Protecting sea turtles in Rethymno- Our Ocean, an Ocean of Potential

With over 3,500 participants from 130 countries and international organizations, the 9th International Conference "Our Ocean" (OOC-9) in Greece was successfully completed. Politicians and stakeholders from various countries and continents met in Athens to agree on a framework for a global strategy for the protection of the marine environment. To enhance cooperation among participants, OOC-9 hosted 76 important side events.

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ARCHELON had the honor to actively take part in the conference and hosted a side event with the co-organizers of the Municipality of Rethymno, GRECOTEL HOTEL AND RESORTS and ECOCLUB SA with the subject “Protecting Sea Turtles in Rethymno: Uniting Tourism & Conservation Efforts. The main objective of the side event was to discuss and respond to the challenges and opportunities of sea turtle nesting areas, and how collaboration can solve them.

Daphne Mavrogiorgos, Director of ARCHELON welcomed everyone and started the panel discussion with a brief introduction about ARCHELON and the efforts of sea turtle conservation in Rethymno, Crete. “Founded in 1983, ARCHELON is a non-profit association dedicated to studying and protecting sea turtles and their habitats. Since 1990, ARCHELON has focused on conserving sea turtle nesting grounds in Rethymno. Volunteers from around the world have participated in summer field projects to implement conservation measures and raising awareness on responsible beach behavior”, said Daphne.

ARCHELON side event

Kostantinos Gasparakis, the appointed municipal councilor for tourism of the Municipality of Rethymno talked about the Rethymno Municipality’s long -standing partnership with ARCHELON in raising awareness about sea turtle conservation for tourists and locals. He mentioned "Protecting the Loggerhead sea turtles and preserving their natural habitats in Rethymno is vitally important to us. These magnificent creatures are an integral part of our cultural and environmental heritage. Through close collaboration with ARCHELON and other stakeholders, we have developed a comprehensive action plan for raising public awareness, responsibly managing tourism, and safeguarding the nesting areas. Through education and technical support, we will continue to ensure that the turtles can safely return to our shores for many generations to come".

Then, Demetrios Kalaitzidakis, the Group Operations Director at Grecotel Hotels & Resorts addressed the 30-year collaboration between Grecotel Hotels & Resorts and ARCHELON on tourist awareness and participation in the TUI Turtle- Friendly pilot hotel certification program. The Principal Consultant, ECOCLUB SA, Ecological Tourism Consultancy, Frosso Dimitrakopoulou talked about balancing tourism with conservation and addressed questions of how tourism can be a threat to nesting grounds, yet also become an asset for a sustainable Rethymno and how the presence of nesting turtles can contribute to Rethymno’s development as a sustainable tourism destination. She mentioned that “Rethymno, renowned for its pristine beaches, faces a significant challenge of endangered sea turtles that are losing their nesting sites due to tourism. Despite boasting one of Greece's largest sea turtle nesting areas, with approximately 300 nests annually, the destination's popularity threatens these vital habitats. Over the years, ARCHELON has established partnerships with tourism establishments, local authorities, and experts. TUI Care Foundation is currently leading a groundbreaking initiative for the Sea Turtle Friendly Hotel Certification, with the support of ARCHELON. Two GRECOTEL hotels have become the first worldwide to successfully participate in the pilot year of this initiative and were awarded with the “TUI CARE FOUNDATION AWARD” for their sustainability efforts”.

The event ended with a short film screening that provided tips for tourists on how to behave responsibly while visiting a nesting beach.

Find out more about ARCHELON’s Rethymno Project here.

Find our more about the “TUI Turtle Aid Greece Project” by TUI here.

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