09/04/2021

A sad record: over 700 dead sea turtles in 2020

ARCHELON calls for increased awareness as more than 700 sea turtles were stranded dead in 2020, the highest number since the establishment of the Stranding Network in 1992. Accidental catches in fishing gear and plastic waste are the main threats at sea.

Each and every year the Sea Turtle Rescue Centre of ARCHELON receives all the «Sea Turtle Stranding Sheets” from the Greek Coast Guard Units, along with photos and other relevant information. For the first year since 1992, when ARCHELON established the Sea Turtle Rescue Network, the reports of stranded sea turtles exceeded 700. In recent years, the number of the reports ranged from 500-600 per year. The researchers / volunteers who support the Rescue Network, examine systematically each case of stranding, in order to better organize the Network and assess the threats faced by sea turtles by region.

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It is not always possible to determine the cause of death- here are examples

The causes of death of sea turtles are mainly related to the accidental capture of turtles in fishing gear, the swallowing of plastic waste at sea, entanglement in ghost nets or plastic waste and their collision with speedboats. However, it is often not possible to determine the cause of death, especially if advanced sepsis has occurred. Similarly, it is not possible to locate the exact area where the particular problem occurred, as currents and waves can carry the animals over long distances.

In cases where stranded turtles carry obvious head or carapace injuries, it can be concluded that these have been caused by a collision with a boat or by deliberate injury from humans. Also, interaction with fishing gear (nets, long lines) can sometimes leave external marks that determine the cause of death. Most often than not, there are no obvious injuries or scars on the turtles. In such cases, one may consider whether death was caused by drowning after accidental capture in fishing gear or ingestion of plastics that led to slow death, as their gastrointestinal system cannot process the plastic.

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Nevertheless, the reported turtles stranded on Greek shores do not represent the total number of deaths that occur each year, which is unknown. One must take into consideration that the coastline of Greece is very extensive, about 17,000 km long, and includes largely steep coasts, not accessible to people.

Finding a dead turtle on the shore evokes a feeling of sadness and anxiety about the state of the environment. ARCHELON receives more and more phone calls and messages on social media from our fellow citizens about sea turtle strandings, informing them about the procedure to be followed, so that there are no duplicate recordings. We are grateful to everyone who has reported a stranded sea turtles and to the Coast Guards for their collaboration in the Stranding Network.

What to do in case of stranding of a sea turtle

You need to inform the nearest Coast Guard Unit, so that the registration of the incident can be done by filling in a special form (Sea Turtle Stranding Sheet). If possible, the local veterinarian is called to determine the death and the causes of it. The Coast Guards are responsible for notification of the Municipal Authority that takes care of their sanitary disposal.

In THIS video, ARCHELON offers instructions on what to do if you encounter an injured or sick sea turtle on the beach.

[CIRCULAR with Reg. Number: M-2131.5.1 / 01/2010 of 08/01/2010, issuing authority Ministry of Citizen Protection, Coast Guard, Port Police Directorate, Department of Fisheries]

For more information contact:

Irini Kassimati, Rescue & Rehabilitation Officer, Tel./Fax: 210 8944 444, 6941 511 511, e-mail: rescue@archelon.gr.

Dimitris Fytilis, Rescue Centre Officer, Tel. 210 8982 600, 6944 929 622, e-mail: rc.officer@archelon.gr

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