The Greek island of Poros is standing up against the rampant growth of fish farming

In the peaceful bay of Poros, a small island in the Saronic Gulf located an hour and a half from Athens, Fay Orfanidou, the director of the local NGO Katheti, does not let herself be lulled by the ambient heat, at the beginning of the month of July. For months, she has been active against a project of the Greek State which aims to transform her island into a strategic zone for the development of fish farming.

A quarter of the coast could soon be invaded by fish farming ponds in creeks with green and turquoise waters that have been preserved until now. Poros already has four basins, created in the 1990s in the north of the island. But the new project, led by the Avramar company, plans to increase the production of sea bream and sea bass eightfold in just five years, to 8,831 tonnes.

Why decide to make an intensive breeding on an island which lives with more than 90% of tourism and which attracts visitors for the quality of its waters? », sighs Fay Orfanidou, who launched an online petition. According to the activist, the environmental study commissioned by Avramar, the European leader in the production of sea bass and sea bream and whose shareholders are American (Amerra Capital Management) and Emirati (Mubadala) investment funds, indicates that the waste produced by aquaculture activity will be equivalent to those of a town of 35,000 people, while Poros has only 3,500 inhabitants.

Placards against fish farms displayed on a school on the island of Poros, Greece, on July 4, 2023.
Andreas Kaikas in his restaurant, Le Chat Blanc, on the island of Poros, Greece, on July 4, 2023.

Sitting on the terrace of his tavern, Le Chat Blanc, Andreas Kaikas, a member of the local tourism business committee, believes that the four fish farming ponds installed in the north of the island have already done damage. When I was a kid, I used to go diving in this part of the island. The bottoms were magnificent, with plenty of fish. Now they are completely bare, without algae. What are we going to leave to our children? »he asks himself.

“Low Carbon”

The accumulation of waste, fish excrement or even dead fish, rich in nitrogen, threatens marine life and particularly Posidonia, this aquatic plant which serves as a refuge for several species and oxygenates the water. Its presence is a sign of the great clarity and quality of the sea. Petros Varelidis, Secretary General at the Greek Ministry of the Environment, confirms that fish farming activities are “prohibited where Posidonia meadows exist in the area”. “The study commissioned by the company claims that there is no posidonia, although it is visible even to the naked eye in several parts of the island », protests Fay Orfanidou. The north, which is not accessible by road, is also the wildest, and is home to monk seals, a protected species, herons, cormorants, sea turtles.

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