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Laganas Bay 6/08/2019

Press releases in regards to the National Marine Park of Zakynthos, on turtle harassment, Lagana bay.

ARCHELON asking “What is happening in Lagana bay with the sea turtles?”

Press release today, in regards to the National Marine Park of Zakynthos by ARCHELON, WWF and medasset. In a previous press release made by ARCHELON, which has recently published a video showing the harassment our vulnerable sea species known as Caretta Caretta are subjected to.  Total disregard to the rules and regulations within the Marine Park of Zakynthos, it seems has caused an uproar.

Press Release ARCHELON

More than 400 boats are available for turtle spotting within the protected area.  What is even more discouraging, instead of 2 boats at a time observing, there are often four to five boats.  Some of these boats have been known to go right over the top of the turtle, just to please their paying visitors. The rules clearly state that one should be at least 15 metres away! Unfortunately, this does not seem to be the case as we can plainly see in the video.

Click on link:- https://www.facebook.com/archelon.gr

Photos:- ARCHELON

Larger tour boats have also come into the bay. Obviously not wanting to miss out on the tourist attraction, this is totally unauthorized.

This is a marine park and we are entering the marine creatures home. One should be quietly observing. Respect for their environment, seems to have just gone out the window,  all in the name of tourism.

Photo:- ARCHELON

Reports

ARCHELON reports that a male turtle was rescued recently in July. It is recovering within the rehabilitation centre in Athens. The turtle, seriously injured by a boat.

Social Media

The outcries from people on their Facebook page dated the 25th July, 2019. Saying they had witnessed a boat running across a turtle. Then seeing it injured, leaving a bloody trail behind. The turtle they believed was the beloved Sotiris.  Zakynthos Informer immediately got in touch with the Marine Park Authorities and ARCHELON, the sea turtle protection society of Greece, to investigate if the story was true.

The Marine Park of Zakynthos nor ARCHELON at that time, was  notified of any such event. Neither that the possible turtle Sotiri, was dead. After informing them that quite a few sources had mentioned the horrible event, authorities took to investigate.

Discovery

On  July 26th, 2019 and after our call for help. The Marine Park authorities discovered a well known loggerhead sea turtle seriously injured. Known to locals as “Hercules.”  He has been living in the area of the marine park for over six years. He was discovered by the sea turtle rescue team late that morning. “So bad, that one could see his intestines” a witness said.

Photo: ARCHELON

Questions?

Now, one would say in a Marine Park, how could this be possible? How can our protected species succumb to these type of injuries? In all fairness there are people who do respect the restrictions within the park,  but what about those who don’t?

Photo: Kostas Papafitsoros of Hercules

After speaking with Marine Park officials, and although this is the first serious injury this year they feel that the laws should be more strict. In a report up until now, 18 Loggerhead Sea turtles have been recorded dead, although 15 of them turned up on our shores during the winter months, and one that was tagged had come from Italy.

Port Authorities

Relying on the Port Authorities to keep check, especially in peak season, in one of the most popular tourist destinations, has taken its toll and the proof we now see. A turtle so badly injured, it is not sure whether he will survive. The rehabilitation centre along with the vets are doing their best to help heal the wounds sustained.  People are saddened at the fact that this turtle was not protected in the manner it should. In addition, they are questioning the role of some of the boats within the bay area, especially when they do not respect the rules and regulations which are required within the marine park.

Vulnerable sea species

These animals are classed as vulnerable species.  It’s because of parks like ours, they have a chance to grow in numbers.

Zakynthos has become a haven for at least the loggerhead sea turtle to lay its eggs and with well over a thousand nests to count (dated the 21st of July, 2019), it just proves that our Marine Park is helping.  But for how long?

photo: ARCHELON

This is not the first time the questioning of maintaining the park during peak season has been brought up and the fact that the park is there to ensure that the turtles within the zone are truly safe. Nor is it the first time that a turtle within the “safe zone” has become been seriously injured by boat propellers. Surely, a safe environment and a well kept check on the rules and regulations of our park, will not only benefit our marine creatures but also the people who either visit the area or make a living from it.

Sotiris

Photos:- Kostas Papafitsoros
Photo: Kostas Papafitsoros

To get the story on Sotiris,  I contacted Kostas Papafitsoros, well known for his unique sea turtle pictures. Kosta has been volunteering for ARCHELON since 2007 and knows almost every turtle within the Marine Park area, especially those who have chosen to make Lagana Bay their haven. Sotiris is one of those turtles, as well as Hercules.

It is here that the story of Sotiris being dead not only caused an uproar within our community but also confusion as to how. Sotiris over the many years has become well loved, not only by visitors to our Island but to the locals. He has been swimming miraculously around the area of Agio Sostis for about two decades, according to reports. It seems age has taught him well and he is experienced enough to avoid harm during peak season. According to Kosta, he is easily the most famous photographed wild turtle in the Mediterranean and how old he is, remains a mystery.

He is often seen hanging around the fishing boats when they come in with their catch, of course the fishermen throw him a fish or two. Although hand feeding is completely prohibited, his adorable giganteus face just staring at you, waiting patiently, can’t not be ignored. The story of dead Sotiris quickly took to Social Media, and stories on comments of how boats chase turtles for people to view, slowly became a realisation of how a turtle could easily have been injured and in this particular case a mention of our beloved Sotiri.

Hercules

When confirming with Kosta as to which turtle had been injured he explained to me the differences and how it would be easy to spot Sotiris, due to his characteristic markings. He spoke of the two turtles as if they were his children, he has spent so many hours with them that he can tell you stories that seem bedtime fairy tales when listening to them.

“So yeah, I first saw Hercules in 2014. I am not sure if he is easily recognizable by the others, let alone calling him with that name too. He is not a giant he is much smaller than sotiris and actually you might be surprised but even sotiris carapace length is just average.” He then went on to tell me about Hercules and the beer can, and I will let you see for yourself.

click here :- Hercules https://www.facebook.com

A young male turtle whose life is still in danger. Over the last couple of weeks we have been in contact with ARCHELON volunteers in regards to the health of Hercules.  “Hercules is still fighting for his life. He is alive , fairly active but we still  have to wait to see what will happen with this hole” One volunteer stated. Having had his shell severely damaged, his healing process will take time.

On one good note, after investigation, Sotiri has been seen by Marine Park officials, he is alive and well and making an impression to those who visit him. Let’s just hope that his life is respected in the way we expect others to respect ours.

The National Marine Park of Zakynthos with their press release today, also states what visitors and business people should adhere to whilst in the Marine Park, their statement follows:

Today’s Press Release:- ARCHELON, WWF and Medasset.

Collisions with sea turtles continue at Zakynthos National Marine Park – When will fines be imposed?

At the end of July 2019, twenty years after the establishment of the National Marine Park in Zakynthos (NMPZ), we found out about a new turtle injury due to collision with a boat, in the bay of Laganas.

This is the second incident this year and it was expected because we record many violations every day, which we report to the competent authorities, but no sanctions are imposed,” says Anna Lamaj, head of the ARCHELON program in Zakynthos.

Meanwhile, thousands of tourists visiting the bay of Laganas this year are beginning to realize that protection measures are not being complied with, and many express their dissatisfaction by sending comments to ARCHELON.

It is not difficult to see that a boat is moving in the zone where navigation is completely prohibited (Zone A) from 1 May to 31 October. Just as easily can be perceived by a vessel moving at speeds above the limit of 6 nautical nodes established for the rest of the bay (Zones b and C), ”says Panagiotas Theodorou, lawyer, Archelon Coordinator protection.

Violating of both the speed limit and the restrictions that apply to the NMPZ maritime zone poses risks to injury and nuisance to turtles in the Laganas Bay. Informing visitors and adhering to the institutional framework can help create a safer environment for the Caretta caretta, ”says Harikleia Minotou, WWF Greece, Zakynthos Project Manager.

Hundreds of visitors aboard boats daily to see the Caretta turtles in the sea, in the bay where navigation is permitted. Many of them are, without knowing it, involved in a great deal of suffering for the seas creatures because the code of conduct for their observation is not respected.

In practice we see all measures being circumvented. Around five boats congregate around a turtle that is spotted every, often the boats approach each turtle less than 2 meters away and stay there as long as they want.

Worst of all, other vessels violate the cruise speed limit and injure or even kill sea turtles that spend most of the year in Laganas Bay. In particular, we report that the ARCHELON team and the NMPZ members have previously rescued several turtles in the area from swallowing hooks. Of these, three adult males have very special stories. The first, Achilles, a fatality after a speed boat collision in 2017. The second, “Hercules” is now being treated at the Archelon Rescue Centre with serious injuries and we are seeking information and evidence of his injury, which was done in July 2019.

The third, “Agisilaos” after months of treatment at the ARCHELON Rescue Centre, he finally returned to the sea in early July and in a few days he same the Attica-Zakynthos distance to return to his home, the National Marine Park of Zakynthos. What is the fate that awaits him now?

The co-signatories, ARCHELON, Medasset and WWF Greece, call on the competent authorities to take action to implement the regulations in the marine area, which is a Nature Conservation Area and to impose sanctions so that the protection of the sea turtle, so that the name National Marine Park of Zakynthos doesn’t remain just a title.

Also, in the event that a citizen has any evidence of a sea turtle injury in July 2019, please contact the ARCHELON or the Marine park of Zakynthos Management Body.

————————————————– ————————————————– ——

More information:

ARCHELON, Anna Lamaj, Program Officer of Zakynthos, Preveza and Amvrakikos Gulf, Tel: 6940 454976, email: zakynth@archelon.gr

MEDASSET

WWF Greece

 

————————————————– ————————————————– ——

Notes to editors and travel agents

  1. The provisions in force in the marine area of ​​Laganas Bay

In the maritime area of ​​Laganas Bay, specific measures have been put in place to protect sea turtles arriving from various parts of the Mediterranean to lay their eggs.

Three zones have been designated by the Presidential Decree designating the National Marine Park (Government Gazette D 906 / 22-12-1999):

  • Zone A where a full maritime ban is in force from May to October; and
  • Zone B where the speed limit of 6 nautical knots applies to boats, while amateur fishing and boat mooring are not permitted.
  • Zone C where the speed limit of 6 nautical knots applies

Three zones have been designated by the Presidential Decree designating the National Marine Park (Government Gazette D 906 / 22-12-1999):

  • Zone A where a full maritime ban is in force from May to October; and
  • Zone B where the speed limit of 6 nautical knots applies to boats, while amateur fishing and boat mooring are not permitted.
  • Zone C where the speed limit of 6 nautical knots applies to vessels.

Zone B applies the Code of Correct Observation of Sea Turtles by Vessel, enacted from 2018 with no. 2131.13 / 2063 / 29-5-2018 Decision of the Port Authority (appoint: 975H4653PH-BNZ)

Presidential Decree 67/1981 prohibits the killing, injury or infliction of any other damage to sea turtles.

The combination of Laws 1650/1986 (Article 28 – next) and 4042/2012 (Article 3) imposes a jail sentence and a fine in the event of someone killing or injuring a protected species.

  1. ARCHELON’s instructions to visitors to Zakynthos

Visitors ATTENTION! Turtles in the sea! If you drive a boat in Laganas Bay, adhere to the speed limit of 6 nautical knots where navigation is permitted and avoid the prohibition area.

Remember that amateur fishing is not allowed in the bay.

When booking a turtle-boat trip

Demanded that the Code of Conduct for Sea Turtle Observation be adopted, which has been endorsed by the National Marine Park of Zakynthos and registered by the Zakynthos Port Authority.

Before boarding the boat, inform yourself of good practices

Up to 2 observation boats per animal at a time.

Speed should be very low – less than 2 nautical knots – during observation.

Remaining vessels should keep away at a distance of more than 45 m.

When you’re on board and watching

Make sure observation is done silently, giving privacy to the turtle

The maximum observation time is 10 minutes.

The approach to the turtle in the sea is always at its side

Always keep a distance of 15 meters from the turtle.

Remember that the sea turtle lives freely in nature

Avoid feeding and touching them.

for more information:-

The institutional website of the NMPZ: http://www.nmp-zak.org/en/node/70

Future

As ARCHELON stated in their video, requesting more regular patrols in the area. The organisations involved in the protection of our Sea turtles are doing their best under the circumstances. It just does not seem enough, especially with the above results. Being publicised on Social Media that our Protected Sea creatures are being harassed in every form, some to their death, definitely is a reason to cry out for more help. Let’s hope that the help needed comes soon! Until then, we may see more incidents against the rules and regulations of the park.

A special thanks to the Marine Park of Zakynthos, ARCHELON, and Kosta Papafitsoros for the information required.

 

About Louise Inzk

Louise is Australian born and has been a Greek citizen since 1991. She has deep cultural ties with the island, often writing about Zakynthian Traditions and Culture. She is also an active member of the Volunteer Group of Zakynthos, Giostra Di Zante and is a member of the women's choir "Rodambelos". Her love of the island and all it offers saw her joining the Zakynthos (Zante) Informer admin team in 2014.

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