This summer we were swimming in a remote location off the backside the south-east side of Naxos. The area is pristine and unlike most areas in Delos, which are often crowded with tourists sailing, yachting and beaching with small boats.
This wasn’t our first time to this beach but this time there was something very different. In the water, as we were swimming I saw hundreds of fish floating, all dead. I was puzzled by this and thought to myself, dynamite fishing. I looked closely at the fish and they didn’t appear to be broken, a common phenomena with dynamite fishing.
So what was it? The story goes on, the next day we traveled again by our speedy Cigarette Top Fish, equipped with 900 horse power, a quick means of getting around and beating the bad weather. We arrived to the port of Naxos, and there in front of my eyes were 3 to 4 large-sized fishing boats, all equipped with cranes. I looked at them and thought to myself, what damage do they do.
Sadly, not much left in the Aegean seas because of indiscriminate fishing. The same month while swimming in Turkey, I couldn’t believe the fish, fish everywhere swimming by our boat. You could literally pick them up with your hands. Turkey is exceedingly well-preserved, fishing is restricted, and patrols make it tough to break the laws. They even have areas that are protected as wildlife areas. Shouldn’t the seabeds around Delos be 100% protected and policed to ensure that people don’t destroy the natural habitat, and yes is the answer.
So what was it that killed these hundreds of fish? The answer is “beam trawling”, one of the most destructive forms of bottom trawling. Large ugly over-sized ships, most look like they belong in the junk yard, have large open mouth nets attached to a heavy metal beam is dragged across the sea bed behind a boat. This beam digs and ploughs up the sea bed ground. The beam, keeps the net open horizontally while metal frames at each end keep it open vertically. Beam trawlers often tow two nets, one each side of the vessel.
On larger boats, several tons of ‘tickler’ chains can be used ahead of the ground rope to raise fish which may otherwise be crushed by the beam. The fish are trampled and whatever gets into the nets that is desirable they keep and the others get thrown over board. Hence the fish we saw at the beach, undesirable catch. These unwanted species are known by the deliberately inoffensive term ‘by-catch’, discarded like junk.
This must stop before we have nothing left in the Aegean!