By Bejay Browne
THE breeding grounds of endangered turtles in the Akamas, an area of outstanding natural beauty, remain under real threat from the unchecked, indiscriminate dumping of rubbish, the Paphos branch of the Green Party warned this week.
Rubbish is once again accumulating along coastal areas including Lara Bay, a turtle conservation station and nesting site in the Akamas, the party’s district secretary said.
The party highlighted the irony that the problem had actually been exacerbated by a recent clean-up campaign on the beach in which rubbish was collected into plastic bags only for them to be left on the beach. It took the intervention of the Environment Commissioner Ioanna Panayiotou before the bags were removed on Thursday.
The Paphos district secretary for the Green Party, Andreas Constantinou, said that along with this individual incident, rubbish is constantly being washed ashore or dumped inland and is causing untold damage to the environment.
“All sorts of boats and vessels passing by the Akamas peninsula dump their waste, unwanted cargo and other items in the sea. This is then washed up on shore. A lot of it finds its way to Lara Bay, as it is bigger than most of the other bays,” he said “This is very dangerous, as it’s a turtle breeding ground.”
Constantinou said items such as bags of out-of-date medicine, poisons, plastic bottles, expired goods and dead animals had all been found washed up on the beach.
“Anything a ship doesn’t want, they dump it.”
He went on to warn that if nothing is done to protect Lara Bay and other remote beach areas of the Akamas, the consequences will be disastrous.
“The only way forward is to declare the Akamas as a national park. Being under the Natura 2000 project doesn’t mean anything. It’s just a title,” he said, referring to the network of protected areas in the EU which aims to protect and preserve natural habitat and environments.
Lara Bay is home to a turtle conservation station, where dedicated conservationists do their best to protect and care for the turtles and their habitat. It is also an active nesting site.
The turtle breeding season gets underway in Cyprus in late May and lasts until the end of August. The turtles lay their eggs every two to five years at night.
Both the Green turtle (Chelonia mydas) and the Loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) nest in Cyprus and are threatened by extinction in the Mediterranean. Green turtles now only nest on the west coast beaches of Lara and Toxeftra and on some beaches on the north coast. Loggerheads also nest in these areas but their main nesting beaches are in the Polis and Limni area in Chrysochou bay.
Turtles and their eggs have been protected under the Fisheries Law. The Mediterranean population is dwindling, as between the 1920s and the 1970s; thousands were shipped to Egypt to meet the demand for turtle soup. They are now being deprived of their nesting sites, as beaches are being developed for tourism and other purpose. A significant number are also killed by fisherman’s nets.
Constantinou puts the blame for the problems being faced in the Akamas firmly on the shoulders of an “inactive and ineffective government, which is doing nothing to protect this sensitive area, and others like it in Cyprus”.
“People have already built in some of this area and they want to build on others. How is this protection?” he asked.
The community board of Ineia has in the past attempted to get permission to place umbrellas and sun beds on the beach but was refused by the Paphos district office.
The Fisheries Law prohibits sun-beds, umbrellas, caravans and tents from being erected in the area.
There are a number of volunteer groups attempting to keep much of the Akamas rubbish free, but they are fighting an uphill battle.
One such group, the Akamas Cleanup Team (ACT), was formed by Neo Chorio residents, retirees Keith and Wendy Watkins in 2012. The volunteers meet up every couple of months to clean up various areas of the nature reserve.
“We do a lot of walking in the Akamas and we enjoy it, but see so much rubbish,” Keith Watkins said.
The volunteers have so far completed ten clean up operations and have filled more than 67 one hundred litre-sized bags full of rubbish. They stress that they always remove the bags from the site when they leave and keep a track of how much rubbish is collected.
“We concentrate mainly on the coastal areas; a lot is washed in from the sea. But we have also found items such as fridge freezers, fridge’s, irons and large plastic items which have obviously been dumped here.”
ACT has yet to work at Lara Bay, instead concentrating on areas further along the coast.
“The relevant government departments should take better care of these areas. If it were a national park, rangers would patrol and control the amount of people allowed to visit every day,”
He said that currently boat trips, jeep ‘safaris’ and are quad bikes are invading the sensitive area and are out of control.
“We need petitions, media coverage, and complaints to the EU,” he said. “Every year there are fewer and fewer turtles laying eggs, and it’s a real possibility that they will disappear from this area in the near future unless something is done.”
For further information about ACT or to volunteer go to www.facebook.com/AkamasCleanupTeam