EU’s death sentence for endangered Cyprus turtles

24 January 2019

EU Environment Commissioner Vella has today given the green light to the construction of a massive tourism project in Cyprus that will damage an important nesting site for endangered turtles.

The European Commission has “closed the case” on Limni Beach in Cyprus, announced as part of its infringement decisions published today. This means that it has decided not to intervene to defend EU protected biodiversity against a largescale tourism development on the protected Limni beach.

Adrian Bebb, food agriculture and biodiversity coordinator for Friends of the Earth Europe said:
"The EU's Environment Commissioner has only one job to do - to protect the environment. By allowing this monstrous tourism development to encroach on endangered turtles, Commissioner Vella is failing in his job and the EU laws designed to protect our nature. Allowing two golf courses, hundreds of villas and a massive hotel to be built on top of one of Europe's most critical turtle nesting beaches will be the death sentence for these beautiful creatures."

European and Cypriot NGOs had demanded that the Commission take Cyprus to court for failing to properly implement EU nature law in allowing tourism developments in close quarters to the turtle-nesting beach. This comes only weeks after the global community agreed on the need to step up its work to protect nature and prevent further ecosystem collapse.

Developers have proposed with the Cypriot government’s backing two golf courses, a 160-room hotel and 800 villas adjacent to Limni Beach. The increase in visitor numbers and light pollution will have a detrimental impact on one of Europe's most important nesting sites for rare Loggerhead turtles. 

In a December letter to civil society organisations who had launched the initial complaint, the Commission confirmed that it would close the case and believes that proposed mitigation measures have improved the project - ignoring the previous protection conditions advised by scientists to ensure a 500m no-build zone around the turtle-nesting beach.

The ‘Limni Bay Resort’ development has fallen into the hands of the Bank of Cyprus, after the development company fell into administration; however with the building permission granted, the turtles are still at threat. And the case could set a dangerous precedent for more tourism developments in precious biodiversity areas of the mediterranean.