These days the National Marine Park of Zakynthos is reaching 10 years since its establishment. Indeed, in December 1999, the then President of the Hellenic Republic Kostis Stefanopoulos signed the Presidential Decree for the creation of the Park.The Decree, which was the conclusion to long term deliberations and daring political decisions, was also signed by Evangelos Venizelos (Minister of Development), Ν. Christodoulakis (Financial Minister), G. Anomeritis (Minister of Agriculture), Th. Κoliopanos (Deputy Minister of Environment), St. Soumakis (Minister of Mercantile Marine), and Μ. Chrisohoidis (Minister of Public Order). The contribution of the next Deputy Minister of Environment Ilias Efthimiopoulos, as well as the General Secretary of Environment Ilias Beriatos, was very significant to the implementation of the Decree.
With a basic goal to preserve the largest in the Mediterranean breeding habitat of the endangered Loggerhead Sea Turtle Caretta caretta, the Decree crowned the long-term conservation work of ARCHELON, the Sea Turtle Protection Society of Greece, in Zakynthos. ARCHELON documented scientifically the ecological importance of Laganas Bay and furthermore, with the assistance of other environmental organizations, lobbyed for the creation of the Park. This struggle of the environmental organizations, often escorted by intense negative reactions, broke through the borders of Greece and reached the European Parliament, the European Council, and other supranational bodies.
The creation of the National Marine Park, and its associated Management Agency established in April 2000, was the commendable solution to the preservation of the habitat’s integrity combined with a “soft” development scheme, based on specific protection terms.
During these 10 years, ARCHELON maintained its presence in Zakynthos providing to the newly-established Management Agency support, know-how, and data. Today the situation seems improved, especially on the nesting beaches, where there has been an apparent get-along-with between tourism and protection measures; a result of an adequate wardening programme, initiated by the Park, and an increasingly improved co-operation with local authorities, residents, and visitors.
Unfortunately, the same situation doesn’t apply in the marine area. Specific regulations, as the boats speed limit, are not controlled adequately. “Turtle-spotting-boats”, through which many locals receive an extra income, have not been organized properly, their numbers keep increasing, and now cause a considerable disturbance to the turtles in the Bay. Further, the last few years more and more turtles are found dead, mostly by being caught in nets and long-lines, a very severe problem that should be resolved immediately, before undermines protective work done on land.