- The case of Zakynthos (Laganas Bay) “reopens” after 21 years
The 40th Standing Committee Meeting of the Bern Convention (Council of Europe) on the Conservation of European Wild Life and Natural Habitats, fully supported MEDASSET’s complaints about the inadequate protection of crucially important sea turtle habitats in Turkey, Greece and Cyprus. MEDASSET, a permanent member-observer of the Bern Convention since 1988, has alerted about the severe conservation problems in several of the most important sea turtle nesting beaches in the Mediterranean: Laganas Bay (Zakynthos) and Southern Kyparissia Bay in Greece; Fethiye, Patara and Anamur in Turkey; Akamas and Limni in Cyprus.
Regarding Laganas Bay in Zakynthos, despite its designation as a National Marine Park since 1999, violations are still widely occurring throughout the Bay, including high levels of unregulated maritime activity and operation of illegal businesses. Furthermore, insufficient funding and lack of wardens has led to the inadequate implementation of management regulations. The case was first brought to the Bern Convention by MEDASSET in 1984, and as a result, Recommendation No.9 was adopted in 1987. Over thirty years after, the Standing Committee decided to re-open the case file, after a supermajority vote (13 countries in favour, 2 against, 8 abstentions). “MEDASSET has consistently provided evidence on the failure of the government to protect Laganas Bay and we welcome the decision of the Standing Committee” noted Mrs Lily Venizelos, MEDASSET President, who has tirelessly rallied for the protection of the top Mediterranean loggerhead (Caretta caretta) nesting site since the 1980s.
With respect to Kyparissia Bay, which hosts one of the largest reproductive populations of loggerhead turtles in the Mediterranean, MEDASSET and ARCHELON reported several violations of the Bern Convention’s Recommendation No. 174 (2014): illegal buildings; unimpeded vehicular access, planting and farming on the nesting beaches and dunes; nearshore fishing; lack of beach furniture management; and light pollution. “Conservation problems still remain unresolved, posing a direct threat to sea turtles, despite the adoption of a protective law in 2018”, remarked Nadia Andreanidou, MEDASSET Officer. The Standing Committee decided to keep the case file open and asked the Government to enforce the Presidential Decree, adopt a Management Plan and impose penalties on illegal activities.
Concerning Cyprus, Terra Cypria presented the long standing conservation and management problems in Akamas peninsula and Limni beach, which host reproductive populations of both Loggerhead and Green turtles. No legally binding management plans and no effective protection measures are yet in place. MEDASSET supported Terra Cypria’s calls for urgent action by authorities to ensure enforcement of management measures on all nesting beaches. The Standing Committee decided to keep the case file open and asked Cypriot authorities to step up efforts to implement the recommended conservation measures.
In Turkey, MEDASSET’s annual surveys, which were financially supported by the British Chelonia Group, revealed that Recommendation No. 182 and Recommendation No. 183 that were adopted in 2015 for the protection of Patara and Fethiye nesting beaches, have not been implemented by authorities. Lack of local management staff, insufficient nest monitoring, absence of zoning and information signs, light pollution, access of vehicles on beaches, are among several conservation problems. In particular, in Fethiye, for the first time, there is a complete failure of the Bern Convention compliance process: nesting beaches are being destroyed in complete disregard of the Convention’s Recommendations. “We call on the Government to urgently put in force an action plan to enforce site protection before the start of the 2021 tourism and nesting season” remarked Liza Boura, MEDASSET Officer. The Standing Committee decided to keep the case file open and urged the Government to reconsider development projects which go against the Recommendations. The Committee also requested implementation of management plans and implementation all the outstanding provisions of the Recommendations.
Finally, with respect to Anamur, that forms the 2nd most important nesting rookery in Turkey, MEDASSET in collaboration with local group MERCED, submitted a complaint on the construction of a picnic area in May 2019 by the local Municipality. Extraction of sand from the beach and dunes, planting of trees and grass on soil deposited directly on the nesting beach, are among several destructive impacts of the project. The responsible Ministries fined the Municipality and demanded restoration of the beach by July 2019. To date, no restoration has occurred and the Municipality has initiated another larger ‘Beach Arrangement Project’ in Anamur, which is expected to have severe negative impacts on the habitat and sea turtle nesting. The Bern Convention Standing Committee decided to keep the complaint as a possible file and re-evaluate its decision in its next meetings. The Standing Committee expressed deep concern and urged the authorities to halt any current or future development works and elaborate a Special Protected Area Management Plan for Anamur.
MEDASSET’s Director Mr. Georgios Sampson remarked that “for over thirty years, MEDASSET has as its core mission the protection of the sea turtles and their habitats in the Mediterranean. The decisions taken at the 40th meeting of the Standing Committee of the Bern Convention, as a result of our surveys and advocacy work, are a clear indication that our efforts are recognised and justified. We shall continue on this path.”
Notes to Editors:
- For more information and photos: www.medasset.org/sea-turtle-habitats-medasset-presents-cases-at-bern-convention
- Decisions of the Bern Convention 40th Standing Committee: www.coe.int/en/web/bern-convention/-/40th-standing-committee-meeting
- Information on the case-file process: www.coe.int/en/web/bern-convention/case-files
- With roots back to 1983, MEDASSET was founded in 1988 in England and 1993 in Greece. It is an international NGO registered as a not-for profit organisation in Greece. MEDASSET plays an active role in the study and conservation of sea turtles and their habitats throughout the Mediterranean, through scientific research, environmental education, lobbying relevant decision makers and raising public awareness. The organisation is a partner to the United Nations Environment Programme’s Mediterranean Action Plan (UNEP/MAP) and a Permanent Observer-Member to the Bern Convention, Council of Europe, since 1988