LOCAL communities need support if the endangered sea turtles are to be protected, Agricultural Minister Costas Kadis said on Tuesday during his visit to the Natura 2000 protected beaches of Limni and Argaka in the Polis-Yialia area.
Kadis met with representatives of the Argaka community council and was briefed on the progress of the sea turtles’ protection programme hosted by the department of fisheries in cooperation with local and international experts.
Last month, two separate attempts by the Argaka mayor Sypros Pelopidas and a group of locals to prevent the work of the programme on an Argakas beach caused outrage among the public.
The locals have repeatedly expressed bitterness over the protected status of the area, which has inhibited development, something they see as stripping them of important revenues.
A move by Disy president Averof Neophytou last month to allow part of a protected beach to be opened to swimmers and to include several environmentally-friendly facilities for visitors, incited a change of heart among the locals, who said they would support the protection programme. But concern remained among the public over the environmental impacts of Neophytou’s concession.
In statements to media after meeting with both parties, Kadis said that he was pleased to see that the sea turtle protection programme was progressing as planned, while the local community representatives reiterated their willingness to cooperate.
It is a programme that strives for the preservation of a characteristic species of local biodiversity and heritage, Kadis said, and in this effort, it is important “that we have the local community by our side.”
A channel of communication will be established between the stakeholders
in the coming period “to see how this cooperation can develop into mutual gain.”
The minister highlighted that the local community should embrace the protection programme as well as the protected status of the sea turtles, as they may prove beneficial to the local community.
Kadis added that he will assist both parties to look into ways of making use of funds by EU programmes, on the one hand for the protection of sea turtles, and on the other for the construction of environmentally friendly infrastructure that will benefit the local communities.
Argaka lies within the Natura 2000 conservation network, and the area includes the main breeding grounds for the endangered Caretta Caretta and Chelonia Mydas turtles.
The area has been a constant source of concern for environmental groups because of the illegal construction of beach bars and placement of sea beds and umbrellas on protected beaches.