Tuesday, January 25, 2011
A VISION FOR IERISSOS
Spring came early this year. It was a sunny brilliant day. A light breeze gave the sea a beautiful blue color. Thanos and Kostas were walking along the seashore in Thessaloniki as they have been doing for years now every Sunday morning. “You know what would be great,” said Kostas breaking the silence. “It would be great to be in a little fishing boat in a remote bay somewhere away from the city doing some fishing.” Thanos looked at him and added “You are absolutely right Kostas. And come to think of it I came across something very interesting the other day as I was surfing the web. Remember how in the past we used to go to Ierissos to fish. Well, we gave up on it because the fish are gone. Now according to this web page the new Demos Aristotelis did something very innovative. They brought in an organization called Reefball that creates artificial reefs that are locations where the fish gather to feed and reproduce. I went to the web site www.reefball.org and read their mission and their numerous successful accomplishments.
The organization’s mission reads as follows: “Our mission is to rehabilitate our world's oceanreef ecosystems and to protect our natural reef systems using Reef Ball artificial reef technologies. Reef Balls are artificial reef modules placed in the ocean to form reef habitat.”
They have placed Reef Balls™ in 59+ countries …conducted over 4,000 projects and deployed over 1/2 million Reef Balls.
A few years ago Ierissos invited Reefball who placed in the Ierissos Bay hundreds of artificial reefs. These reefs designed to replace the natural ones that were uprooted by the big fishing boats called anemotrades have now become the habitats of many fish. The Demos has stocked the bay with many varieties of fish and helped a number of local fishermen to start their business for providing services to amateur fishermen like you and me to do some recreational fishing. You board in one of their boats in Ierissos and for the next 4-5 hours they will show you various spots where you can fish. They have refreshments and snacks aboard. The law allows you to catch no more than six fish of a certain size. If you catch fish of a smaller size you are required to throw them back into the sea. There are heavy penalties for the fishermen as well as the boat owners if they disobey the six fish rule. The last two years the Demos replicated this model of local developments in all the neighboring villages, Nea Roda, Ouranouplois, Amuliani, Pirgadikia, Stratoni and Olympiada.”
Saturday night first week of July, 2013 there are hundreds of people along the long paralia of Ierissos. It’s the Naftiki Bradia, the Sailor’s Night. Ierissos has a long tradition of celebrating this night. People will sit in one of the cafés, restaurants and cafeterias or on the beautiful sand and watch the many little, mostly locally constructed, wooden boats decorated with many colorful little lights. The local choir sings traditional local songs that tell long stories of fishermen and sailors who lost their lives to the ferocious sea that “took them into its arms.” Further into the bay one sees many boats full of amateur fishermen from all over Greece and other countries of Europe. Soon they will join the celebration to tell the long fishermen stories of the “big one that got away…” They will take some of their fish to one of the many restaurants to fix it and enjoy with their families and friends who were visiting the village’s site of interest and will join them for the meal.
In a few weeks the event will be repeated this time in Nea Roda and other villages to celebrate the Feast of the Sardine. Hundreds of people will congregate in these villages to watch municipal employees roasting thousands of sardines over open barbeque grills made locally by slicing an oil barrel right in the middle and filling it with wood charcoal. The many amateur fishermen will join the locals and their families to feast on the fresh sardines and some cold retsina or beer. A few weeks later will be the Feast of Saint Elias. Again many city fishermen will make their way to Ierissos and the other villages. The summer approaches its end with the celebration of the grand Panigyri in Ierissos on September 8th to celebrate the village patron saint Kimisis tis Theotokou.
As the word got around about the fish availability in the Ierissos area and the friendliness of the fishing boats’ captains, the numbers of people who made it an annual fishing and fun pilgrimage continue to multiply. Local residents started growing and offering their own vegetables, fruits and other agricultural products such as local cheeses and yogurts. Gradually a few artisan shops began to spring up. Local artists such as painters, jewelers and gold and silversmiths started setting up shops. Some of the shops offer a large variety of art crafts made by the monks in nearby Mountain Athos. Some enterprising young people created touring companies that will take members of the family that didn’t go fishing on short trips to historical sites such the birth place of Aristotle in Stageira.
It is estimated that over one thousand people are employed by these little enterprises in the 7 or 8 villages that are scattered along the coasts of the third peninsula of Mountain Athos. All of these enterprises are individual proprietorships working either alone or in partnerships of two or three compatriots.
Tuesday, January 25, 2011