Project Amorgorama by
In cooperation with the artist Florian Reiche (DE/AT).
With the project Amorgorama the Professional Fishing Association of Amorgos aims to find a sustainable approach to tackle both the problems of a continuously increasing plastic pollution as well as of overfishing in the Aegean Sea.
A project of the Professional Fishing Association Amorgos and the artist Florian Reiche (DE/AT)
Fishing has always been a significant part of life on the island.
Amorgos is a small island (126 km2) with 2000 inhabitants. It is the easternmost island of the Cyclades and mainly consists of big mountains and rocky terrain. Its two ports, Katapola and the large bay in the basin of Aegiali are the main centres of activity. Chora (the capital) has always been the centre of the island both geographically and administratively in modern years. In Kato Meria, the southwest part, most people still work in the primary sector, resisting modern trends, reminding Greece as it used to be –simpler and more hospitable. Due to the mountainous landscape and the limited space for agriculture, fishing has always been a significant part of life on the island. Today, around 30 families are still connected to fishing. Our professional fishing association consists of 40 members with most of them being from Amorgos and all of them being permanent habitants.
The professional fishing association of Amorgos was founded in 2003. It’s goal was to face common problems and represent the fishermen requests to the authorities. The last decade the association had to address new problems such as overfishing, pollution and the protection of the traditional fishing boats (Kaikis).
Every spring, after the strong winter winds, plastic waste accumulates in the bays exposed to the harsh storms. In most cases, these coasts are only accessible by sea. Unfortunately, there is no state provision for cleaning the coasts, no matter the way of getting there. The collection of the litter is vital at this particular period, because most of the plastic pieces are still visible. With the winds and the increasing sunlight, plastic disintegrates to the so-called microplastic, which is now invisible. It penetrates the cycle of nature and pollutes the flora and fauna, ultimately humans too.
In addition to the pollution of the sea and the bays, in the Aegean Sea there is also the problem of overfishing. Fishermen were the first to recognize the problem and are now looking for a solution. The Professional Fishing Association of Amorgos presented a concept years ago to the Ministry of Rural Development in Greece to mitigate the effects of both overfishing and pollution.
In order to give the shoals time for regeneration, the fishermen do not want to fish during April and May. In these months most fish species reproduce and this process should be given the necessary time. However, as fishing is how fishermen make a living, they still need a paid job to make ends meet during these months. The Professional Fishing Association of Amorgos have tried, through the Ministry of Rural Development, to obtain European Union funding specifically aimed at supporting marine life and fishing, so that the fishermen can still do all the work, with some compensation by using their boats, but to collect waste instead of fish. These efforts however have proven fruitless. The situation is urgent, so we the fishermen decided to take matters into our own hands.
Finding a sustainable way to put an end to the continuous degradation of the marine environment.
Our goal as fishermen of Amorgos is to stay away from fishing in April and May and to focus on collecting garbage from the northern beaches with our Kaiki or even more fishing vessels. To achieve this alternative use of boats, our effort is channelled to finding all possible partnerships with the local community as well as with the international community and finding resources from both European / Greek programs, but mainly from civil society through crowdfunding.
Our crowdfunding campaign is still on! Now we can all contribute to the effort of Amorgorama easily and fast. Note that there always will be the option to make a donation directly to the Association’s bank account. Every euro of support increases our capacity for waste collection and Amorgorama’s impact on the island’s coasts and the marine life.
We don’t see AMORGORAMA as the ultimate solution to the problem, but as a pilot project to show how “thinking outside the box” can help solve a severe environmental problem.
From the pilot project to a sustainable, altered definition of the fishermen’s profession.
The vision is to adapt the fishing profession to make the best use of local resources and infrastructure to deal with the existing situation. The project will showcase the positive effects of such a project as a pilot one, hopefully leading to its long-term financing with national and/or European funds. For this reason, the actions of the fishermen will be documented in spring 2021. At the same time, the documented results will be made public, serving both the purposes of transparency and awareness.
After the first season of Amorgorama, our fishing association was invited in several meetings with the ministry responsible for fishery affairs. The will of the ministry is to make Amorgorama an example for other islands and fishing communities around Greece. A new opportunity rose for us to implement our master plan dating back to 2015. The four axis of the master plan are:
1. Pause fishing during April and May, the most significant months for fish reproduction.
2. During this time, cleaning coasts that are not easily accessible by land.
3. Progressively, switching our fishing gear into a more sustainable form (larger size of net mesh and hook to avoid catching juveniles) .
4. Creating three Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) along the coastline of the island of Amorgos (no-take zones).
Constructive dialogue with the Ministry of Rural Development and Food is ongoing. In addition to its intention to support our master plan, it is currently looking for funds through the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) to support other similar activities in Greece, viewing Amorgorama as an example project. We are satisfied with the progress made till now and are happy to also be supported by the Municipality of Amorgos and our local community and the organisations Cyclades Preservation Fund, Blue Marine Foundation (with huge experience in MPAs all over the world), Enaleia and Prasino Tameio.