that it is a sustainable choice. Following the available scientific knowledge, we have categorized species according to whether they are considered sustainable.
  • The market is often flooded by illegally caught and undersized species, so we offer a clear guide to identifying these.
  • As a result of increasing marine pollution, some species, both sustainable and not, are considered unhealthy to eat because of their toxicity. This guide will inform you which seafood should be avoided.