An ongoing campaign by Kathimerini, Skai TV and the Traditional Boats Association of Greece, among several other bodies fighting to save the Greek caique, has rallied the support of an important ally, with the Regional Authority of the Southern Aegean launching an online campaign – #savekaikia – to raise public awareness about the issue.
The aim of the campaign is to convince the European Commission to reverse a directive which has resulted in the destruction of a large part of the bloc’s fleet of wooden fishing boats by demonstrating that not only is it an ineffective way to tackle overfishing, but it is also erasing an important aspect of Europe’s maritime tradition.
The issue of traditional fishing boats dates back to 1996, when the European Union started paying fishermen to hand in their licenses (in addition to scrapping their boats). Along with most of what was once Europe’s biggest fleet of wooden fishing boats, the country has also seen the disappearance of specialized related professions such as marine carpenters.
Southern Aegean Governor Giorgos Hatzimarkos was born and raised on the island of Rhodes and knows first-hand what it means to depend on the sea for one’s livelihood and to watch a boat being built by hand. He hopes not only to salvage such boats from the scrapyard, but also to create incentives for saving traditional vessels.
The European Union directive, meanwhile, dictates that the only boats that are allowed to be spared from the scrapheap must be placed in an enclosed area as exhibits and never sail again. Efforts by the Greek Ministry of Culture to this end, however, have been limited to a very small number of vessels, and not very noteworthy ones at that.
“We have a proposal and an action plan for an alternative use of these boats, which we will be presenting to Brussels,” says Hatzimarkos. “We are calling for an end to the destruction of traditional boats and for incentives so that they can be used as leisure or touring vessels.”
Since the start of the year, the Ministry of Agricultural Development and Fishing has approved 763 applications for boat demolitions. “The issue is not for the fishermen to lose out on the money, but for there to be a way that they can change their boat’s usage without getting just 20 percent of the subsidy, as is the case right now,” says Hatzimarkos.