Over the last 25 years, aquaculture has emerged as an increasingly important primary industry in Greece in terms of capital investment and production. Today, Greece is among the major marine finfish aquaculture producers in the European Union. The two main species cultivated in Greece are gilthead sea bream (Sparus aurata) and European sea bass (Dicentrachus labrax). The Greek production represents the 60 % of the total EEC production and almost half of the global output [1, 2].
In the mid ‘80s, when the first aquaculture units were located, the legal framework was insufficient, aquaculture technology was not very sophisticated (the activities had to be located near the coast, in protected gulfs and bays) and no adequate information was provided to the local communities. No consultation processes took place and in some areas local communities were in favor, as new jobs would be created.
During 2000s, as there was major lack of law enforcement, local societies started to react. Environmental degradation was obvious and the creation of jobs was not to the extent envisaged by the local societies.
For almost a decade, a pan-hellenic committee of local governments and non-governmental organizations whose interests are hindered by aquaculture development has existed with more than 110 legal entities membership, both at national and international level. They question aquaculture activities which have been advancing at the expense of local livelihoods and endangered species for a very long time, fostered by both public and private interest groups.
Legislation was and still is very inadequate as it does not consider historical rights of local communities with regards to marine resources (hence it is also violating international legislation) simply taking advantage of the fact that local communities have not sought legal claims to the sea until now (most people are unaware of their historical rights).
In 2011 under the weight of a potentially upcoming national elections, several ministers (some of which were major shareholders in the aquaculture industry) decided to issue a Joint Ministerial Decree for the Special Framework for Spatial Planning and Sustainable Development of Aquaculture, that basically separated the greek coastal and marine zone according to the will and interest of the aquaculture industry, ignoring local people needs and the implications for the protection of the environment and biodiversity. The adoption of the Special Framework provoked significant reaction of local communities and 111 stakeholders (21 Municipalities, the Central Union of Greek Municipalities, the Fishermen Confederation, cultural and environmental local organisations, NGOs) set up the Panhellenic Coordinating Committee of Stakeholders in areas affected by the Development of Aquaculture, who filed a writ of annulment before the Council of State.
Prior to this the legislation was not enforced and no spatial planning was elaborated, not only for the location of aquacultures, but for any activity on the coastline and the sea. However, the new legislation was made solely according to the needs of the aquaculturalists and without consulting with local communities, fishermen and other stakeholders or non governmental organizations. Local fishing and related rights to marine resources, protection of wild fish spawning grounds and rights of use of beaches for recreational and cultural activities were not taken into consideration. This plan declares some of the largest marine protected areas in the Mediterranean as industrial fish farming areas, obviously ignoring biodiversity conservation issues. Fish farms compete directly with wild fish spawning grounds for important species like sardine. This is in direct violation of national and international laws regarding the protection of wild fish stocks and the rights of local communities to marine resources (compromised by this activity through loss of amount of wild fish) In addition to this, the Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate Change proceeded to the signature of the decree before the the National Council for Spatial Planning and Sustainable Development formulate and express opinion. The Spatial Framework establishes unacceptable regulations that focus on maintaining and legitimating the highly problematic current situation that prevails in the aquaculture industry today. It insists on positioning aquaculture in locations unsuitable for the environment and the local communities , and on regulating how they should function (what type of fish they can grow and where, what chemicals and how much can go in the water etc).
In 2013 the writ before the Council of State was discussed and in late 2014 it was rejected.
official legislation was passed in apparently direct response to this in the summer parliament of 2014 which was essentially taking the 2011 decree turning into a detailed legislation (giving it additional legal power) and making it more detailed and provided with further rights to the aquaculture industry . It now included a piece of legislation that legalized any kind of aquaculture facility within any kind of protected area on both sea and land including freshwater ecosystems among other things. This was in line with the recent goverment policies and legislation that are anti-environmental and ignores the needs of local societies. The trial for the 2011 decree outcome was that the council of state considered it legitimate. It is still valid therefore at present.
Local communities, human rights activism non governmental organizations as well as environmental ones and even mayors, local authorities, research scientists have protested and still are protesting against what they believe is social and environmental injustice. This is both in the rural areas and in other parts of the country. Methods include joint legal battles in higher courts, protesting at local level outside governmental buildings, participation in tv discussions and article writings in newspapers and online media such as blogs, petition signing, and crowdfunding by non governmental organizations for protecting the rights of local communities and biodiversity.