No response to island fishermen’s request to State for fish sanctuary

It has been 19 months since the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Hellas presented a proposal to the Agriculture Ministry for an enclosed fish sanctuary near the Dodecanese island of Kastellorizo. The WWF often undertakes such initiatives, occasionally meeting with local opposition and other groups, but this time it was the fishermen themselves who raised the issue. Faced with the rapid depletion of fish stocks, Kastellorizo’s fishermen decided on a 1.5 square kilometer fish sanctuary, accepted as the most efficient way to manage fish reserves, as the best solution. The WWF funded the two-year research program and has been asking the State to pass legislation to establish the sanctuary. When Kathimerini asked Agriculture Ministry adviser Andreas Lankis to comment, he appeared unaware as to whether the proposal had even been submitted to the minister. Lankis said that not all the fishermen agreed with the plan and hinted it would be some time before the ministry, currently busy with other matters, would be able to reply, if it ever did. The European Commission has proposed the establishment of fish sanctuaries within the new Common Fisheries Policy and has made funds available. Agriculture Minister Giorgos Drys has publicly stated his support for fish sanctuaries, but it is action that counts. WWF Hellas has spent 150,000 euros on the research program. «We have been trying, with our own funds, to show that a fish sanctuary in Kastellorizo is feasible,» said Dimitris Karavellas, WWF Hellas director. «Although there has been progress at local level, the Agriculture Ministry has been unable to take a clear stand. We will continue to talk about the need for setting up fish sanctuaries in Greece, but with regard to Kastellorizo, if the State doesn’t show an interest, we will be unable to proceed on our own. We will have to abandon the project.»

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