December 2, 2020
Health and nature are interdependent. We have always known this but due to the Covid-19 pandemic we have seen a surge of studies that confirm the truth of the assertion. The health and resilience of marine ecosystems are of the utmost importance to the maintenance of ecological balance, yet they are under growing pressure. During the early months of the pandemic response, we caught glimpses of what the environment looks like when that pressure is significantly reduced: the pandemic seemed to create a global momentum and perhaps also an opportunity to mitigate some of the most pressing environmental threats.
So, while the turtles returned to Zakynthos and the Kyparissia Bay, and, in fact, a record number of nests was reported, the threats remained. Furthermore, national authorities failed to make use of the rare opportunity, created by reduced tourism activities, to enhance conservation measures and address some of the long-standing threats.
More than 33 years since Recommendation No. 9 was issued by the Bern Convention’s Standing Committee, and 22 years since the establishment of the National Marine Park of Zakynthos, the effectiveness of the measures in place remains inadequate, exposing sea turtles to severe threats, principally due to lack of enforcement.
The same applies to Kyparissia Bay. Four years after condemnation by the European Court of Justice, six years after the Bern Convention issued its Recommendation No. 174, and 2 years after the relevant Presidential Decree was issued, the site appears totally unprotected.
Both cases were discussed during September’s Bureau Meeting. MEDASSET urged the Bureau to re-open its Case File on Zakynthos and to carry out an on-the-spot-appraisal so that Recommendation No. 9 can be updated and amended, and the Greek Authorities can be encouraged and assisted urgently to protect Laganas Bay effectively. In the case of Kyparissia Bay too, we urged the Bureau to keep its Case File open. The result of the Bureau Meeting gives us cause to hope, as the cases are to be thoroughly discussed during the upcoming Standing Committee Meeting this December. The Parties to the Convention are expected to urge the Greek authorities to proceed with adopting Management Plans for the two protected areas, enforce the Presidential Decrees and impose fines on those involved in illegal activities. We will also be there to make our presentations – as we have done annually for over three decades.
To date, the Greek Ministry of Environment and Energy has not reacted; has not sent a thorough and comprehensive report or replied to the Bern Convention. For the time being, the Greek government seems unwilling or unable either to comply with the Recommendations or to enforce its own national legislation. Yet, there is still a chance to seize the opportunity and reverse the situation.
May the 2021 nesting season be both Covid-19 free and safer for the turtles!
You can find out more about our 2020 assessments here: