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Ministry bans fishing and boats in Peyia sea caves area to protect seals

In order to better protect the monk seal, the Ministry of Agriculture has issued a decree prohibiting fishing and boats in the Natura-2000 protected area of the Peyia sea caves, Phileleftheros reported on Tuesday.

According to the decree, all fishing activity and movement of boats or any other motor vessels in the zones classified as “core” and “neutral” is now prohibited.

Holders of a  professional licence for inshore fishing are exempt from the fishing ban in the “neutral zone,” the decree says.

The sea caves are a breeding area for the Mediterranean monk seal, the most endangered type of seal in the world and the only type in the Mediterranean and the decree aims to protect them.

The caves are also home to two species of bats: the lesser mouse-eared bat (Myotis blythii) and the common bent-wing bat (Miniopterus schreibersii).

Committee to evaluate studies to protect the seals

On February 11, a committee will meet to evaluate two government-commissioned environmental studies on the Peyia sea caves area.

The first one drafted by Greek expert Dr Panos Dendrinos deals with the impact of human activity on the endangered monk seal.

The second, drafted by M. Andreou and K. Kounnamas updates the data on the natural environment of the area and proposes measures to preserve important elements of its biodiversity.

The studies examine the impact on the natural environment by possible new construction in the area and from the operation of existing establishments/constructions.

According to Dendrinos, the biggest threats towards the seals are increased human activity in the area.

A cafe-restaurant that has been built near one of the caves the seals use the most, causes nuisance to the species, Dendrinos said. He also said that the seals are affected by human visitors which many times enter the caves.

However, he says that although a large part of land above the caves has been used for construction, it doesn’t seem to affect the seals due to the altitude difference between the constructions and the caves.

Proposed measures

According to Phileleftheros, the experts recommend:

  • The creation of a pedestrian route from Maniski cove to Kazifi beach in order to ease pressure from human activity.
  • The expropriation of the plots that are directly above the caves in order to prevent new construction.
  • The creation of a stone enclosure, parallel to the pedestrian route in order to prevent visitors from jumping to enter the caves.
  • The installation of warning signs to inform people that entrance to the caves is not allowed.
  • The removal of foreign/invasive species from the area.
  • For the green spaces of any future constructions to be built along the protected area, facing towards the sea in order to create a larger security zone from the sea caves. At the same time, land owners should not be allowed to buy these green spaces as part of a development.
  • In cases where the protection zone has been “narrowed” due to erosion and/or urban planning, the government should consider extending the zone to the maximum permitted limit (100 yards), especially near the caves.

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