SOCIETY

Three islands slated for protected status

Three Greek island paradises are just a step away from being granted protected status should the Council of State — the country?s highest administrative court — give its final vote of approval.

Plans are for northern Karpathos in the southeastern Aegean and the islet of Saria off its coast to become the country?s third marine park after Zakynthos in the Ionian and Alonissos in the Sporades, all of Tilos, also in the southeastern Aegean, along with all of its surrounding islets being granted protected status and Alykes on Samos also being designated as a protected area.

The three proposals were first tabled for public debate in late 2011 and are now back in the hands of the Environment Ministry, which will forward them to the Council of State for the final deliberation. The most interesting facet is that a special management body will be created for Tilos, putting the responsibility squarely in the hands of local authorities.

In further detail, the Karpathos plan foresees the northern sea area off the coast of the island, which includes Saria and a cluster of rocks known as Astakidonisia, becoming a marine park. According to the study for the area, this is one of the richest marine environments in Europe and home to a thriving abundance of endemic species of flora and fauna. This area is also home to a good portion of the Mediterranean?s dwindling Monachus monachus, or monk seal, population and large underwater Neptune grass (Posidonia oceanica) meadows, as well as rich fish stocks. The presidential decree concerning the plan for this area?s protection separates it into two basic zones (sea and land), with certain activities allowed in designated areas. The Astakidonisia islets will enjoy complete protection.

Tilos and its surrounding islets (Antitilos, Pelekousa, Gaidouronisi, Giakoumis, Aghios Andreas, Prasouda and Nisi) are slated to be designated as a nature park. Not only is the entire area beautiful, but it also boasts great biological and ecological diversity, as well as aspects of scientific and geomorphological interest. The aim of the presidential decree for Tilos is to protect the area?s natural heritage and ecological harmony, while also providing opportunities for public education and leisure activities connected to the preservation of nature.

The presidential decree separates the island into zones. The first takes in the areas of Koutsoumbas, Stavros, Aghios Panteleimonas, Profitis Ilias and Paleokastro, as well as all of its coasts and islets, restricting human activity in order to allow nature to take its course.

The second zone covers the remaining parts of the island and will allow some human activity, including environmentally friendly leisure activities, tourism businesses and farming. The innovation in the Tilos plan is that a management body will be formed for its protection which will come under the jurisdiction of the local municipality rather than regional authorities.

On Samos, the presidential decree foresees the areas of Alykes and Psili Amos as being granted a protected area designation. The area includes a wildlife sanctuary and two Natura-listed stretches of coast, as well as a zone in which construction will be strictly monitored.