19/05/2016

As every year, the loggerhead sea turtle Caretta caretta has returned to the Bay of Kyparissia. Welcome back!

On Tuesday 17th May and around daybreak, ARCHELON volunteers spotted the first Caretta caretta nests in Kalo Nero and Elaia. The team were members of the first morning watch, patrolling in the Gulf of Kyparissia. It is worth noting that the nest found in Elaia is in close proximity to two of the illegal tracks opened up in the area.

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As the Environmental Education Programme at our Environmental Centre of Agiannakis began on that same day, we were delighted to share this wonderful news with students arriving from many parts of the Peloponnese. Since mid May, many young scientists from Greece and from around the world have teamed up to participate in ARCHELON’s research field projects which focus on the protection of the main nesting beaches. Especially in the South Gulf of Kyparissia, more than 100 participants from around the globe are expected to join us and contribute to keeping the turtles safe.

Since the Gulf of Kyparissia is home to the loggerhead sea turtle Caretta caretta and the second most important nesting area in the Mediterranean, its significance has been stressed often. In fact, over the past three years (namely 2013, 2014 and 2015) the nest number has exceeded that of Zakynthos, which is usually ranked first in importance. The heart of the habitat can be found in the far southern part of the Gulf and in a 10 km beach area, right between the River Neda and Kalo Nero village, where 86% of the nesting takes place. What is more, the area has been included in the European network Natura 2000 under the name “Thines Kyparissias” (code GR2550005). This is due to its role in the nesting of the threatened species and the existence of the richest and most extensive sand dune zone in Greece. It has been an acknowledged Site of Community Importance (SCI) since 01/09/2006.

Because the Greek State had not promptly proceeded with providing this rare and sensitive ecosystem with a definitive institutional protection framework, the European Commission referred the matter to the European Court of Justice. The case was decided in January 2016 and the Advocate General proposed the conviction of Greece. We hope that the Greek authorities will go ahead with the Presidential Decree for the protection of the area as soon as possible; then Greece could avoid a very heavy fine.

However, on Wednesday 18th May and only one day after the first nests were spotted, heavy vehicles were noticed cleaning the beach. Despite the start of the nesting season, the operation had been approved by the local authorities and took place at the very heart of the reserve, more precisely in the location between Agiannakis and Vounaki. This sad incident is yet another occasion to point out that the presence of heavy vehicles on nesting beaches has a devastating impact on sea turtle populations. For one thing, the vibrations could cause the eggs to crack. For another, the sand becomes packed and prevents the turtles from digging their nests for several days later.

On the occasion of the starting nesting season, the ARCHELON Society wishes everyone a great summer and hopes for a successful reproduction period, where the spawning beaches are used wisely; we owe it to this ancient reptile that has survived since the time of the dinosaurs.

Information: Polymnia Nestoridou, Peloponnese Project Coordinator, Tel. Number: +30 6951009785

Μετάφραση: Νικολέττα Κοντογιαννοπούλου

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