The field trip which took place on the 29th and 30th March 2016 was the second visit to the Messolonghi – Aitoliko lagoons, one of Greece’s ten Ramsar wetlands. With the invaluable assistance of the Management Body of Messolonghi – Aitoliko lagoons, the MedINA team members – Thymio Papayannis, director, Alexis Katsaros, project manager, Lily Mordechai, communications officer and Angeliki Foutri, member of the scientific secretariat, had the opportunity to meet with various stakeholders in the area. Meetings were held initially with the Management Body and specifically Fotis Pergantis, president and Yannis Selimas, coordinator. After that the team met with the heads of two fishermen cooperatives, Kostas Grekas and Panagiotis Kappas who are in charge of three separate ivari facilities and a visit was made to two of them. The team also had the opportunity to discuss with a representative of the Periphery of Western Greece and with Yannis Kourkoumelis, a local businessman who owns fish farms in the area. The goal at this stage was to identify needs and to propose concrete actions that would support the traditional, artisanal fishing techniques.
The ivari technique is a traditional fish farming method developed through time to suit local ecological conditions. Barrier traps are used to catch the fish during their seasonal or ontogenic offshore migration. Eight fishing cooperatives lease the facilities, which trap the fish at the lagoon-sea interface by passive and fixed gears during their movement from the lagoon ecosystems to the sea. Even though there are differences between the traditional and the current practice of this technique for example the replacement of reed-based, locally-made nets for plastic ones, this technique still has significant environmental, financial and cultural value.
Located in Western Greece on the north shore of the Gulf of Patras, the Messolonghi – Aitoliko lagoons is a Ramsar site and a National Park with a designated Management Body. It is an extensive complex of brackish coastal lagoons, mudflats, saltmarshes, freshwater marshes, reedbeds, dune systems and patches of riparian forest formed within the double delta of two major rivers, Acheloos and Evinos. Despite its great environmental significance, the site faces many threats including changes in its hydrology and geomorphology due to hydroelectric and other construction works, intensive fishing techniques, excessive cattle grazing, and illegal hunting and is hence inscribed in the Montreux Record of the Ramsar Convention. Human activities in and around the Messolonghi lagoons include commercial salt extraction, fishing, fish farming, livestock grazing and agriculture. The site is a major fish and salt production centre and the only place in Greece that produces an excellent quality fish roe (bottarga).
The field visit of the Messolonghi – Aitoliko lagoons was part of the second phase of the project of the Mediterranean Consortium for Nature and Culture that will run until the end of 2017 and is supported by the MAVA Foundation. It is the continuation and extension of the Consortium’s first project, entitled ‘Understanding and supporting cultural conservation practices in the Mediterranean’. In this second phase the partners are continuing their work on transhumance but some, including MedINA, are also focusing on artisanal fisheries, attempting to render them more sustainable and to link them to special tourism.