Hope for turtle habitat

For months the National Marine Park of Zakynthos, home to the endangered Caretta-caretta, or loggerhead turtle, has remained closed and unguarded. The management of the park owed money to insurance funds. The seven employees had withheld their labor since March because they had not been paid and Greece was at risk of punitive action by the European Court. The park was not operating at full capability and the agency had no chief since a new management board had not been appointed as it should have been in March. The loggerhead’s largest Mediterranean habitat was unprotected during the tourist season, which is also the nesting season, and the nesting grounds on the beaches in Laganas are readily accessible. Environmental organizations, local agencies and opposition deputies have complained of uncontrolled construction work, the use of beach umbrellas, and vehicular traffic – all of which endanger the nesting grounds – on those beaches. A 90,000-euro grant recently approved by the Environment Ministry has given the park a new chance. Zakynthos National Marine Park, the first managed national park in Greece, was founded in June 2000 when Greece was faced with the threat of European Court action. It has not functioned at full capability because there was no means of ensuring its financial viability, and in 2003 it did not receive its full annual funding. A campaign to save the park has prompted more than 20,000 e-mails from environmental organizations and individuals, but controversy has flared again on Zakynthos between warring interests and attitudes. On one side, bodies such as the Chamber of Commerce and the Architects’ Association, some academics and ecologists are in favor of the marine park, while, on the other, are those, chiefly owners of illegal buildings on the beaches, who oppose it and have objected to it repeatedly in the past. Some of the latter have even expressed a desire to join the park’s board of management, though not with benign intentions.