An Argolic Vision

Dear friends of the AEF,

As some of you will already know, this newsletter coincides with the end of my tenure as Executive Director of the AEF, as I shall be leaving the organisation and taking up a new position closer to home in Athens.

It has been a great privilege to oversee the organisation from its earliest days, and I would like to thank all of our donors for the trust extended to me throughout my time at the AEF. I would also like to thank the AEF’s many project partners, collaborators and advisers - I am immensely proud of what we have achieved together.

I deeply believe that the AEF can have a major impact on environmental management and sustainability in the Argolic Gulf. However, this will always be an uphill battle, one in which the status quo must be perturbed if there is to be any chance of success.

Shifting how local populations view and interact with the natural environment is where I believe the focus must be. In order for behaviours to change, many of which are ingrained, we must encourage people to rediscover the enormous value in local ecosystems – to see the familiar with fresh eyes.
This has been the guiding principle behind all of the key projects that the AEF has funded and/or spearheaded to date.

It is why we sought to bring researchers from the NGO Istorima to the Argolic Gulf, to capture oral histories from veteran fishers who still remember a sea much richer than that which we encounter today. The past offers a view of a better future.

It is why we teamed up with iSea to create the first ever detailed maps of vital seagrasses around Spetses and beyond. The report produced is a literal treasure map to riches located just off the coast.

And it is why we created “Argolicorama”, an AEF-led programme, co-funded by Blue Marine Foundation and inspired by a similar effort in the Cyclades. Through this project we successfully assembled a team of fishers on Spetses who agreed to abstain from fishing for a period during the key spawning season in May and instead joined forces to collect marine waste from all around the island, with the AEF covering a portion of their lost income. 

All of these and the AEF’s other efforts (further discussed below) had their challenges. Yet all have been realised with success, and have thus laid the groundwork for even bigger and bolder things moving forward.

I am particularly proud of Argolicorama, which was unprecedented for the region, and which I believe has opened the door for the AEF to work closely with a vital group of stakeholders not just in Spetses but beyond. I encourage you all to watch the documentary we are releasing today about Argolicorama, to get a better sense of how it has already shifted mindsets (link below).

It is my very great hope that my successor will take the AEF to far greater heights, and I offer my heartfelt wishes to them and the organisation for every success.

I thank you all for your support and interest, and wish you all the very best.



P.S. If you would like to stay in touch, please use my personal email address from now on which is: My mobile remains +30 6945908391.

Our Impact: Key Projects and Grants

Click to watch the short film "Argolicorama 2022"


In May of 2022, sixteen professional fishers of Spetses opted to leave their nets behind and head to sea for a different reason: to clear the more inaccessible beaches of Spetses from waste and marine litter.

“Argolicorama 2022” was an AEF-led initiative and an effort to replicate the success of “Amorgorama”, a similar program designed and implemented in Amorgos by the Professional Fishing Association of Amorgos.

Through Argolicorama, over 50 individual fishing sorties were avoided during the height of the spawning season for many marine species. This means that many hundreds of kilos of egg-laden fish that would ordinarily have been caught and removed from the ecosystem were given the space to reproduce.

The program also provided an opportunity for professional fishers of Spetses - who currently do not have a formal association - to unite and work towards a common goal in close partnership with the AEF.

“We fishers united, we put certain issues that we may have aside, and the results were apparent to us, but above all in the landscape of our island,” said Argyris Syrmas, the coordinator of the effort on the part of the fishers.

Further, there is great potential for the AEF’s donor base to be expanded through a targeted Argolicorama-linked fundraising campaign for future iterations of the project. As any funds raised would be used to keep fishers off the water when species are spawning, this would allow donors to effectively “buy fish for the sea”, with even small donations having a direct impact on fish populations.


“The sea is the same only if you look at it from above… The damage has happened on the seabed. If one of our deceased ancestors were to awaken and you brought him here to see how the sea is today, he would leave because he would think he was in another world.” 
– Manolis Stampadas, 74, Koilada

“There has been a major reduction in octopus in our area, because on the coast, in certain areas, a seaweed that we had here has been lost. We call it “lettuce”, it has green, wide leaves. Well, for fish and for octopuses, when they are small, their cover was this vegetation. In many areas along the coast it has disappeared entirely, there is only sand left. Now, is it because of pollution? Is it because of the rise in temperatures they talk about? Something has happened and this has been lost.”
– Dimitri Mihailidis, 47, Nafplio

"There was a year when the hake, without exaggeration, would enter the port. There was so much hake that it would come right in here. That year, with the trawler, I would fish for hake. I wouldn’t fish for picarel or red mullet. We would catch hake and make our living. Where? At 15 metres, 10 metres depth. Well, these things are no more. All of these nets you see here, and I have the same again down on the beach are for hake. Now, they are useless. Great damage has been done.`` 
– Vasilis Iliou, 44, Koilada

The above comments were all made by veteran or retired professional fishers interviewed as part of the project: Fishers’ Tales: Oral Histories from the Argolic Gulf, realised in partnership with the NGO Istorima. They represent just a small slice of the material gathered.

Led by the acclaimed journalist Sofia Papaioannou, Istorima is the largest oral history project ever undertaken in Greece. Thanks to an initiative by the AEF, the Fishers’ Tales project was established, and researchers from Istorima travelled around the Argolic Gulf in the spring of 2021 interviewing professional fishers primarily about the environmental changes they have witnessed in their lifetimes.

Given the historical lack of ecological monitoring, the memories of veteran fishers are arguably the best depositories of information regarding the ecological changes that have occurred in the gulf over past decades. The project sought to capture and preserve such accounts, making them available to current and future researchers, as well as the public at large. This was the first ever such systematic undertaking in the Argolic Gulf.

In total 26 fishers participated, with interviews lasting between 30-80 minutes. The resulting material (audio and transcribed interviews) is freely available to any researcher or interested party via Istorima’s archive. It will also inform future research and public outreach campaigns (such as the creation of a documentary about the Argolic Gulf fishery) by the AEF.


With co-funding from the Blue Marine Foundation, the AEF funded the expansion of iSea’s 2022 Pick the Alien program to the Argolic Gulf. To date, two events have been held on Spetses and Hydra. Each event involved a public tasting of edible marine alien species, and informational seminars for local fishers.

In addition, local fishers and restaurateurs were interviewed to assess the main barriers to the widespread targeting and consumption of these species. The program is still ongoing, with a third event scheduled to be held in Nafplio in September, after which a final report will be published.

Both public tasting events held so far were highly successful, with attendance surpassing initial expectations and a large number of positive written comments by attendees. The events were planned to coincide with the Spetses Classic Yacht Regatta (SCYR), and the Miaoulia festival on Spetses and Hydra respectively, and created significant discussion among the public as well as fishers and restaurateurs.

Beyond the events, the final report will include an analysis of the key obstacles that must be overcome for alien species to find their way into fish markets and restaurant menus. This will provide a roadmap for more targeted actions to address supply chain issues (e.g. connecting fishers with appropriate wholesalers, providing chefs/restaurateurs with training, etc.).


In July, the Greek NGO iSea submitted its final report for a project funded by the AEF to map meadows of Posidonia oceanica seagrass around Spetses and the islet of Parapola (aka Velopoula).

Such meadows are among the most important marine ecosystems in the Mediterranean and protected by Greek and EU law. Yet despite their significance, official mapping efforts to date in the Argolic Gulf were of such low resolution as to be unusable for conservation and ecosystem management.

The high-resolution map produced as a result of this project, together with other data gathered by iSea divers during their field visits provide an unprecedented look at the extent and health of seagrass meadows in these waters. For example, encouragingly, it reveals how Spetses continues to possess extensive seagrass meadows - in total 3.73 km2. However, as the report notes, these are fragmented in many areas due to anthropogenic factors with anchor tracks visible in many areas. Meanwhile, Velopoula was found to have over 10 times more extensive seagrass meadows than the estimated coverage in the relevant NATURA 2000 standard data form (SDF).

Findings such as the above highlight the value of the mapping for future conservation efforts, including campaigns to raise awareness as well as strengthen protections. The successful undertaking also paves the way for the mapping to be extended to other key sites in the Argolic Gulf as the AEF seeks to improve scientific knowledge of the gulf’s ecosystems and build the case for the creation of an MPA in the region.

An online version of the map to be used for navigation was presented at the 2022 Spetses Classic Yacht Regatta. To date, the map has been viewed over 500 times. Moving forward, the more detailed map will be presented to the local municipality in the autumn, and made available to the public and other researchers as open source data.

Other Impacts in Brief

Upcycling fishing nets

With funding from the AEF, the eNGO Enaleia installed stations in the fishing ports of Spetses, Hydra and Koilada to collect old nets and other fishing gear. To date over 1 tonne of material has been created, and this is expected to increase significantly in the autumn when many fishers change their nets.


The AEF supported a local environmental workshop and outreach event held by the Elliniki Etairia in August 2022 in the context of the organisation’s Green Schools Summer University program on Spetses.

Capacity building

Three local environmental NGOs / groups benefited from the latest cycle of the Social Dynamo program implemented by the Bodossaki Foundation thanks to the sponsorship of the AEF: the Friends of the Nea Kios Wetland, the Cultural Association of Tolo and the Community Trust Spetses.

Clean regatta

As a member of the “Green Team” of the Spetses Classic Yacht Regatta, the AEF was integral in the organisation being awarded a Platinum Clean Regattas certification by Sailors for the Sea following the 2022 event.
Copyright © 2022 Argolic Environment Foundation, All rights reserved.

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