In crisis, fishing provides outlet

The number of Greeks who have obtained fishing permits almost doubled last year and there is a growing amount of people fishing without licenses, according to the coast guard, which believes that the trends are a result of the economic crisis.

The coast guard told Kathimerini that just over 37,000 people applied for amateur fishing licenses last year, while another 49,272 renewed their existing permits.

The license allows the holder to fish from boats in the sea, lakes or rivers, rather than just from the shore. It also allows for up to 10 kilos of fish to be caught as long as it is done with rods rather than nets, which are prohibited.

Although there are no statistics confirming what has prompted the spike in the number of people applying for licenses, it is believed that the rising unemployment rate has contributed, as has people?s need to find other ways of feeding themselves.

?Over the last few months, the number of people fishing not as a hobby but in order to survive has increased,? a coast guard officer who is in charge of a patrol boat told Kathimerini on condition of anonymity. ?In some cases, they do not have permits but we recognize the impact of the crisis and we choose to turn a blind eye. As such, they should be aware of which waters are clean because ignorance could cause them health problems.?

Authorities, however, are much stricter when it comes to amateur boat licenses, which have also seen an increase. More than 12,800 new licenses were issued last year and 15,591 were renewed. A total of almost 15,000 checks were carried out by the coast guard on amateur and professional boats last year, resulting in almost 2,000 offenses being recorded and 1.2 million euros? worth of fines being issued.

?Both in the case of amateurs and professionals, the offenses related to fishing using banned methods or fishing in areas where it was forbidden,? the coast guard officer said.

Amateur fishermen were responsible for just over 1,000 of the offenses. Just under half involved people who were fishing with spear guns. Fines for the offenders totaled 403,455 euros.