It is one of the most emblematic images of Greece and a favorite for shutterbugs from around the world visiting the islands in the summer: the typical Greek fisherman, seen on a colorful wooden caique casting his nets in the sea, carefully untangling them at the harbor where he comes in every morning to sell his catch or setting off at night to the light of the stars and dozens of small lights strung on the mast of his boat. The world of the professional Greek fisherman has always been a source of wonderment and mystery and now it is open to everyone.
After years of legal and political wrangling, legislation has finally been passed setting the terms and conditions for the development of fishing tourism in Greece – an area of tourism that holds great promise and had been largely untapped. Thanks to the new regulations, professional fishermen can apply for a license that will allow them to take passengers either on pleasure trips or fishing excursions. This not only allows fishermen – already squeezed by competition and over-fishing – to supplement their incomes but also offers a rare opportunity to fans of fishing or people who simply love the sea to enter a completely different world and discover its secrets.
Hundreds of professional fishermen have already applied for the license and are waiting for the coveted piece of paper before the tourism season gets under way in earnest.
“There is a great deal of interest being shown all over the country. The fishermen have been asking for this measure for years and particularly in areas that have a lot of tourism, as this will make it easy for them to have a second source of income. Most fishermen can’t even cover the cost of petrol the way things are right now,” says Giorgos Lourdis, a mechanical engineer by trade but a fisherman at heart, who for years has been trying to promote fishing tourism in Greece.
Lourdis recently launched an innovative business called Fishing Trips, which he hopes will be at the vanguard of new developments in the field. It is an electronic platform (fishingtrips.gr) connecting professional fishermen who register their ships with Greeks or tourists who want to make use of their services.
“Until this law was passed, if I wanted to get on my father’s boat, a professional fishing boat, he would have to have papers showing that he had hired me to work on it,” explains Lourdis. “Likewise, to get on a non-professional boat we would all need to have amateur fishing licenses. I worked abroad for years and took a lot of fishing trips, and I always wondered why we weren’t taking advantage of our assets in Greece.”
According to aficionados like Lourdis, an amateur fisherman can learn so much more beside a professional, like how best to bring up the pots, how to choose a spot to throw in your nets and how to bring them in.
Greece has around 200,000 registered amateur fishermen who have been issued licenses and who spend large amounts of money on their hobby as they have to have their own boat, equipment, etc. The new law will allow them to exercise their hobby a lot more often and to learn from the pros. And, of course, whatever you catch is yours.