ECOCLUB, Issue 94
Zakynthos, Greece: Is the protected Caretta sea-turtle threatened by mass nature Tourism?
In October 2007, following a complaint by MEDASSET (Web: www.medasset.org ), an environmental NGO, against adverse
tourism impact on sea turtles from tourist boats within the Zakynthos island National Marine Park (ZNMP, Web:
http://www.nmp-zak.org ), and allegation that boat captains force turtles to emerge from the bottom so that they can be
observed by tourists, ECOCLUB intervened and contacted the ZNMP authorities.
rare, written indirect dialogue ensued during October
2007, between the two sides, headed by two equally
not yet common in Greece, and both
of who have our highest respect. ECOCLUB
recommended to both sides that they sit down together
perhaps in a form of a conference brush aside any
misunderstandings and accept that the other side is also
well-meaning and keen on progress, to unite so as to
face off third parties blocking
progress on the ground,
while at the same time be generous with at least some
local demands, as parks without local support are paper
parks. The Greek government itself had for 5 years been
under investigation from the European Court of Justice
about the Zakynthos Marine Park, and had to provide
annual reports of progress made. As a well-off
European Union nation, and a leading tourism
destination, Greece no longer needs any excuses. The
EU decided to close the 2002 European Court of Justice
Case (C-103/00, ECR 2002:1147) in June 2007,
however the park is still far from a sea-turtle paradise. The truth is that it never was in living memory: most of the area of
Laganas bay, was an area developed for tourism long before this overambitious park was declared, and it is hard, and expensive,
to contain property developers; indeed when an area is protected, property values rise!
Possibly indicative of the chaotic administrative situation in Zakynthos, is that 100,000 Euros sent to the Municipality from the
Ministry of Interior and earmarked for the park, went missing two weeks before the general election in September.
progress over 2005 when
a just installed director of the ZNMP, a local, had to resign when it became known that his family
owned an illegally-built house inside the protected area. His replacement, a dynamic Athens University professor of Biology, a
(rare) inspired decision by the Minister of Environment and Public works to clear the mess, has since been following a real
politik, and progress has been evident over the past couple of years. However in real politik you also have to give something, in
this case to local interests, who in 2006 went on to destroy ZNMP guard posts and signage, in protest at excessive protection
and after heavy fines on local landowners.
The most serious allegations by MEDASSET, as understood by us, are that there are:
Too many boats are harassing turtles, while too many beach tourists are endangering nests.
A rubbish deposit area near Sekania, the highest protection beach, attracts seagulls who then attack hatchlings, while
when it rains, the rubbish overflows to the sea.
There are rooms for rent at Euros 120 / night, illegally operating, as well as new illegally built houses inside the
The park authorities operate in total secrecy, without consulting NGOs or other stakeholders
The NMPZ policy is towards low-key
tourism development, not absolute conservation, and thus infrastructure is
expanding, including a huge parking.
Protection and monitoring is inadequate
The NMZP reply, again as understood by ECOCLUB, is:
1. Tourist Boats are problem, and a particular banned captain keeps causing problems. A code of conduct exists and there were
fines of around 700 Euros this summer on boat captains. No more than a total of 15 Boats ply the waters, while there is an
Archelon (NGO) representative on many tourism boat trips, monitoring that rules are met.
Measures were in place during
August, the peak tourist month in Zakynthos, to confine the sometimes excessive numbers of beach tourists close to the sea
shore, and away from the nesting belt.
2. The rubbish dump, over the location of which the park is powerless, is not a big problem, as preliminary results from a study
by WWF on seagulls on the Sekania beach has shown. A guard is employed in that beach to chase away seagulls, however only
from 6 am to 2 pm. In addition, the rubbish dump acts as a natural buffer against property developers.
MEDASSET Photo Summer 2007:
Sea Turtle Spotting Boats Crowding around a solitary sea turtle