The European ecological network Natura 2000 is a network of nature protection zones that extends throughout the European Community and aims to ensure the long-term preservation of its most valuable and most endangered species and habitats.
With a recent Decision of the Ministers of Environment and Energy and Rural Development and Food, the Natura 2000 ecological network of Greece is significantly expanding, thus providing additional protection to marine turtles. According to the decision, it 63 existing areas are extended and 32 new ones are created.
Especially for our seas, the news is very positive, as out of the 63 extensions, 24 concern marine areas with special protection status, as are 9 of the 32 new areas. In total, more than 20% of the Greek seas are now protected.
Specifically, with regard to the protection of marine turtles, 4 new marine areas (Thracian Sea, Kefalonia, Corinthian Bay and Southern Messinia) have been created, covering important fields of feeding, wintering or mating in the sea, as well as nesting beaches for Caretta caretta on land (e.g. beach of Koroni). Also, 5 existing Natura 2000 sites (Amvrakikos Gulf, Islands Paxoi and Antipaxoi, Ekvoles Evrota, Chania), where an increased presence of sea turtles is found, were expanded to the marine and terrestrial area.
It is worth noting that the scientific data for the evaluation and integration or extension of the aforementioned areas were collected thanks to the long-term field projects of ARCHELON and the contribution of hundreds of volunteers.
With the aforementioned changes, it is estimated that the vast majority of the largest nesting beaches of Caretta caretta in Greece are now part of the Natura 2000 network, and for the first time a protection framework is established in important marine areas! Protection at sea is of great importance, as sea turtles spend 99.9% of their life cycle in water.
Undoubtedly, the expansion of the Greek Natura 2000 network is a very positive development in the effort to protect not only sea turtles but also the Greek natural wealth as a whole, while our country makes an important step in fulfilling its European obligations. Let us hope that by promoting the new law for protected areas’ administration and management, the protection will be substantial.
Panagiota Theodorou, Conservation Coordinator, tel.: (+30) 69 404 70 194, email: firstname.lastname@example.org