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Lipsi fishermen's appeal

- by Joe Mason

Campaign to save marine mammals and fish stocks.

Fishermen on the Greek holiday island of Lipsi have been urged to back an appeal to save their livelihoods and preserve fish stocks. There has been a dramatic decline in stocks of fish in recent years which has an caused inevitable competition between Lispi coastal fishermen and marine mammals such as bottlenose dolphins and the endangered Mediterranean monk seal.

Now Greek marine conservation group Archipelagos has launched a campaign to save both marine mammals and fishermen from the effects of depleted fish supplies.

The aim is to give incentives for fishermen to switch to nets with a larger mesh to catch their fish and, at the same time, protect endangered species.

Lipsi is found in the eastern Aegean Sea and boasts a huge marine biodiversity, which includes many endangered marine mammals.

The Greek island of Lipsi has a only a small population of around 800 and, apart from holiday tourism, the basis of the island's economy is small scale fishing.

Many of the Lipsi islanders have small fishing boats and spend all night, every night working hard at sea to bring in the catch.

But a drop in fish stocks has led to a serious conflict between the Lipsi fishermen and the marine mammals who feed on the same fish.

Fish scarcity means marine animals increasingly snatch food directly from the nets of the fishermen. Not only can this cause costly damage to nets, but hard working boatman see their catch are also being 'stolen' and their livelihoods threatened.

Hungry dolphins and monk seals can even become entangled in the fishermen's nets and die. This is obvioulsy detrimental to local populations, especially for the critically endangered Mediterranean monk seal.

A short-term solution is for fishermen to replace their small mesh nets with a larger mesh. Marine mammals tend to cause less damage to larger mesh nets while this type of net is also more selective, catching only larger fish and so contributing to more sustainable fish stocks.

But switching nets costs money, so Archipelagos want to raise €5,400 in order to get the scheme off the ground and has appealed for cash aid towards the project

A spokesman for Archipelagos said: "We are grateful for any amount you are willing to donate. We invite you to support this effort with your donation with as little or much support you can offer. Our goal is €5400, to cover the whole coastal fishing area of Lipsi.

Anyone interested to see the campaign can visit igg.me/at/archifishermen and donations can visit the website of the Archipelago at www.archipelago.gr

Archipelagos Institute of Marine Conservation is an environmental non-profit organization founded in 1998 and committed to protect and defend the marine and island biodiversity of the North Eastern Mediterranean.

Their main actions are to carry out scientific work about biodiversity conservation, work in close collaboration with the local communities and develop realistic and sustainable management measures, in cooperation with the island communities.