Greek government endorses fisher-led Fisheries Restricted Areas in Amorgos

April 16, 2024


●  The marine protection initiative was started by the fishers of the Greek Cycladic island of Amorgos, in a ‘bottom up’ response to a drastic decline in fish and heavily polluted waters

● Four Fisheries Restricted Areas (FRAs) now proposed are a cooperative agreement between the Greek State, local governments, the scientific community, environmental organisations and the local fishing community

● The new FRAs will support the Greek Prime Minister’s directive to protect 30 percent of the Greek seas and designate ten per cent no-take zones by 2030

Today, at Our Ocean Conference in Athens, the Greek government endorsed the pioneering initiative of four fisheries restricted areas (FRAs) in the waters surrounding the Greek Cycladic island of Amorgos. This proposal was initiated by the Professional Fishing Association of Amorgos “I Hozoviotissa” with the support of the Municipality of Amorgos, Blue Marine Foundation and the Agricultural University of Athens, the Cyclades Preservation Fund (CPF) in order to secure the health and future of the sea and fisheries for the next generation.

An Island in the heart of the Aegean Sea, Amorgos was revered for its clear blue waters and rich marine ecosystem containing carbon-storing seagrass meadows and Mediterranean coral reefs. Greek waters are home to a rare variety of biodiversity, with thousands of species of fish, shellfish, sea turtles, monk seals, dolphins and whales residing in the sea around Amorgos.
However, Greece has the fastest deteriorating environment and the poorest marine conservation in Europe (2020 State of Nature in the EU report). Extensive overfishing has led to a host of invasive species whilst the lack of protection accelerated the deterioration of the health of the ocean.

Bottom up initiative

From 2010, the professional fishermen of Amorgos began to see their fish and their incomes decreasing year by year, while noticing that the northern beaches of the island, inaccessible from land, were turning into rubbish dumps. Amorgian fisherman, Dimitris Vekris said “I want my grandson to have fish to eat, because soon there may be no more fish.” So, in 2014, the Fishing Association decided to take matters into their own hands and began to take action.

The fishers developed a management plan aimed to reverse overfishing and tackle ocean pollution in an effort to progress towards the Prime Minister’s target of protecting 30 percent of the seas, and designating ten per cent no-take zones by 2030.

Blue Marine Foundation has worked closely with the fishing community and partners to introduce four key interventions:

1) The seasonal closure to all fishing in April and May – a crucial breeding period for many fish species – in a zone stretching to 1,5 miles around the island.
2) The permanent closure of 1200 hectares of sea; areas of high biodiversity, important for fish reproduction, where all fishing will be banned.
3) The collection of discarded fishing nets, plastic and all kinds of other waste from the island’s most remote areas in April and May, using their fishing boats.
4) A switch to more sustainable fishing gear

Since 2020, when the fishermen actively started voluntary clean-up actions when they weren’t fishing, they have to date completed 38 missions for plastic collection, collected more than 1200 bags of litter from the sea and beaches, sent 15 tons of plastic for recycling and recycled more than 3 tons of fishing nets and ropes.

In 2023, they collected another 2 tons of litter from 12 beaches on the island; 1,5 tons of used fishing nets and ropes are ready to be sent for recycling.

Memorandum of cooperation

The fishers then partnered with Blue Marine Foundation and Cyclades Preservation Fund, and secured the support of the government through signing a memorandum of cooperation with the Ministry of Fisheries, The General Secretariat of Island Policy, the Municipality, and the Agricultural University of Athens.

In the last year, Amorgos has become a live fisheries research laboratory, where the Agricultural University of Athens, in collaboration with the fishers, has conducted a fisheries study and the results have been submitted to the Ministry of Fisheries in order to proceed with the legal adoption of the proposed measures and the designation of the no-take zones.

Angela Lazou, Greece Projects Manager from Blue Marine Foundation says “We are delighted to be able to announce at Our Oceans conference that the years of hard work have paid off, and the four FRAs have finally been introduced to Amorgos. We are designing a management plan for the next five years which includes a scientific monitoring program and an efficient patrolling system that will ensure the enforcement of the measures. Supporting the fishers with these next steps will be of critical importance for the realisation of their vision and the success of this initiative. We will be watching carefully to see that the management plan is executed to the proposed timeline and that the parties involved adhere to the guidelines we have put in place.”

She continues, “The case of Amorgos is unique in Greece. It is an innovative example of cooperation between fishers, scientists, institutions, civil society, local and national authorities with the common goal of protecting the seas and local fishers’ livelihoods. The success of this initiative can play a vital role in the way we protect our seas in Greece and can become a beacon of inspiration and positivity for other fishing communities in the Aegean Sea, Greece and throughout the Mediterranean.”

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