18 November 2005

Greece opens coastline to scuba diving industry

Dive operators say that the Greek government's decision to end its draconian restrictions on scuba diving will usher in a golden era of underwater exploration.

As thousands of miles of coastline open up to divers for the first time in 50 years, local professionals say that hundreds of wrecks are waiting to be discovered.

Greece has long been seen as a tantalising option for divers, with its clear waters and long history of shipping and shipwrecks – but the country's culture ministry has always been concerned that unfettered diving would result in artefacts being removed. Now, after years of lobbying by the dive industry and pressure from government insiders, thousands of miles of coastline will open up for the first time in more than 50 years.

As a result of a campaign led by diver and government adviser Manilos Alifierakis, new laws have been drafted that will allow access to 18,000 miles of coastline, rather than the meagre 126 dive sites designated under a 2002 ruling.

"This is a major change," said Phrederika Miltiadow of Odyssey Dive Centre in Hakidiki on the Greek mainland. "Before this, we were able to dive in five per cent of the area around us, now the change in law means we can explore all the marks we have recorded on our sonar.

"There are wrecks that have never been seen by divers, reefs which we have no idea about. We're about to enter a new age of exploration, and we're going to have heaps of new dive sites before we even begin to think what could be waiting for us in the trimix range. The same will be true all over Greece and its islands."

The new laws will also open dive sites around the Greek Islands, which are noted for their clear water. Pavlos Manallos of the Crete Underwater Centre said he was expecting to double or triple his list of quality dive sites. "We had a dozen sites we use regularly, but this means more variety, more exploration and better diving," he told DIVE. "It's a very exciting time."

Under the new rules, diving federations from other EU countries will be recognised (as was not always previously the case), but dive centres will have to apply for licences. Government adviser Manilos Alifierakis has said Greece is likely to create a system of marine parks in order to monitor and manage diving tourism in the future.

Source: www.divemagazine.co.uk


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