Some of the most important sea turtle habitats in the Mediterranean, located in Greece and Cyprus, “remain unprotected,” the Bern Convention warned in an alarming press release on Wednesday.
The Bern Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats is an international body that covers nature conservation in Europe and North Africa.
At its 40th Standing Committee Meeting on Wednesday, the Bern Convention found concerns raised about the inadequate protection of critical sea turtle habitats in Greece and Cyprus to be substantiated.
MEDASSET, an international NGO tasked with helping save sea turtles in the Mediterranean, was the first to express such concerns, arguing that crucial sea turtle nesting beaches in Greece and Cyprus, specifically Laganas Bay in Zakynthos, Southern Kyparissia Bay in the Peloponnese, and the beaches of Akamas and Limni in Cyprus, were not adequately protected.
The NGO argued that the Greek government had failed to ensure that Laganas Bay, a National Marine Park since 1999, is safe for the substantial loggerhead sea turtle population that nests there.
Unregulated maritime activity, illegal construction, and the operation of illegal businesses in Laganas Bay, one of the most important loggerhead sea turtle habitats in Greece, pose an incredible risk to the at-risk female turtles which depend on the beach as a safe place to lay their eggs every year.
Light pollution, illegal buildings, and nearshore fishing, all potentially destructive to the endangered reptiles, were recorded at Kyparissia Bay in the Peloponnese, home to one of the largest reproductive populations of loggerhead turtles in all of the Mediterranean. Additionally, the destruction of dunes, where sea turtles nest, was witnessed at the beach.
These issues — especially that of light pollution — were meant to be resolved in 2018 at the passing of a protective law in Greece, according to MEDASSET Officer Nadia Andreanidou; yet they still persist across the country.
There are currently no legally-binding protection measures or effective conservation plans for the reproductive populations of both Loggerheads and Green sea turtles on the Akamas Peninsula and Limni beach in Cyprus, according to Terra Cypria, an NGO dedicated to conservation of the island nation’s flora and fauna.
The Bern Convention found MEDASSET and Terra Cypria’s concerns regarding sea turtle protections in Greece and Cyprus to be justified, and decided that the Greek and Cypriot governments had not adequately protected these vital sea turtle habitats.
The body urged the governments of Greece and Cyprus to step up their conservation efforts, and called on Greece to impose penalties on those who conducted illegal activities in protected sea turtle habitats.