Young Greek mobilizes fishermen to clean up the Mediterranean

By Alberto Borreguero

Athens, Dec 23 (efe-epa).- In a corner of the port in Piraeus near Athens, Lefteris Arapakis looks at a floating glass bottle on the sea as he rifles through several recycling bags. Over the four years he has spent cleaning the Mediterranean; his eyes have always fixed on the bottle he could not collect.

“Sometimes it is very difficult to know if our work has an impact,” Arapakis, the United Nations’ Young Champions of the Earth, tells Efe.

Receiving the prize represents a huge responsibility, but also a huge motivation, as it recognizes the work done by him and the Enaleia social enterprise the 26-year-old co-founded with his friend in 2016, he says.

Arapakis was the first in his family, made up of five generations of fishermen, to go to college as he knew that the family business was not his passion. “I think I am the worst fisherman in all of Greece,” he laughs.

But he did not become interested in economics and business administration. Instead, he dedicated his life to the sea.

The young man created Enaleia, an academy to train new professional fishermen, teaching them sustainable fishing techniques. A total of 114 unemployed people have benefited from the project.

During the preparations for a field trip, Arapakis realized that fishermen threw back large amounts of plastics into the sea that ended up in their nets.

“I was looking at a bottle that had an expiration date of 1970, but the fishermen took it from me and threw it into the water,” he said. “They told me this was not our problem”.

This led him to shift Enaleia’s focus into raising awareness among the fishermen and helping them bring back to land the plastics that get caught up in their nets.

It was a tough process, but Enaleia’s personnel earned the confidence of the fishermen — although not without offering them an incentive of 50 cents per kilo of plastic, he says.

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