Monday, March 12, 2012

Campaign: Trout Protection Society, Karpenisi.

Adult Male Balkan Trout Salmo fariodes electrofished in spawning creek near Karpenisi.

We had a wonderful trip teaching and electrofishing at Karpenisi Evritania on the 9th and 10th of March 2012. This fascinating Greek montane town is about 300 kms North of Athens, at 960 meters elevation. It is a place totally enclosed by the Mountains of Roumeli - the southernmost flank of the Pindos Range (an extension of the Dinaric Alps). The rivers and streams flow westwards here and there is lots and lots of water; and very thick forests everywhere. 

Here the local Environmental Education Center hosted a small group of us to do a seminar on "The Fauna" and I focused on fish - a vacant niche I have adapted to well I think. We had students from the local  branch of the Technological Educational Institute "Forestry College" (TEI Karpenisiou) observe the presentations and field trip and the local Forestry Department, plus  interested members of the public also participated. The most interesting aspect of the experience was the unique NGO we met here: The Trout Protection Society (Syllogos Prostasias tis Pestrofas). Founded in 2010 the small but active group is doing something never before attempted at this degree anywhere in Greece: volunteer wardening and anti-poaching campaigns to save the local native trout populations. The group was formed after it became apparent that local enforcement authorities could not effectively deal with poaching. I was informed that the area's last fish poacher was caught and charged in 1991. But poaching is rampant - using nets, chemicals and spear fishing day-and-night. So the group formed, made up by amateur anglers- their current president being a local policeman! It works - they've caught some criminals and many local people know that they are out there using mountain-bikes and touring the streams and backroads - practicing real volunteer wardening. 

The local trout belongs to a range restricted species now called Balkan Trout or Salmo fariodes. Its a beautiful light-coloured fish and we found some at a spring-fed tributary stream which had small gravel bars where the fish probably spawn.

The Karpenisiotis river, tributary of the great Acheloos. This stretch of the river was rather polluted a few years back in Summer being very close to the town's sewage treatement plant. 

Very tiny tributary of the Karpenisiotis next to the Sewage Treatment Plant. A tiny modern bridge creates a cascade (about 80 cm high) and excludes fish from entering the stream. We electrofished a 60 m. stretch here and it was fishless - a pity!
Closer look at the Karpenisiotis, in full early spring freshet. The old trees lining the river are Oriental Planes; orchards of Walnut and other trees and abandoned agriculture are near the river banks. 
Forestry students at the brilliant "Kefalari Springs" just outside the village of Karpenisi. This is a special habitat very different from the turbid rushing waters of the nearby Karpenisiotis river.

My friend and colleague Professor Tasos Legakis from the University of Athens, one of the greatest Greek Zoologists, teaches us about dead-wood bugs. 
Prof. Tasos Legakis with local environmentalist Babis Chondralis investigate the living dead-wood in the walnut orchard.

Professors Yannis Raftogiannis and Maria Thessalou-Legaki with students in park-like riparian zones along the spring-fed stream.
The drive back to Athens over the Timphristos Pass is where  tire-chains come in handy.  The scene was totally unexpected for us southerners.

Yours truly with wife at Timphristos Village - a place to stop and buy walnuts and mountain tea. 

One of the most amazing wildlife fiinds for me was this Salamander - how often to you see such a thing walking on snow!

At the Platani Chan - were the snow begins to melt and we get back into Mediterranean Greece. The trees are Oriental Planes next to the Sperchios river (fantastic riparian woods!).

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