Fishing is interwoven with our history, culture, and prosperity. We live in a country with a rich tradition in fishing, with various arts and practices, shaped by the changing conditions over the centuries, passed on from one generation to the next like a precious secret, reaching all the way to the present. This is the flame our fishermen are trying to keep alive today, as fishing is still a main pillar of the productive fabric of Greece, with the largest fishing fleet in the European Union.
But how easy is this in a world that is constantly changing? We are currently consuming twice as much fish as we did 50 years ago. In order to meet this very high demand, our seas are overfished and illegal fishing is exploding, resulting in shrinking fish populations. At the same time, some fishing tools cause irreversible damage to the seabed and marine environment, while others have very high levels of by-catches. What does all this mean? That fishing carried out using unsustainable and irresponsible methods damages important habitats, such as posidonia meadows and coral formations, as well as sensitive or protected species, such as marine mammals.
Unfortunately, the current institutional framework on fishing, on a European and national level, has not succeeded in effectively dealing with the challenges, while in many cases control and monitoring mechanisms for fishing activities are not proving effective. At the same time, consumers do not always have access to the information they need – as foreseen by European legislation – in order to make responsible choices and contribute to the protection of our seas.
As fishing traditions gradually fade and challenges for the sea and fishermen becoming harder and more complicated, there is no time for complacency – only for action.
The innovation of this initiative is the creation of the ‘Committee of Small Pelagic Fish of Kavala’. Through a very inclusive process, for the first time, all agencies involved in fisheries (fishermen, scientists, state agencies, and representatives of the supply chain) sat at the same table to create the foundation for more effective management of fisheries in the region. To put it simply, to ensure that purse seiner fishing in Kavala is carried out with respect for the fish populations and the broader marine environment, while fishermen in the region continue to have work. At the same time, retail chains will provide consumers with fish that were caught responsibly. In fact, that is the secret to the success of living seas, full of fish!
That is more or less how, in 2015, the agencies involved agreed on an ambitious action plan aiming for Kavala’s purse seiner fleet to be the first in the Mediterranean to reach Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification levels. The Marine Stewardship Council is an international organisation that certifies that fish are caught using responsible practices, giving consumers the option of knowing where, how, and by whom the product they choose was caught.
We have worked hard all these years. What have we achieved? We gathered and analysed all the available data on anchovies and sardines in the Aegean. We assessed the impact of purse seiner fisheries on dolphin populations in the region. We ensured that rejection percentages – namely, the percentage of fish that were accidentally caught and never made it to market – remain low. We set voluntarily rules for fisheries, so as to ensure there are fish in the future.
This all brought us one step closer to our goal. Naturally, the struggle to keep our seas alive is continuing even more zealously, with the valuable contribution of eleven agencies to the programme, which now represents the entire purse seiner fleet of Kavala.
Without your support, we cannot continue to defend our precious natural environment and ensure a healthy future for humanity and the planet. Join us now!