Laganas Bay lies at the southern part of Zakynthos Island in the Ionian Sea, and hosts one of the largest nesting populations of the loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta), an endangered species, as listed in the 92/43/EU Directive, in need of strict protection (annexes II and IV), in the Mediterranean Sea. The majority of nesting is concentrated along 5.5km of coastline, occurring across six distinct beaches within the Bay; East Laganas, Kalamaki, Sekania, Daphni, Gerakas and the Marathonissi islet. The adjacent marine area of the bay, consisting of 51 km2 provides shallow warm waters, for the adults to breed and rest during the nesting season. For reference, more than 43.000 nests have been recorded from 1984 until now (as recorded by ARCHELON).
MEDASSET first brought to the attention of the Bern Convention, the threats occurring to the nesting population within Laganas Bay in 1984, and as a result, Recommendation No.9 was adopted in 1987. Today, many of the same threats remain, with assessors annually reporting ongoing illegal constructions, lack of wardens, horse riding on the nesting beaches, nearshore fishing, unimpeded vehicle access to the nesting beaches, lack of beach furniture management, and light pollution. Moreover, contracts signed for the exploration and potential extraction of hydrocarbons in the adjacent marine protected areas now constitutes a significant additional threat. In addition, there is an unwillingness to initiate judicial proceedings, the judicial system is slow in trying and deciding upon the legal cases that are brought to court and when the decisions are finalized there is an unwillingness to enforce judgements and related penalties, therefore there is perceived impunity by the violators for their illegal actions.
Since 1984, MEDASSET has lobbied at national (Greek authorities) and international level (European Commission, Bern Convention) for the effective protection of the nesting beaches in Laganas Bay, Zakynthos, which led to the adoption of the Presidential Decree (22 December 1999), providing constitution for the Zakynthos National Marine Park (ZNMP). Nevertheless, more than 34 years since Recommendation No. 9 was issued by the Bern Convention’s Standing Committee, and 23 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. MEDASSET in collaboration with ARCHELON and WWF Greece, are closely monitoring the developments, gathering data and taking part in every consultation at national, EU and regional level.