EXPLOSIONS IN THE CRETAN SEA:

The scourge of illegal fishing

The southern coast of Crete is dotted with small picturesque fishing villages drenched in the warm rays of the sun and the abundant waters of the Libyan Sea. The life style of the locals is simple and unassuming. However, there are times when a distant thunder  «washes» to the shore a message of impending grief. This thunder is identified by the locals as «fishing by dynamite», an illegal activity which has been going on for a good number of years on Crete.

As a result, one may no longer be surprised by the disturbing sight of a mutilated man in the little villages of southern Crete, even if that person is young and of the post-war generation.

This illegal activity is governed by the law of «omerta» (silence). The locals are unwilling to disclose any information about the specific individuals who are involved in this type of activity. However, it is common knowledge that the missing limbs of a particular fisherman were blown away by dynamite.

Fishing by dynamite seems to be necessitated by a certain passion for «bombs», a treacherous contrivance which combines an ill-conceived mode of entertainment and fast profit.

In the past, fishing by dynamite was the last resort of poor fishermen for whom a fishing boat was beyond their financial reach. A defective «stick», a shorter fuse, and lack of experience were usually responsible for the mutilation, even the death, of these poor people. Today, this activity has acquired the status of a sport for those who look forward to the fast flow of adrenaline.

In 1970, however, statute 420 decreed that fishing activities responsible for the mutilation and death of people are illegal. This statute was amended and finalized in 1987 with the passing of law 1740.

Today fishing by dynamite is strongly criticized by professional fishermen and is deplored by nature lovers and conservationists. As is always the case in Greece, safety measures, or precautions, are taken a little late, or when the situation is non-reversible. The fishermen who complain of small or no catch at all have urged the port-authorities to start a man-hunt against the «butchers» of the sea.

During our research, we found out that people in the fishing villages were confused as to the legal status and the environmental impact of this activity. There is no denying, however, that there is general concern about the environment and this, we hope, will resolve the issue of illegal fishing.

Finally, infiltrating the breed of dynamiters is very difficult and daring. These people seem to have a certain code of communication and strong ties amongst themselves. Persistent inquiries may give rise to anonymous threats, since certain groups have large interests invested in this illegal practice.

A solution to the problem, in addition to the enforcement of the law, would be an education campaign in those remote southern regions of Crete. The gradual disappearance of the fauna in the Mediterranean is something that concerns us all. Pollution may poison the marine environment gradually, but a few sticks of dynamite may be the cause of more dramatic and drastic changes to the environment and to human health.

 STIGMES, the magazine of Crete  http://stigmes.gr

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