The Greek government have issued a Presidential Decree to protect an endangered nesting site of the loggerhead turtle.

After years of inaction, which led to condamnation by the European Court of Justice for failure to fulfil obligations, Greece has finally issued a Presidential Decree to protect the Kyparissia Bay.

Local NGOs welcomed this long-awaited decision. They are now expecting that the decision will be followed by concrete actions like the preparation of management measures to protect best the area.

This area is the second most important nesting site of the loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) in the Mediterranean and a critially endangered sand dune systems in Greece. These areas are now protected by a concrete institutional and legal framework.

This good news was unfortunately followed by bad news. The Greek government simultaneously granted licences for exploration and extraction of hydrocarbons in an area next to the Natura 2000 area.

NGOs expressed their concerns regarding this decision that could potentially threaten the Natura 2000 area in their Press Release: “intense concern about the agreement for the exploration and the extraction of hydrocarbons in the marine area adjacent to the protected area”.

In a statement 14 environmental NGOs in Greece have called on the government to prepare management plans for the area.

“For  Kyparissia Bay to be sufficiently protected there is an urgent need for the preparation and issuance of a management plan for the area, in cooperation with the Kotychi – Strofylia – Kyparissia Bay Wetlands Management Body with the active participation of local stakeholders and community. The implementation of a management plan will ensure that illegal activities, that continue to degrade the habitat, will be addressed and that the needs of the local community will be taken into account,” the statement said.

“The preparation and implementation of the management plan must address several crucial issues: a complete identification of the legal road system in the protected area; beach use rules (duration of stay at the beach, beach zoning, code of conduct etc.) that will prevent harassment of sea turtles during their highly sensitive reproduction cycle; rules for beach bars operating in the core habitat; fishing regulations; and hunting regulations to protect the area’s bird fauna.

“A new era has begun for Kyparissia Bay. An era of protection and sustainable management of the natural wealth of the area. The environmental organizations  are hopeful that the long-awaited Presidential Decree will not prove to be ’empty words’, but shall immediately be followed by the preparation of management measures and will constitute the basis for the adequate protection of the area and the sustainable development of the local community.”