COMMUNITY

New plan for protecting sea turtle nesting grounds in Messinia

By Giorgos Lialios

The European Commission has on numerous ocassions demanded that Greece tighten its protection of Kyparissia Bay on the western coast of Messinia in the southwestern Peloponnese, which is a key nesting site of the endangered Caretta caretta loggerhead sea turtle.

With the country already facing civil action at the European Court of Justice, the Environment Ministry is heeding the warnings – albeit belatedly – and is ready to launch a comprehensive framework for the protection of the entire western Peloponnese coast from uncontrolled development.

Kyparissia Bay is considered the second most important nesting site of the Caretta caretta in the Mediterranean, as well as one of the few surviving coastal parts of Greece that still have the sand dunes favored by the endangered turtle. Some progress has been made toward safeguarding these beaches by nongovernmental organizations Archelon and Medasset, but this has not been augmented by the proper authorities in order to yield maximum results.

The main part of the Environment Ministry’s new plan for the area is a comprehensive environmental study on the dunes and Kyparissia’s general marine environment.

According to the general secretary for the environment, Nadia Giannakopoulou, this study has already covered the dunes on the wooded coast of Zacharo, Kaiafas Lake, Strofylia and Kakovatos, as well as the northern end of Kyparissia Bay.

“Once it is completed, we will be able to draw up a presidential decree that will set out all of the terms for the protection of and the measures for managing the entire coastal area that needs to be protected,” explained Giannakopoulou.

It is worth noting that from 1998 to 2002 Archelon had conducted a study with funding from the European Union’s LIFE program for southern Kyparissia, which also included a draft for a presidential decree. The proposal, however, was never implemented due to pressure from the local community, leaving the area with little if any oversight and supervision.

The Environment Ministry hopes that its plan will also be enough to stop the legal proceedings against Greece, though the Commission stressed that the state has for years failed to comply with the protection standards required for the area, which is part of the Natura network, and must form a regime of strict protection for it.

Online