Greek fishermen are in combat to solve the plastic pollution in ocean
Greek fishermen are in combat to solve the plastic pollution in ocean

Greece: Early in the morning, trawlers are unloading crates of sardines and anchovies into trucks waiting nearby to be loaded at the fish market of Keratsini, west of Athens.

On the other hand, Lefteris Arapakis sorts through bottles, boots, plastic pipes, and fishing nets that have been dragged up from the bottom of the Aegean Sea on the family fishing boat. We are drowning in plastic, said Arapakis, a fifth-generation fisherman.3

He forewarned, citing current reports, that by 2050 "there will be more plastic than fish" in the ocean. The morning's plastic catch "weighs about 100 kilos," according to the 29-year-old economist and co-founder of Enaleia, an NGO that encourages fishermen to collect marine debris caught in their nets.

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It has collaborated with more than 1,200 Greek fishermen since its founding in 2018 to raise awareness about the deterioration of the marine environment.

The litter on the seafloor is transported by the ocean currents and comes from all over the Mediterranean, not just Greece.

Enaleia, which operates in 42 ports across Greece, gives fishermen big bags for marine waste that they can put in trash cans once they get back to the port.
They are paid a small "symbolic" amount for each kilogramme of plastic they deliver. According to Arapakis, who was in Paris this week for international talks on reducing plastic pollution, the money is enough to buy a drink.

The goal of the meeting at the UNESCO headquarters is to make progress towards an agreement that will cover the entire life cycle of plastics by next year.

Each month since October, Enaleia-affiliated fishing crews have dragged out 20 tonnes of plastic and used fishing gear. According to the NGO, over the previous five years, close to 600 tonnes have been collected.

The collected plastic is taken to a recycling facility in Megara, a nearby industrial area, where it is processed into pellets that are then used to create new goods like socks, swimwear, and furniture.

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Emalia cites fishing nets as the sixth. High- and low-density plastics (12.5 percent and 8 percent, respectively) are next in line. However, 44% of the total is made up of non-recyclable plastic.

According to Hana Pertot, the sales manager of the Skyplast recycling facility in Megara, recycling marine waste is a "challenge" because the plastic deteriorates when exposed to water.

After Arapakis lost his job due to the Greek financial crisis in 2016, he founded Enaleia as a fishing school.

It was initially developed to aid his father in hiring workers for his trawler.
The organisation has recently begun operating in Italy, and partnerships in Spain, Egypt, and Kenya were established this year.

Arapakis claimed that after visiting Greece's Cyclades islands, where he observed fishermen tossing the trash they had collected with their nets back into the water, he decided to start the Mediterranean Cleanup project.

Arapakis received the UN Environment Programme's "Young Champion of the Year in Europe" award in 2020. He is certain that the fishermen in Greece have undergone a "mental change."

In the past, "we caught a lot of plastic but only kept the fish. The captain of the Panagiota II, the family boat of Arapakis, Mokhtar Mokharam, claimed that all trash had been thrown into the water. Fishing boats can also benefit in a practical way.

According to Nikolaos Mentis, who has been a contributor to Enaleia for the past five years and is based on the island of Salamina opposite Keratsini, "in the past, the anchor frequently snagged on waste of all kinds, especially nets, and the engine would go out."

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The mobilisation of fishermen can be seen as a form of democracy. People with low incomes are primarily impacted by climate change, he claimed.
"In the past, fishermen contributed to the issue. Now that they are a part of the solution, any voter or politician can make a contribution.

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