Interview with Social Worker - author Christina Azopoulou
Have you ever thought there could be an organization in the country that would remind you of a watchful and ...active eye for our sea? When we first met one of the inspirers and current chairman of the group, Ιοannis Giovos, we distinguished in his face - but also in his team - the freshness and the different cooperative spirit that differentiates this organization from the so far environmental activists in our country. Moreover, iSea is distinguished from the large environmental protection networks because it is an environmental organization for the protection of aquatic ecosystems, founded in a small - for its global networking data - city, Thessaloniki. Exclusively consisted of young people with a common interest in the aquatic environment and its protection, iSea is a group of people with experience in research and the protection of marine ecosystems and with love for nature. The most important motivation to create iSea organization is the strong belief of its participants that things can change if we all join our forces together. The collective work of people specializing in environmental management and people with love for its protection can lead to a more sustainable future for all of us. In the past, they have collaborated with the “Movement for Change” an Association of Friends of the Disabled and cite us their experience as well as rich material about their innovative actions and their future plans. Recently, they have organized the very important coastal cleanups in various regions of our country and clearly invite us all to lead the cleaning actions by proposing coastal areas that need to be cleaned up. In addition, through innovative programs and mobile applications, they manage to attract the interest of young and older people for rare species of marine life and fisheries issues, while at the same time they raise the attention of public bodies to combat and reduce the overconsumption of water resources ... Co-operation and initiatives from active citizens are their different elements. So, I introduce you iSea, with its gaze at the planet earth and the blue seas- our treasures!
Christina Azopoulou: When was iSea NGO founded and from whom does it consist of?
iSea: It is a newly established environmental organization founded in March 2016 in Thessaloniki and currently possesses offices in Athens. Its core consists of a group of young researchers and scientists with different subject areas who share their love for aquatic ecosystems. Our main purpose is to protect and preserve aquatic ecosystems through a holistic approach of the contemporary problems they face. The further goals of iSea are to inform and raise awareness of the state, management bodies and public opinion about the environmental and social impacts of climate change due to the degradation of aquatic ecosystems and the application of non-rational Practices and actions.
Christina Azopoulou: What kind of actions do you carry out?
iSea: In iSea, our actions have been developed around the following four key pillars:
Aquatic litter by developing programs to reduce them and to face local environmental and potentially social problems stemming from their accumulation. Under the "Sweet Home…Beach, keep it clean!" program, volunteering teams have been formed in 7 Greek cities (Thessaloniki, Alexandroupolis, Katerini, Ioannina, Preveza, Lefkada, Patras) and have carried out a total of 15 coastal and underwater cleanings resulting in the collection and recording of more than one tone of aquatic litter. In the context of dealing with aquatic litter and plastics which come from the use of daily care products, in particular, we participate in the Beat the Microbead, a Global Campaign of the Soup Foundation. Our goal is to contribute to the promotion in Greece and Cyprus of Beat the Microbead application, which gives the consumer the opportunity to identify products containing microplastics and avoid buying them.
The alien species, which are species that appear beyond the spread area with which they have historically been connected up until now. ISea has developed the Citizenship Survey program "Is It Alien To You? ... Share It!!!" under which citizens are asked to send photos of alien species or species that are not recognizable to them along with the location they were captured. Within the framework of the project, cooperation has been developed with the IUCN (The International Union for Conservation of Nature) and the MedMIS program, aiming at contributing to the registration of alien species in the protected areas of Greece.
Fisheries, as one of the most important sectors of the primary ones in our country, of significant environmental, social and economic importance. It is necessary for the fishing activity to be sustainable through the conservation of fish stocks. iSea has created a pilot data logging program of amateur fishing with the aim of creating a database to study amateur fishing in our country and to raise awareness of the professional community of fishermen. This program is the first systematic recording of amateur fishing in Greece, which is the country's obligation to the European Commission.
Humans and aquatic ecosystems. In iSea, we believe that emphasis should be placed on exploring the relationship of human beings and human societies to aquatic ecosystems as an integral part of human history with a particular contribution to the creation, survival, and evolution of societies as we know them today. This sector is an innovation in research concerning the protection, which aims to make an effective contribution to finding solutions to a sustainable and more harmonious coexistence in the future.
Children's perception of the marine environment and Public Opinion on Sharks are both programs aiming at exploring the perception and knowledge of individual social groups on marine ecosystems and marine organisms. Both programs act as precursors for the creation of customized education and awareness programs worldwide. More than 15,000 people from 102 countries have been involved in these programs, and collaborations have been developed with environmental organizations, universities, and research centers.
An integral part of our philosophy in iSea is social interaction. In this context, we are trying to reshape our actions properly to target individual social groups. The program of information, awareness and student involvement addresses all school grades in order to raise students' awareness of modern environmental issues and is based on the knowledge students already possess and on interactive activities.
Christina Azopoulou: What are your future plans?
iSea: Our main goals are to actively contribute to the promotion of sustainable development aiming at environmental, social and economic prosperity whenever necessary. We believe that this can be achieved by developing regularly recurring actions, tailored to the public, which will appeal to the general public and will promote good practices for the use and the management of modern environmental issues.
Christina Azopoulou: What exactly are the alien species?
iSea: Alien species are called the species that appear beyond the spread area with which they have historically been linked up until today. These species may belong to all taxonomic groups, such as fish, crustaceans, macrophages, and bacteria. The bulks of alien species that arrive in Greek waters come from the Red Sea, are called Lessepsian immigrants and enter from the Suez Canal.
Christina Azopoulou: How was your collaboration with the “Movement for Change” Association of Friends of the Disabled?
iSea: Working with the “Movement for Change” was a great experience and a great opportunity to share knowledge on areas where each organization is active. The purpose of the action was to refute the idea that people with disabilities do not offer to society and this has been proved in practice by cleaning the stream of Tuba under the eyes of the passers-by and the guidance of the volunteers. Members and volunteers who participated on both sides gained significant experience. The aim of this collaboration is to make similar meetings and joint actions in the future with greater involvement and improvement of the methodologies used in the specific actions.
Christina Azopoulou: How can the public play a more active role in terms of the environment and its protection?
By being informed, willing and available to participate! The modern environmental problems that we all need to face require the attention of all of us. Today, actions that target all social groups with many different ways of participation are organized. You can participate in field actions such as beach cleanups, contribute to data formatting with the alien species you record in the marine environment or by simply scanning the barcodes of everyday products you purchase, avoiding those with microplastics and changing your attitude as a consumer.
Christina Azopoulou: How can someone communicate with you?
iSea: We strive to keep in touch with anyone who wants to communicate with us and participate in our actions. You can contact us via our email firstname.lastname@example.org, or through the iSea Social Media Networks.
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Environmental Organization for the Protection of Aquatic Ecosystems
Ochi Av. 11, 554 38