The National Protected Areas System, Greece’s backbone of nature conservation policy, is falling apart. Several ecologically unique national parks are at serious risk of irreversible damage, due to the inability of the local management authorities to counter the mounting threats to their conservation status.
As reported in an urgent joint statement of 9 Greek conservation NGOs, the management authorities of the country’s 28 national parks, which also cover 30% of the country’s Natura 2000 sites, have been striving for months to operate without any funding. Conservation management and wardening are now almost impossible for these natural treasures, as well as for the remaining 70% of Greece’s Natura 2000 areas.
The National Marine Park of Zakynthos, a globally important habitat for the sea turtle Caretta caretta, is in the peak of the tourist season, which coincides with the nesting season. Yet, its nesting beaches and marine area are unprotected, since they are not patrolled against illegal activities. One serious wildfire incident already threatened the National Park of Schinias-Marathon and the management authority was forced to block all entry points to the forest, due to its inability to warden the area. Threats by illegal activities face the National Marine Park of Sporades, the world’s most important habitat for the globally threatened Mediterranean monk seal.
According to the NGOs, full responsibility for this crisis in biodiversity policy lies with the Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate Change. A combination of unresolved legal and administrative issues, unclear directions on responding to pressing management needs, and complex and time-consuming procedures for the disbursement of EU finds funds have led to the current crisis. Important delays in the implementation of national commitments in the framework of the Habitats and Birds directives, undermine the future of the EU’s biodiversity policy.
Sources: NGO statement (in Greek).