Συλλόγου για την Προστασία της Θαλάσσιας Χελώνας, ΑΡΧΕΛΩΝ

 

BRIEF HISTORY OF THE SEA TURTLE PROTECTION SOCIETY

During their holidays in the summer of 1977, Dimitris and Anna discovered that many sea turtles nested on the island of Zakynthos. They were loggerheads (Caretta caretta) and until that time the scientific community was unaware of the fact they had chosen some Greek beaches to nest. Dimitris and Anna Margaritoulis got more involved, they collected data that proved the importance of Zakynthos as a nesting site and urged the Greek government to protect the beaches. Articles were published in newspapers and magazines and speeches were given throughout Greece.

1981: A monitoring project was initiated on Zakynthos with financial assistance from WWF Int. New very important loggerhead nesting beaches were discovered by Dimitris, Anna and the first core of turtle researchers in Greece, in the southern part of the Bay of Kyparissia, on Peloponnesus.

1982: The Ministry of Environment introduced the first measures to curtail development in the Bay of Laganas, Zakynthos. The renowned sea turtle expert, Dr. J. Frazier, visited Zakynthos and provided valuable information. The same year, a tagging programme was initiated in the Bay of Kyparissia. Another nesting site was discovered in the Bay of Lakonikos, situated in southern Peloponnesus.

1983: The Sea Turtle Protection Society (STPS) was founded. In recent years it became known as ARCHELON. Its aim is to study and protect the sea turtles and their habitats through fieldwork, management, obbying, collaboration with stakeholders, public awareness and rehabilitation.

1984: The first Presidential Decree was issued to protect the nesting areas on Zakynthos. The European Community co-financed the projects of Zakynthos and Kyparissia. The Universities of Athens and Thessaloniki participated in the projects. The monitoring project in the Bay of Lakonikos was started by ARCHELON. Dimitris Margaritoulis was honoured by the Academy of Athens for his work with sea turtles.

1985: ARCHELON started an Environmental Education Programme in the schools of Zakynthos.

1986: It was discovered that sea turtles nest in Kotychi (Peloponnesus). The first ARCHELON newsletter in Greek was published. The Bern Convention (Council of Europe) opens a file on Zakynthos and issues the first recommendations for the protection of Zakynthos nesting sites. The first international annual ecological meeting was organised on Zakynthos. Two more followed. Lily Kornaraki set up the first ARCHELON information outlet, a tent, in the Bay of Laganas. The "Sponsor a sea turtle" scheme was conceived and formulated.

1987: A Ministerial Decision introduced a Housing Control Zone in the broader area of Laganas Bay to protect the nesting beaches. Presentations were extended to schools all over the country. Supported by WWF Int., ARCHELON embarked upon a comprehensive public awareness programme on Zakynthos. The first seasonal information station was set up in Laganas.

1988: The first international volunteers joined the project on Zakynthos. ARCHELON's monitoring projects on the nesting beaches of Zakynthos, the Bays of Kyparissia and Lakonikos and Rhodes were co-financed by the European Community. Local landowners ousted ARCHELON project members from the beach of Daphni (on Zakynthos) where they had started to build illegally. The first boating regulations were introduced in the Bay of Laganas, with two zones. A second information station was set up by ARCHELON at Gerakas, Zakynthos.

1989: A project aiming to inform fishermen in the Bay of Lakonikos was started. The first official recording of green turtles (the second sea turtle species found in the Mediterranean nesting mainly in Cyprus and Turkey) was made in Lakonikos. A big wildfire destroyed the vegetation on the beaches of Sekania and Daphni. Violence on Zakynthos against ARCHELON members continued. A three-year project to investigate potential nesting areas in Greece was initiated with the support of the European Community. Through the Sea Turtle Rescue Network that was created by ARCHELON in co-operation with the port authorities, dead and injured sea turtles are reported from all over Greece. The injured sea turtles were treated by ARCHELON members or transported for treatment to the Wildlife Hospital on Aegina or to the Rhodes Hydrobiological Station.

1990: A Presidential Decree strengthened the legal status of the Zakynthos nesting beaches. ARCHELON opened its head office in Athens. The coast of Greece were surveyed and new important nesting sites were discovered on Crete. The monitoring projects at Rethymnon and Chania were launched. Violence on Zakynthos culminated in volunteers been injured by indignant locals. The information station at Gerakas was destroyed. The "Turtle briefcase", which was the first portable educational programme for schools in Greece, was created by ARCHELON.

1991: The Ministry of Environment decided to proceed with the creation of a National Marine Park on Zakynthos. Efforts to build on Marathonissi (Zakynthos) were thwarted following concerted actions by ARCHELON, other NGOs, local communities, and the local Church. ARCHELON opened a branch office in Zakynthos town. The public awareness project at Rethymnon was started. ARCHELON became a member of the European Union for Coastal Conservation (EUCC).

1992: ARCHELON supported WWF Greece to purchase land behind the Sekania beach and protect it (by preventing building, etc.). Sekania is the most important loggerhead nesting beach in the Mediterranean. Co-funding was received from the European Commission. ARCHELON, WWF, GREENPEACE and the Ecological Movement of Zakynthos (ZOK) drafted guidelines for the creation of the National Marine Park of Zakynthos, with the support of the local authorities and submitted them to the Ministry of Environment. A branch office was opened in Rethymnon. ARCHELON's first English newsletter "Turtle Tracks" was issued.

1993: ARCHELON celebrated its 10th anniversary. The Secretary General of the Ministry of Environment turned down the guidelines prepared by the NGOs for the Marine Park. GREENPEACE, ARCHELON and ZOK demonstrate in the Bay of Laganas against speedboats that keep killing turtles. Seminars on environmental education were carried out for teachers on Crete. ARCHELON was awarded the FORD environmental prize for the protection of nature. A second educational briefcase was created, "Life on the coast".

1994: The Sea Turtle Rescue Centre, a hospital for sea turtles and an information outlet, was established in Glyfada, on a coastal location offered by the Municipality of Glyfada. Dimitris Margaritoulis became a member of the Executive Committee of the IUCN Marine Turtle Specialist Group. ARCHELON was given the TUI award for the protection of the environment. TUI is the largest tour operator worldwide. Speedboats were banned from the rest of the Bay of Laganas with the introduction of a third zone. Night flights were banned at the Zakynthos airport. The first seasonal information stations operated on Peloponnesus. The third ARCHELON branch office opened in Kyparissia Bay. Purchase of Sekania by WWF Greece finalised.

1995: On 5 June, the Sea Turtle Rescue Centre was officially opened. A three-year project (LIFE) partly financed by the European Union, was initiated on Crete. The aim of this project was to produce and implement a management plan for the loggerhead nesting beaches on the island.

1996: ARCHELON organised a Mediterranean Training Course on Sea Turtle Biology and Conservation with the co-operation of the Ministry of Environment and UNEP/RAC-SPA and the participation of 7 countries.

1997: A renowned sea turtle specialist, Dr.Colin Limpus from Australia, visited the ARCHELON projects of Glyfada, Zakynthos, and Kyparissia Bay. The Management plan for the beaches of Crete was presented to the authorities of Rethymnon. A project co-financed by the European Union (LIFE) was started in Lakonikos Bay, which included the drafting of a management plan.

1998: A project co-financed by the European Union (LIFE) was started in Southern Kyparissia Bay, which included the drafting of a management plan, co-operation with fishermen. The management plan for the nesting habitats of Crete was submitted to the Ministry of Environment. ARCHELON celebrated its 15th anniversary. Dimitris Margaritoulis assumed the position of Vice-Chair in the Executive Committee of the IUCN Marine Turtle Specialist Group, responsible for the areas of the Mediterranean and North-East Atlantic. Pilot sand dune restoration project was started at Evrotas.

1999: The Presidential Decree for the establishment of the National Marine Park of Zakynthos was signed. Co-funded by the European Union, ARCHELON participated in a project monitoring the impact of fishing activity on the sea turtle populations in the Mediterranean. The European Commission announced the commencing of infringement procedures against Greece for failing to comply with the Habitats Directive concerning the protection of the loggerhead turtle on Zakynthos.

2000: The Management Agency of the National Marine Park of Zakynthos was established. It was the first management agency of a protected area in Greece. ARCHELON and WWF Greece are jointly represented on the Board of the Management Agency. The first Environmental Centre was opened by ARCHELON at Lakonikos Bay and the first nature trail amongst the dunes was constructed. ARCHELON became a partner to the UNEP -Mediterranean Action Plan.

2001: The second Environmental Centre at Agiannakis in Kyparissia Bay was opened by ARCHELON. The European Court of Justice condemned Greece for violation of the Habitats Directive as it failed to fully protect the nesting beaches on Zakynthos. The third portable educational kit "Fishermen and sea turtles" was constructed.

2002: A new project (LIFE Nature) co-funded by the European Commission aimed to reduce deaths of turtles caught in fishing gear was initiated by ARCHELON. In co-operation with local Municipalities ARCHELON ran several conservation projects on Crete and Peloponnesus co-funded by the Ministry of Environment (ETERPS). The first telemetry project in Amvrakikos was initiated by ARCHELON to track migratory routes of loggerheads frequenting the Bay.

2003: In the context of the new LIFE project ARCHELON constructed the first mobile exhibition in Greece on sea turtles and interaction with fisheries. FORD donated a van to this purpose. ARCHELON celebrated its 20th anniversary. ARCHELON became a member on the Boards of three new Management Agencies of protected areas (Amvrakikos Bay, Kotychi-Strofilia and Mesolonghi Lagoons), where sea turtles occur. A second nature trail was constructed in a coastal forest at Elaia (Kyparissia Bay).

2004: A Mediterranean Workshop for Hospitalization of injured turtles is realized at the Municipality of Glyfada. The monitoring of nesting beaches was initiated in Syria and the first results obtained. The "Forest Path" is created, the "Nature Path" is expanded, a bird Observatory and resting lodge are constructed, the surrounding area at Agiannaki Station is landscaped and the auxiliary areas at Evrotas Station are organized. Mr. Dimitris Margaritoulis is nominated as president of the International Sea Turtle Society for 2005-2006. ARCHELON continues cooperating with the Greek Society for Nature Protection for the Blue Flags.

2005: The next International Symposium for the Sea Turtle will be held in Crete on April 2006, for which Mr. D. Margaritoulis has been nominated as president. In the context of the LIFE-Nature Programme, two new First Aid Stations began operating in Amvrakikos Bay and Pagalohori of Rethymno. Furthermore, the operation of the new Volunteers Training Centre has started at the Rescue Centre in Glyfada in cooperation with the General Youth Secretariat (GYS) and many events have taken place.

2006: The 26th International Symposium of Sea Turtles took place in April 2006, where around 700 people from all over the world participated. The programme "We can all live together", supported by VODAFONE Foundation Group, commenced in 2006. The LIFE-Nature Project (LIFE2002NAT/GR/8500) for the reduction of sea turtles' mortality was successfully completed. The project had commenced in 2002.

2007: New awareness programmes took place during 2007. Pizza Hut conducted in their shops a new awareness programme for young children and the General Secretariat for Youth sponsored a new programme which promoted environmental education awareness. Furthermore, during 2007 the "people of the sea" programme supported by VODAFONE GROUP FOUNDATION, was completed. The Rescue Center facilities are broadened as well as ARCHELON's presence in the media. On the other hand, the reduction of the number of nests in Crete is raising concerns about the future number of nests in the area.

2008: The "good news" in 2008 was that we had a great number of turtle nesting for the first time in Kyparissia Bay. ARCHELON has been protecting, over the last 25 years, all nests along the southern part of the Bay and saves thousands of hatchlings each year.
The "bad news" is that in 2008 we had too many dead turtles all over Greece, not only as victims of incidental fisherie interactions but also of intentional killings.
The Youth Group accomplished the 1st camp for its members during the Lakonikos Bay program.
On the occasion of ARCHELON's 25th anniversary a great presentation was organized on November 5th in the TECHNOPOLIS area, where officials, unofficials, members, supporters, old/new volunteers and friends congratulated and wished ARCHELON for its long-standing and successful work.
Unfortunately, the general financial crisis affected our Society during the last few months of 2008, basically due to the payment delay of 4 supported programs by the Ministry of Affairs.
The Deed of Partnership alterations proposed during the General Meeting were approved and shall be published soon.

In 2009 the lowest record of nests (824) was reported in Zakynthos, since the Society first started the recording program in1984, a fact which is actually very concerning.
Also, in co-operation with the municipality of Avlona, a program of the General Secretariat of Youth was completed during 2009. This included the construction of a fire observation area, footpath in the forest and placement of information signs regarding conservation of the areas biodiversity.
Furthermore, this was the year of another negative record. 2009 indicated the most strandings (389) of dead and injured turtles all over Greece. Among these, 55 of which were found injured, were all transferred to the Rescue Centre for treatment.
During the past year the 2nd Youth Group camp, "Helonoparea", also took place in Mavrovouni - Gytheio with the participation of 13 children aged 10-14 and 6 officials.