More needs to be done to protect Cyprus’ turtles, and new measures may include adding more areas to the Natura 2000 network, according to Minister of the Environment and Agriculture Nicos Kouyialis.
The minister made the comments in response to questions raised by Green Party MP George Perdikis in relation to a seminar held in Malta in 2016, where the European Commission, after evaluating the relevant information, found that not enough is being done in Europe to protect the turtles.
Perdikis said the commission found that the protection of the caretta caretta and the green turtle (chelonia mydas) species – the two found in Cyprus – was inadequate. He added that measures need to expand beyond the existing protection at spawning beaches.
“I asked the minister to inform the House of Representatives if there is a plan for the inclusion of other marine areas in the Natura 2000 network and whether the ministry has received, or is going to take any additional measures to protect sea turtles in the maritime area of Cyprus,” he said.
Kouyialis said data from Cyprus has been submitted to the European Commission.
“The European Commission stressed the very important role of Cyprus in maintaining and reviving the population of these species in the Mediterranean, and it is therefore necessary and imperative to continue protecting the sea turtles,” he said.
With this in mind, he added that the Ministry of Agriculture is further investigating whether there are other significant areas where turtles are found in the sea off Cyprus, or significant migratory “corridors” used by them.
“Cyprus is considered very important for the conservation of both of these species. In the Mediterranean, green turtles are born almost exclusively in Cyprus and Turkey, while the caretta breeds in Greece, and in smaller numbers in other countries of the Eastern Mediterranean,” he said.
He added that Cyprus has an obligation to protect and conserve the turtles through various national, European and international conventions and laws. He noted that sea turtles in Cyprus have been protected since 1971 by the Fisheries Act and Regulations. In addition, they are included in Annex II of the Protocol on Specially Protected Areas and the Mediterranean Biological Diversity of the Barcelona Convention, which Cyprus ratified in 2001.
Sea turtles are also protected as a priority species through the European Habitats Directive, Kouyialis said.
“The relevant EU Directive has been transposed into national law in the Republic in 2003 by the Act on the Protection and Management of Nature and Wildlife. Under this legislation, the Natura 2000 network was established in Cyprus.”
The minister said that the Department of Fisheries and Marine Research implements the Marine Turtle Protection Programme, focusing on the Lara-Toxeytra Protected Area and the Polis-Gialia Area of the Natura 2000 Network.
Kouyialis added that the programme also covers turtle nests on other beaches where systematic or occasional nesting occurs.