Cyprus likely to face court over threatened turtles

29 August 2016

Cyprus is anticipated to be taken to the European Court of Justice after giving the go-ahead to a destructive tourism development in a vital sea turtle nesting area.

Limni is a crucial breeding ground for two of Cyprus' iconic species of sea turtles - the Loggerhead and Green varieties. These turtles face a very high risk of extinction in the wild, and are strictly protected under EU law. The project - which would involve two golf courses, a 160-room hotel and 792 residential villas - is expected to impact a quarter of all Loggerhead sea turtle nests on the island.

Increased human disturbance is one factor, but the effect of increased direct light levels and indirect luminescence that come with residential buildings near the animals' nesting sites is also hugely problematic - newly-hatched turtles become disoriented, and end up stranded on land instead of finding their way to the sea.

The project received a positive opinion from the Cypriot Department for the Environment in early August, which would allow construction to begin in and around the 'Polis-Gialia' marine protected site - part of the Natura 2000 network of protected areas across Europe.

While the Cypriot Department for Environment originally recommended a 475-metre building-free buffer zone from the beach, intense pressure from the construction company has reduced this buffer zone to just 20 metres. Light-polluting hotels and villas would be constructed right up to the beachfront.

The enormous size of the project, its proximity to the coastal nesting beach and inadequate mitigation measures, will result in irreversible damage to the two endangered turtle species. The only sure-fire way to protect the nesting sites is not to build.

The European Commission has already assessed that the project would violate EU nature laws, and so Cyprus is now likely to face a hefty fine at the European Court of Justice should construction start.

Natasa Ioannou from Friends of the Earth Cyprus said: "The planned development will be a scar on the landscape and a blight to the local nature, and will mean the Cypriot taxpayer footing the hefty fine to be paid for breaking nature protection laws. The project - particularly the damaging hotels and villas so near to the coastline - needs to be scrapped immediately."

Friends of the Earth Europe, alongside our groups and allies, have been battling to uphold the vital EU nature laws protecting these turtles, and to implement and enforce them much more effectively. Over 500,000 citizens have backed the call to save the laws.

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