05/07/2011

A stone with a 23-year history…

For the ʽsea turtle peopleʼ this rock meant that on 2 August 1988, an ARCHELON volunteer saw the tiny trail of a hatchling heading towards the sea – they might even have seen the turtle itself, if they were lucky enough. And now, 23 years later, ARCHELON volunteers can still be found on the same beach, carrying on the same morning patrols for the same reason: to locate, survey and protect the Laganas Gulf nests.

A lot has changed since then. With the creation of the Zakynthos National Marine Park by Presidential Decree in 1999 and the establishment of its Management Agency in 2000, a lot of steps relating to the management of the protected area have been taken, including serious attempts to protect the beaches on a 24-hour basis in order to avoid any disturbances during the nesting period, and to protect the coastal ecosystem – remarkable efforts.

Looking back, though, in the end there hasnʼt been a huge change on the part of the State: The staff of the Management Agency remain unpaid for the last eight months, the protection plan cannot be adequately implemented – despite the heroic efforts of the existing personnel – and the Agencyʼs research team has not been on the nesting beaches for the last two years. Volunteers from ARCHELON and other non-governmental environmental organizations are once again called upon to make up for the absence of the Greek State in the integrated, seamless and efficient management of the environment in Greece. Once again, Greece has been disgraced by the huge European Union fines it must pay for not adequately protecting the most significant Mediterranean habitat of the endangered Caretta caretta.

Why focus on the sea turtle? Because each person chooses an area in which to contribute, whether it is the environment, society, or something else. When we contribute collectively to one purpose, each in his/her own unique way, the results will be greater and more successful.

During a morning beach patrol, then, a stone may remind us again of our role, sending us an encouraging message: We were here, we are here, and we will continue to be here to protect the coast and the sea because of the sea turtles, and to serve as a reminder that the protection of the environment must become a key item on Greeceʼs political agenda for this reason. The environment consists of both the life forms living in it and also their right to a fair standard of living.

(Smaro Touliatou) (Translation by Joanne Stournara)

Protection of Sekania Beach, the core of the National Marine Park. On this 700 metre- long beach, an average of 600 sea turtles gather to build their nests every summer, according to ARCHELONʼs on-going nest-building observation programme, which began in 1983. For the protection of this internationally important beach, WWF Greece has bought the land behind the beach to insure that it will remain untouched and will continue to be a refuge for sea turtles in future.

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