Court condemns Greece over turtles
Dabs Banner: July 2014
Greece had been condemned by the European Court for failing to protect endangered sea turtles as it dumps household waste on a key nesting site. It follows widespread alarm at the continued use of a waste dump on a protected beach in Zante close to the popular holiday resorts of Laganas and Kalamaki.
Zante authorities continue to bulldoze nesting sites and to dump waste on land that lies within the maritime national park of the island, part of the European network of protected sites Natura 2000 since 2006.
The European Court of Justice rules that, by keeping a dump active, in defiance European Union environmental regulations, Greece has violated its obligations under European law.
The court also ruled that Greece also violated its obligations on the preservation of the environment and endangered species and it now faces the risk of a lawsuit or a heavy fine.
The destruction of nest sites and disregard for the sea turtle caretta caretta has been a national scandal for many years.
Zante locals have traded heavily on its turtle connection, with turtle spotting boat trips and endless turtle T-shirts, while at the same time destroying habitats, invading nesting sites and killing off turtles in large numbers.
Beaches around Laganas Bay have been major turtle nesting sites for hundred of years. But the growth in tourism has seen turtle numbers decline sharply as tourist facilities have expanded.
Zante tourist turtle spotting boats regularly scare off the shy creatures while bulldozers clear nesting sites to make way for sun loungers and beach bars.
Some measures have been put in place to protect turtles, with nesting sites marked off and power boats and jet skis banned on some beaches, but laws to protect the animals go largely disregarded and unenforced.
Zante conservation experts have repeatedly warned that tourist turtle-viewing trips on Zante pleasure boats are threatening the future of the endangered caretta caretta sea turtle but the war with the tourist industry in Laganas Bay has been going on for years.
In this latest incident, Greek authorities decided to continue using a waste dump close to the Sekania beach on Laganas bay inside the maritime park until a new one is opened.
The court found that waste dumping in this area of Kalamaki was having a strong impact on the ecology of Zante and it siting judged to be especially damaging, as turtles in this area need absolute protection.
Tourists appear unaware or unconcerned at the distress caused by turtle spotting boats that chase the turtles through the water.
Conservation experts blame repeated funding cuts by Greek authorities which have prevented measures to protect turtles and guard endangered nesting sites.
The Greek government has been under fire for years from the European Commission for its failure to protect the turtles of Zante and their nesting sites from commercial exploitation.