Fourteen environmental non-governmental organizations in Greece, have expressed their satisfaction regarding the issuance of a Presidential Decree for the Kyparissia Bay (EU Natura 2000 sites GR 2550005, GR 2330005 and GR 2330008).

© Joakim Odelberg / WWF Greece

Following several years of joint efforts by the NGOs, 2 draft Presidential Decrees, 3 decisions of the Greek Council of State (No. 32/2015, 175/2017 and 80/2018), a European Court of Justice judgement condemning Greece for failure to fulfil obligations (C-504/14, Decision of 10th  November 2016) and a Recommendation on protective measures by the Bern Convention at the Council of Europe (case file 2010/5 «Greece: Threats to marine turtles in Thines Kyparissias», Recommendation No. 174), the Hellenic Ministry of Environment and Energy has now taken a big step toward the protection of Kyparissia Bay.

It is, however, a paradox that the Ministry takes this important step for the protection of  Kyparissia Bay while at the same time giving permission forthe exploration and extraction of hydrocarbons in the marine area adjacent to the newly protected area. This agreement raises grave concerns over the sufficient protection of the valuable ecological characteristics of the habitat and the sustainable development of the local community.

With the issuance of the Presidential Decree, the second most important nesting site of the loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) in the Mediterranean and one of the most important sand dune systems in Greece, now acquires a concrete institutional and legal protective framework against plans for unregulated coastal development. It should be noted that until today, the Hellenic Ministry of Environment and Energy has issued two Ministerial Decisions for the protection of the area (May 2013 and May 2016), but these measures were of temporary effect.

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 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. At the same time, the NGOs express intense concern about the agreement for the exploration and the extraction of hydrocarbons in the marine area adjacent to the protected area, which was signed simultaneously with the issuance of the Presidential Decree for the protection of Kyparissia Bay.

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