The local communities and authorities in the region of Astakos – Echinades – Mitikas – Kastos – Kalamos in Etoloakarnania, western Greece, are claiming the obvious: to halt the increasingly intense degradation occurring in the waters of their region, as well as to restore the environmental destruction that has already been caused.
Archipelagos Institute of Marine Conservation, a scientific advisor to the Municipality of Xiromero and to the Civilians’ Committee against Intensive Aquaculture, carried out on-site research for the Preliminary Evaluation of the Environmental Impact of Aquaculture Units on the Coasts and Islets of West Etoloakarnania. The research results are alarming: The area around the aquaculture units appears desert-like – ravaged marine ecosystems due to the constant operation of the units in the same locations over decades.
For over 30 years, Western Etoloakarnania has been the region where 18-20% of the total national aquaculture production happens. Nonetheless, this production is the result of over intensive practices that violate licensing terms. For example, the terms which define that the units must be frequently relocated have never been observed, not even in cases of units operating within enclosed gulfs and shallow waters. Consequently it is the same units remaining in the same enclosed gulfs for over 25 years.
In times when the Greek and EU authorities are overwhelming us all with declarations for sustainable, green and blue, development, the restoration of the damage that has been caused with the tolerance of national authorities and public services was reasonably expected. Instead, the same government is planning, along with the aquaculture lobby (which was assigned, on behalf of the Greek State, the planning of Areas for the Organised Development of Aquaculture), the increase of aquaculture production in the West Coast of Etoloakarnania by 70%. This planning was obviously aimed to accommodate the interests of the aquaculture lobby, whereas the local communities were completely disregarded, since they were never given the opportunity to express their views on the development model they prefer for their area.
It is noteworthy that even though in this region about 1 million m² of marine area have been rented for years for the aquaculture activities, the current plan is to increase this rental area to 1.8 million m² , while reserving 41 million m² of marine area! That is 22 times larger than what is actually going to be exploited.
Archipelagos Institute is not against aquaculture activities when these respect the true carrying capacity of each location and the oceanographical characteristics of each site. However the national authorities and the investors insist, once more, on an obsolete aquaculture model, which requires the installations to be close to the coast, in areas with low water circulation, since the low cost of investment and maintenance are set priorities. The application of this model inevitably impacts coastal ecosystems immensely; in addition, the adverse effects on tourism and fisheries are significant, while the quality and commercial value of the produced fish is substantially low.
Archipelagos Institute stands next to the local communities and authorities, against the complete industrialisation of the coastal zone of the region of Western Etoloakarnania, which would eliminate all other sustainable development undertakings in this unique area of international environmental interest. Naturally, we will be on the side of the communities and authorities in any other area of Greece where such problems also occur. We have to stress that this absurd and dangerous planning is not the work of individual aquaculture businesses, but of foreign investment funds.
We claim, as civilians, the right to live in a country where reason rules. We have to understand that the mentality of ‘burning our house to get warm’, as ‘specialists’ advise, will lead to ruin.
For “Archipelagos” Institute of Marine Conservation