A protest in favour of local exploitation of Lara beach was held on Sunday in response to activists and state officials who recently reiterated that illegal human activity on turtle nesting sites will not be tolerated.
According to Cyprus News Agency, the local council of Inia in collaboration with land owners in the Akamas area, organized a protest on Sunday to demonstrate in favour of beachgoers who visit the turtle-protected beach strips in Lara, Paphos district.
Organized protesters, mainly local residents and politicians including members of parliament, staged their demonstration on the beach by placing umbrellas and holding signs in favour of human presence in the area, such as “our land does not belong to you.”
The protest was in response to a recent controversy following a series of confrontations between locals and nature activists, who were harassed while checking on turtle nesting sites.
Previously, the conservationists complained that both locals and the police were responsible over efforts to hinder conservation work on Argaka beach in the same area, which included inspecting areas in the sand where wire cages were placed over turtle nests. A video of a confrontation also went viral, prompting state officials to weigh in and call on conservation projects to go forward.
But the umbrellas during Sunday’s demonstration were said to have been placed in violation of rules issued by authorities, while protesters warned in advance that their message was in favour of allowing sunbeds and umbrellas on at least some areas of the turtle beach.
But the umbrellas during Sunday’s demonstration were said to have been placed in violation of rules issued by authorities, with protesters saying they were in favour of allowing sunbeds and umbrellas
“We refuse to negotiate human presence in Lara and Akamas,” read another sign by Inia’s village council.
The protesters said they wanted to find ways where both humans and turtles could co-exist, adding that the state has been keeping locals in the Akamas area “hostage” for three decades without allowing them to exploit their property as they please.
CNA said the message from the local protesters was a call on authorities to reach a compromise, namely having the north strip of the beach being solely dedicated to turtle nesting while allowing human presence on the south side where there are fewer turtles according to a local council official.
“Beachgoers should have the right to set an umbrella on the southern strip where a pavilion and public toilets could also be operated, so that the local community could also generate some revenue,” a local protester said.
Anti-demonstrators also gathered on Sunday in a nearby beach in Toxefrta, also along the Akamas peninsula, including members of the Animal Party of Cyprus.
The second demonstration, staged only a few kilometres away from Lara beach, called on authorities to refrain from taking any decisions that could place the protection of sea turtles at risk.
Last month, following the turtle nesting debacle, Agriculture Minister Costas Kadis said he was ready to work with experts and communities in protecting sea turtle nesting areas in such a way that local residents could also benefit.
The minister, who visited a beach in Argaka at the centre of controversy over a sea turtle conservation programme, stated that he was a strong supporter of efforts sponsored by the Department of Fisheries and Marine Research.
“We want the local communities by our side,” the minister said.
Large police presence was reported in the area during the two demonstrations, with reports saying the protests concluded without an incident.
Lara beach is a known turtle conservation area where loggerheads Caretta Caretta and Green Turtles nest every year. The area is part of the EU’s Natura2000 protected areas while ordinance violations have been allowed to go unpunished for a long time until they made headlines after a recent series of events, such as confrontations and environmental mishaps in the area.
Critics say there are economic interests behind efforts to allow for more development in the protected area.