There are currently five legally recognised MPAs in Greece:
- The National Marine Park of Zakynthos
- The National Marine Park of Alonnisos, Northern Sporades
- The National Park Lagoons Messolonghi – Aitoliko
- The Karpathos and Saria Protected Area and
- The Schinias Marathon National Park
The National Marine Park of Zakynthos (NMPZ) is in the south part of Zakynthos Island in the Ionian Sea. Τhe park protects areas both on the land and in the sea.
Zakynthos is an important nesting habitat for Loggerhead Caretta caretta turtles and this is the main reason for making the protected areas. Monachus monachus seals are also found in the area which is another reason for making it a protected site.
Some very important habitats are also present in the National Marine Park of Zakynthos. These include:
- Dune systems,
- Posidonia sea-grass beds (Posidonia oceanica)
- Sea daffodil (Pancratium maritimum)
- Submerged reefs
The main aims of the marine park are:
- the protection of nesting places of the turtle Caretta caretta
- the protection of populations of Monachus monachus seals
- the protection of populations of bird species
- the protection of fish stocks
- the protection from pollution caused by offshore activities
- the protection of marine environment in general both from sea activities and pollution
Human activities are managed in the park to prevent damage being caused to the area. This includes limiting the number of visitors and the types of buildings that can be built in certain areas.
The success of the management is monitored constantly and recommendations are made depending on whether it is successful or not.
Every year an educational program for Zakynthos' students of primary and secondary education is implemented. The program includes:
- educational tours in the protected area
- visits to the Thematic Exhibition Center for the sea turtle
- student working groups of secondary education
- event organization with environmental content
Despite all the activity restrictions, the objectives of the park have not yet been met. This is mostly because of conflict between tourism and development in the area which began before the park was established. For the park to be successful the most important aim is to improve public awareness. If more people know about the park and the special creatures and habitats it has, the more people will want to protect it.
Caretta caretta is a type of turtle that lives in the Mediterranean Sea. It makes nests on sandy beaches where it gives birth to its eggs. The turtle’s make their nests between May and September. After leaving their nests the turtles can travel very far looking for food. Finding their way back to their nests each is a problem if beaches change because of human developments.
Click here to see where the turtle’s go!
The National Marine Park of Alonnisos Northern Sporades (NMPANS) is located at the north-west of the Aegean Sea. It was Greece’s first marine park and was established in 1992 to protect the Mediterranean Monk Seal Monachus monachus, which is one of the most threatened mammal species in Europe.
The NMPANS covers 2,260 Km2 of sea and land. It includes Alonnisos Island, the six smaller islands Peristera, Kyra Panagia, Gioura, Psathura, Piperi and Skantzoura, 22 uninhabited islets and rocky outcrops. As the area is isolated, with very few human activities it is the perfect place for many threatened plant and animal species to thrive.
The islands are covered with Mediterranean coniferous forest and macchia vegetation while underwater there are sea-grass beds of the Posidonia oceanica. Besides the Mediterranean Monk Seal Monachus monachus, various species of dolphins and whales inhabit the sea area. There is a large number of fish (about 300 species) and significant number of birds (up to 80 species). Reptiles and other mammals also live inland.
There are also many archaeological and historical monuments in the area which attract tourists. The local populations are small with most people working in fishing, farming and agriculture. Traditional methods for these works are still popular in the area. All tourism activities are controlled by the park regulations.
The NMPANS has two main protected zones, A and B.
Zone A is the largest area and activities are strictly controlled. No visitors are allowed on Piperi Island or Gioura islet and professional hunting and fishing are restricted. The only activities allowed in Zone A are:
- Amateur photography
- Visits to cultural monuments
- Recreational fishing (restricted)
- Overnight only two bays of the islet Kyra-Panagia
The protection measures in Zone B are less strict as it includes inhabited areas and visitors have accesses to the whole area through a series of trails. Activities that are allowed in Zone B are:
- Recreational fishing (only close to the shore)
- Stay overnight at some areas
The protection measures applied in the park have been successful so far. Both flora and fauna and the local people are benefitting. The number of injured or killed seals has dropped while the abundance of fish species has risen. Tourism in the area has also increased.
In general, the establishment of the NMPANS has contributed to the area’s sustainable development by creating new opportunities for employment which support traditional practices.
The Mediterranean monk seal Monachus monachus is one of the largest seal species in the world and can grow to up to 3 metres. They live for 30 - 45 years. The females mature when they are 3 - 4 years old and the males a little bit later. They are a very sensitive species which prefers to be far from humans.
In the past they were found widely spread along the coasts of the Mediterranean, Black Sea, and the Atlantic coast of Morocco and Mauritania. Due to human pressures the species has become extinct in 10 countries within the last 20 years and it is now considered to be one of the most endangered species in Europe. The number of individuals alive today is considered to be 400 - 500. At least a third of the population found in Greece.
The main threats to the monk seal are:
- Seal hunting
- Habitat loss
- accidental trapping in fishing equipment (e.g. fishing nets)
For more information about Monachus monachus and the Marine Park of Alonnisos please visit:
For further information about the other Marin Protected Areas in Greece, visit the relevant links below: