AMORGORAMA: become part of the swarm.
The Mediterranean Sea is changing for the worse. Fish-stocks are depleted; charismatic and flagship species have reached the edge of extinction; marine pollution and over-exploitation of resources has seriously degraded and emptied the once abundant ocean. This dystopia has become the prevalent prospect of nearly all Mediterranean archipelagos, the Aegean Sea and its countless islands being no exception.
Amidst these grave circumstances, a local small scale fishing community on the Cycladic island of Amorgos, heavily dependent on healthy marine ecosystems and thriving fish-stocks necessary for their livelihood, has been forging a shared, collective dream that has become the communal vision of the whole insular community for a sustainable future both for fisheries and the marine natural environment. Amorgorama has inspired and is embraced by the entire local community and the local authorities of Amorgos, while it is supported by conservationists, the scientific and academic community, environmental NGOs, other key stakeholders and authorities on a national and international scale.
Amorgos’ fishers envisage the designation of Fisheries Restricted Areas (FRAs), particularly as of effective and well-guarded no-take zones for fisheries in the northern shores of the island, a bimonthly temporary cessation of all fishing activities around the island between an important fish spawning interval in April and May, while during this period they will collect and recycle plastic litter debris and derelict fishing gear from the numerous inaccessible shores with the use of their vessels and caïques.
Most importantly these small-scale fishers have not only paved the path for a viable and sustainable future for their own community and children, but they have become a living and working paradigm for all fishing and small insular communities of the Aegean Sea. Amorgorama is an actual, grass root, bottom-up accomplishment, that urges for the expansion of fisheries co-management and the direct involvement of small-scale fishers in the design, governance and operation of Marine Protected Areas.
The long-term effects and proposals of Amororama have been further secured through a strategic alliance between the local small-scale fishers cooperative, the Cyclades Preservation Fund, the Blue Marine Foundation, The Agricultural University of Athens, Amorgos’ Municipality, the Regional Government of South Aegean, The Ministry of Agricultural Development and Food and the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and insular Policy. The formal agreement through an MoU in last September fully confirmed Amorgorama as a collective vision by the above signatories and asserted the political will to commit funds and support in the initiative and its objectives.
Currently, a fisheries study by the Agricultural University of Athens is nearing completion and a guarding and surveillance study by the Blue Marine Foundation is carried out, which will soundly document the exact fisheries and conservation measures necessary for the recovery of fish-stocks and restoration of marine habitats and will draft an effective and cost-efficient patrolling scheme for the Marine Protected Areas of Amorgos Island. Within this context, the Amorogorama team is preparing an integrated and inclusive Management Plan for the operation of the MPA, incorporating ecosystem based, adaptive and co- management principles as its foundations.
The above promising circumstances and outcomes were further attested during the recent Fishers’ Celebration Festival, which took place in Amorgos island after the World’s Oceans Day on the 9th and 10th of June 2023. Local small-scale fishers, scientists, conservationists, and all key stakeholders that comprise and uphold Amorgorama demonstrated the up-to-date outstanding achievements of this long and demanding effort to representatives of competent national authorities. This occasion and the feast that followed laid down the keel of the establishment of a unique and successful MPA in the Aegean Sea.
We are confident that the formal recognition of Amorgorama will substantiate in the much anticipated necessary binding legislation issued by the competent Ministry of Agricultural Development and Food in the very near future.
By Vangelis Paravas, CPF consultant & scientific advisor of Amorgorama
photo credits: Lefteris Partsalis/ Blue Marine Foundation