By Evie Andreou
THE opening of a beach bar in the Asprokremmos area of Paphos, next to the Anassa hotel, has ignited worries over the fate of turtles that lay their eggs on the beach.
The Green Party has condemned the operation of the beach bar, which they call illegal and argue that the lights and noise pollution coming from it at night have disastrous consequences for the turtles.
“We would like to point out that we have located within breathing distance from the premises, cubicles of the Fisheries Department that mark nests with turtle eggs,” the party said.
“Turtles are very shy animals, if they see shadows, hear noises, they go back into the sea,” said marine biologist Myroulla Hadjichristoforou, formerly of the Fisheries Department who has been actively involved in the Sea Turtles Protection Programme for 30 years.
“If they are disturbed several nights in a row, they lay their eggs in the sea, which is not good since sea water kills the eggs,” Hadjichristoforou said.
“This year we have 22 nests on Asprokremmos so far and we are still in the middle of the nesting season which lasts until August 15,” she added.
The manager of the bar, which has been up and running for a few weeks, disagrees with the Green Party that the eggs are in danger.
“We are very careful with the nests and we make sure no-one disturbs them. We have spoken to the Fisheries Department officer who comes to check them. The bar is not on the beach, is higher up. The only things we have on the beach are umbrellas and sun beds,” he said.
“We at the village are very sensitive to environmental matters, we decided that the bar’s existence was not harming the beach or the environment in any way,” added community leader of Neo Chorio, whose area of responsibility includes the beach, Andreas Christodoulou.
He said they gave permission to the bar to have umbrellas and sun beds on the beach because the beach has been approved by the Cyprus Tourism Organisation.
Most of the Akamas Peninsula, where Asprokremmos beach is located, is in the Natura 2000 network, an EU-wide network of nature protection areas established under the 1992 Habitats Directive.
In Cyprus, where the Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas) and the Loggerhead Turtle (Caretta caretta) breed, turtles and their eggs are protected by Law since 1971. Both turtles, especially the Green, are endangered species.
If beaches not within the Natura network are found to have turtle nests they are also protected.
In Cyprus last year 1,199 nests were recorded, 123 laid by Green Turtles and 1,076 by the Loggerhead.
Hadjichristoforou said over the last five to six years, the population of the turtles has been increasing.
She explained that even though turtles lay many eggs, the hatchlings only have a 0.2 per cent chance of survival once they hit the water, so it is very important that as many as possible reach the water.
Lights on beaches can attract and confuse turtle hatchlings, causing them to go the wrong way when they head out to sea.