Two steps forward and one back for Cyprus’ endangered turtles
The unique turtles of Cyprus may soon be extinct due to population, fishing and tourism pressures.
Frustrated by the lack of decisive action by the local authorities, until now Linda has remained politely diligent; although it’s obvious these latest casualties have pushed her patience to its limits, “It seems reasonable to assume that the marine police were aware of which boats and people were fishing in the Zapalo area at the time the deliberate killings took place and hence should be able to compile a list of suspects and potential witnesses,” she claims, “We have asked both the Environment Department and the Chief Officer to press the police to thoroughly investigate these offences.”
Over the past three years the group has doubled its efforts to strengthen links with official bodies such as the local police, customs and the environment department, as well as beach employees, in a bid to improve detection and reporting of prohibited activities.
Illegal fishing and the driving of vehicles on turtle beaches are still major issues, “The biggest problem is that it just didn’t seem to be taken seriously.... at all,” she emphasises, “We’ve had to make a massive fuss about it before things started happening and something was done.”
Linda believes that a change in the law to allow fishing in 5m of water and above in SBA waters is a major cause of turtle fatalities.
The previous limit of 10m, although still significantly less than the protection for nesting beaches that exists in the Republic of Cyprus, could still be policed effectively she says.
Thus far her campaign to extend the minimum fishing depth during the turtle mating and nesting season has been unsuccessful.
Despite the overall increase in turtle nests and hatchlings, Linda is reluctant to predict an optimistic long-term outcome for the island’s most magnificent indigenous species, “It looks like a difference is being made but there’s a massive danger that all that could evaporate,” she says, “They are talking about reducing protection of the Akamas, they’re talking about building hotels right alongside nesting beaches, so if they are not really careful then all the good work could be undone. The jury’s out for the turtles, it should be good news but we just don’t know.”
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