An unexpected impact of the pandemic: ARCHELON appeals for reduction of light pollution so that hundreds of baby turtles at the sea turtle nesting beaches of Mavrovouni, Selinitsa, Vathi and Valtaki in Lakonikos bay are not lost
Hatching of the nests of the loggerhead sea turtles laid on the beaches of Mavrovouni, Selinitsa, Valtaki and Vathi of the Lakonikos bay has started and the first hatchlings arrived safely in the sea. But this summer there is a good chance that several nests will hatch "unannounced" in the coming weeks, warns the ARCHELON, the Sea Turtle Protection Society of Greece. Therefore, the possibility of finding many hatchlings disoriented from the lights on nesting beaches is much more likely than in other years. If the lights on the beaches do not go out after 11 pm, it will be too late for many turtles.
All previous years, the researchers / volunteers of ARCHELON’s project in Lakonikos bay took care to shade the nests just before the baby turtles hatch. Due to the travel restrictions and the protection measures of the participants against COVID19, however, the team of ARCHELON this year in Lakonikos is extremely small. Despite the difficulties from this emergency situation, more than 185 nests have already been marked and an attempt is being made to protect them with the method of shading. In case the number of nests laid reaches last year's levels, it is estimated that there are more than 50 nests that have not been identified due to the pandemic.
But why turn off the lights at night? Michalis Souroulidis, ARCHELON’s project officer in south Peloponnese, explains: "Loggerhead hatchlings are" phototactic organisms ", that is, they are attracted to light. They usually hatch at night or in the early morning hours and move towards the water that mirrors the moon and the stars. But the artificial lights around or near the nests disorient the turtles and send them in the opposite direction from the sea, which is fatal in the battle for survival from the very first minutes of their lives."
The nesting beaches of loggerheads in Lakonikos bay are under anthropogenic pressure due to increased tourist development in parts of the coastal zone. Most of the problems for the disorientation of the hatchlings are in locations of Selinitsa, Valtaki and Vathi, while in Mavrovouni the intense light pollution affects the whole beach.
ARCHELON’s info station in Mavrovouni, Gytheio will remain closed this season.
For this reason, ARCHELON appeals to local authorities and businesses to dim, cover or turn off their lights on the beaches completely after 11 pm, so that hundreds of hatchlings do not lose their way and end up dead in their facilities or on the street the next day.
We remind to all that there are legal provisions that dictate the "avoidance of light pollution and ensuring that there will be no light from private and public light sources to the beach so that hatchlings are not disoriented" on the nesting beaches of sea turtles all over the country (Joint Ministerial Decision on coastal concession for 2020-2022, NEW ANNEX, published in May 2020).
Most of us have seen in documentaries how touching but also vulnerable is this first trip for the hatchlings’ life and survival in the sea. Let’s give nature the opportunity to find its way in Lakonikos this year, by turning off the lights. It is an initiative that promotes our values and our ecological consciousness. And if we happen to witness such an amazing moment when hatchlings come out of the sand, let us act responsibly by notifying the Port Authority of Gytheio and the local ARCHELON team. Helping a wild animal is not as obvious in its handling as we often think.
Contact telephones in case of nest hatching:
Gythio Port Authority: 2733 022262
Local ARCHELON team: 6936 175637 (from 10pm to 2am).
Michalis Souroulidis, ARCHELON’s Project Officer for south Peloponnese
tel: 6951009785, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
ARCHELON has already recorded more than 3,500 loggerhead nests in the Nature Protection Area of Kyparissia bay this summer, but at the phase of hatching, the fate of many of them relies on locals and visitors
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