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Fifth-generation fisherman from the Greek port city of Piraeus named Europe’s Young Champion of the Earth December 17,2020   |  Source: ekathimerini.com

A 26-year-old fifth-generation fisherman from the Greek port city of Piraeus has been named Europe’s Young Champion of the Earth by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), a prestigious award that also provides seed funding and mentorship to promising environmentalists around the world.

Lefteris Arapakis is the founder of Enaleia, a startup that trains and incentivizes the local fishing community to collect plastic from the sea, allowing both fish stocks and the ecosystem to recover. It is also prototyping recycling the plastic into fashion merchandise like socks and swimsuits, working with a clothing production firm in Madrid.

Arapakis’ family has plied the waters off southern Greece for five generations, netting the same hake (‘bakaliaros,” a word also, and rather confusingly, used for its cousin, the Atlantic cod) and red mullet (“barbounia”) that have sustained Greeks for millennia. But in recent years, overfishing and pollution, especially discarded plastic, have hammered Greece’s fisheries, with catches in the Mediterranean Sea falling as much as 34 percent in the last 50 years, according to UNEP.

“I got more and more worried about the scarcity of fish and the increase of plastic,” says Arapakis, who trained as an economist. “I was

 

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